New grant will bring prairie into the classroom

Professor Robin K. Bagley in the Ohio State Lima prairie

Dr. Robin K. Bagley in the Ohio State Lima prairie, one of the sites students will use to collect samples to investigate the effects of regenerative agriculture.

A grant from the Ohio State Energy Partners will open up a range of opportunities for Ohio State Lima students to develop strong research and laboratory skills that will easily transfer to future career and education paths. While building those skills, the students will also build the pool of knowledge around the effects of sustainable practices on an agricultural ecosystem. Read more

Cover crops add a tool to deal with varying moisture levels

Before the million-dollar rain the whole region was waiting for began falling, the first corn crop planted into a cover crop at Ohio State Lima’s Regenerative Farm was struggling to form an even growth pattern due to the dry conditions. The 1.2” that fell on the farm June 11 broke a 23-day dry spell in northwest Ohio and gives any corn that was lagging enough moisture to grow.

Seeing how the crop develops in a variety of situations is just part of the process for farmer Todd Mason as he tends to the fields that are essentially a giant learning lab in addition to a working farm. Except for the 35 acres of conventional tillage test comparison plots, the whole farm is now in a cover crop rotation, which gives Mason a new tool to work with.

Early this spring when things were soggy, Mason let the cover crops grow a little longer to soak up more of the water to get him on to the fields. It worked and all the crops were in just in time for the dry streak.

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First full season using regenerative principles proves fruitful

sunflowers soybeans radishes wheat corn

Todd Mason has a playbook and a lesson list for the farm project at The Ohio State University at Lima. Both come in handy as he works his way through the development of the regenerative agriculture experiment, a topic he had not tried in his own fields before signing on as the campus farmer.

“Regenerative agriculture has a lot of moving parts and you can easily miss something if you don’t document the new process,” Mason said.

The 2022 season was the first full season that had all the regenerative practices in play and Mason knows he will see different outcomes and an improving soil structure as he moves forward.
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Dean Tim Rehner talks about the why

Dean Tim Rehner

Ohio State Lima Dean and Director Tim Rehner

Tim Rehner is the dean and director at The Ohio State University at Lima. He has been a driving force behind getting the regenerative farming efforts up and running on the campus agriculture fields. He shares some of his thoughts as we kick off the Voices of the Lima Farm blog.

Why has Ohio State Lima embarked on this project?

The Ohio State University is a land grant university and taking care of the “land” or soil is something that seems important. By taking care of the soil I mean we should be able to farm it while also improving it. Improving the soil quality will enable us to be part of the solution for addressing climate change. This is our part of addressing that “big” problem.
I believe that regenerative farming is a key to improving the quality of our soil and the water that penetrates and runs off our farm. The Ohio State Lima farm should be a demonstration farm that implements strategies that positively impact soil health and produces data that confirms success and financial benefits if replicated.

Likewise, the Lima Regenerative Agricultural Farm should also be a place for teaching and learning. The Lima campus and the university are always happy to partner with Ohio State University Extension. What we develop and prove on this farm should be taught to students of all ages.

What is the benefit for the agriculture community and the larger community?

Farmers are interested in their properties and their soil and water. Lessons learned from the Lima farm should help farmers do a better job in “caring” for their farms so they will be more productive for their children in the years to come. Our plans are to provide educational field day opportunities on the campus property based on the best science available. Local farmers will be invited to participate.

Farmers are also looking for ways to increase their profit margins. With the cost of fuel rising, the regenerative approaches that rely on low till and cover crops can reduce input costs. As the Lima farm proof of concept is confirmed there will be benefits to the agricultural community.

What are you most looking forward to about the efforts on the farm?

Data confirming that the transition from conventional to regenerative is worth it and that profitability and improving soil and water quality are compatible goals.

What has been the most pleasantly surprising thing to you about the farm so far?

I have been overwhelmed with how much interest has been shown from across this community related to regenerative farming. I have loved watching skeptics about this approach embrace new ideas and begin to implement them on their own farms. It has been a really exciting initiative.