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How can you get the most nutrients out of your homegrown food? One expert weighs in.

 Dr. Melissa Bledsoe works alongside ag students at Missouri State University.
Dr. Melissa Bledsoe works alongside ag students at Missouri State University.

Our weekly program, Missouri State Journal, is a collaboration between KSMU Radio and Missouri State University. It's hosted and produced by MSU's Office of Strategic Communication, and it airs each Tuesday morning at 9:45 a.m. on KSMU.

Farmers and other food producers pay close attention to their soil, because they know it's vital to getting the crops they want.

Dr. Melissa Bledsoe, associate professor in the Missouri State University’s Darr College of Agriculture, shares about a recent project that tried to find the most nutrient-efficient way to harvest garlic.

"Typically we think homeowners harvest the garlic and they braid the leaves together and they hang it from the ceiling," she said. "Yet larger producers will cut the leaves off of the garlic and just throw the bulb into a basket and move on in the field."

With her experience in plant nutrition, she decided to pose a research question: Which method allows more nutrients to remain in the garlic?

"It could be a big question for a larger producer who may have to put a lot of effort into removing the tops or keeping them on during their harvesting process," she said. "After three years of work with garlic, we did come to some conclusions that yes, indeed, many nutrients are moving from the leaves to the bulb during that time. So there is a benefit to keeping your tops on, harvesting them and letting those dry intact."

Bledsoe says that whether you're a gardener or a small (or large) scale producer, the key to healthier plants and crops is testing your soil.

Nicki received a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Business Administration from Missouri State in marketing, in 2002 and 2004 respectively. After gaining experience in writing, marketing, special event planning, fundraising and public relations, she returned to the university to work in the office of strategic communication. There she tells the university’s story by sharing the stories of individuals at Missouri State.