Showing posts from December, 2020

Is Soil Health Real

Sceptics of soil health abound in agriculture. After World War II, farmers became reliant on inorganic fertilizer to improve crop yields. Soil organic matter (SOM) levels were still high, so an investment in fertilizer gave big yields. Today, most soils have lost 50-80% SOM, so it takes more fertilizer and environmental problems are getting worse. With improved genetics, crop yields continue to climb but at a much slower rate than most scientist predict. Soil pests like weeds, insects, and diseases continue to persist. While yields have improved, the nutrient density or mineral and vitamin content of our food is much lower than it was in the 1950’s. Fertilizer, genetics, and new technology (all man-made innovations) have a limited ability to improve our food supply without Mother nature’s help from microbes recycling nutrients and sequestering soil carbon. Improving soil health is all about using all our resources (man-made and natural) to enhance crop productivity. Farmers should want

Inter-Seeding Cover Crops into Corn

Getting a good cover crop stand after harvest can be difficult, so farmers are inter-seeding cover crops early into standing corn. Benefits include erosion control, extra nitrogen from legumes or clovers, using grasses as nitrogen scavengers, weed suppression, and livestock forage (grazed or hayed). Inter-seeding cover crops into corn early takes some planning; especially on timing, planting equipment, and selecting cover crop mixes, seeding rates and herbicides. Timing is critical so inter-seed before the corn canopies but not too early so that corn has to compete for moisture and sunlight. Penn State research shows that about V5 (V4-V6) or when corn has five true leaves is the ideal time. Planting earlier than V4 often results in competition from the cover crops and corn yield losses. Planting after V6 may be successful, but the amount of cover crop biomass may decline due to moisture and sunlight limitations. The goal is to get a head start on cover crop growth before corn is harves

Bio Stimulants

Bio-stimulants include both bacterial and fungal inoculants, various types of compost, and organic adjuvants that stimulate plant growth and improve yield. Farmers have been using bacteria inoculants containing Rhizobia bacteria on legumes and clovers like soybeans, alfalfa, and red clover for many years. Each plant has a specific Rhizobia bacteria inoculant needed to maximize nitrogen production. Rhizobia take atmospheric nitrogen and convert it to plant available forms of nitrogen in the nodules. Inoculants for soybeans and alfalfa may last 1-2 years while cover crop inoculants are short lived, lasting only 12-48 hours. Many farmers buy pre-inoculated seed but exposure to sunlight and temperatures above 500F often make them ineffective. For best results, always inoculant cover crops legumes (winterpeas, vetches, cowpeas, Sunn Hemp) and clovers (crimson, Balansa, red, sweet) at planting and buy the right inoculant species. Other inoculants are fungal. There are over 150-250 different