American Farm: McGrath has return appearance (Editorial)

American Farm: McGrath has return appearance (Editorial)

Dr. Josh McGrath is returning to Maryland next month, albeit briefly, and bringing with him a new acquaintance named “SAM.”

McGrath, a former associate professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Technology at the University of Maryland and now on the faculty of the University of Kentucky, focused principally on the sustainability of soil under crop production and how to “feed” the soil no more fertility than it needs.

He’s on the same course at the University of Kentucky.

McGrath, a favorite on the Maryland Extension speaking tour, will introduce farmers, researchers and environmental stakeholders in the watershed of the Chesapeake Bay, to SAM, the Chesapeake Bay Subsurface Application of Manure Initiative.

It’s another effort in the search for what to do with the thousands of tons of litter backhoed every year from Delmarva Peninsula chicken houses.

SAM, in all of its manifestations, will be the focus of a workshop slated for Thursday, July 6, in the seed barn at the Wye Research and Education Center near Queenstown. McGrath will be leading the discussion.

Partnering in the litter initiative are the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the USDA Conservation Innovation Grant Program, and the Maryland Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bay Trust Fund.

The project team includes agronomists and engineers from University of Delaware, University of Kentucky, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Pennsylvania State University, USDA-Agricultural Research Service laboratories in Pennsylvania and Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Cornell University, and Oklahoma State University, as well as non-governmental agencies such as Sustainable Chesapeake and the Sassafras River Association.

The workshop will begin at 10:30 a.m. and adjourn at 2 p.m. after a closing discussion focusing on what is needed to bring poultry litter injection technologies to farms on Delmarva and elsewhere in the Mid-Atlantic.

There will be field demonstrations of poultry litter injection equipment from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., followed by luncheon in the seed barn.

Dr. McGrath’s research in large part, is done not in a lab or test field, but directly with the farmers in their fields.

One of Dr. McGrath’s research projects in Maryland was studying the GreenSeeker technology to apply the correct amount of fertilizer to the plants in the field based on precisely what the plants “say” they need.

SAM’s technology pursues a related goal, to allow farmers to control fertilization with poultry litter while respecting their commitment to the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

By the way, those planning to attend are asked to pre-register. Find a link to register at

Dr. McGrath’s return to Maryland is highly anticipated. We have missed his research presentations, which, very effectively, always took on the character of a performance.

The SAM conference is expected to draw a large number of his former fans.


From, posted June 27, 2017