Showing posts from December, 2023

Earthworm Research

  Colorado State University examined 50 earthworm research studies to determine the effect on crop yields. All studies had different crops, soil types, tillage, and fertilizer applications. Overall, healthy earthworm populations increased crop yields an average of 23.3% world-wide. Earthworms thrive in healthy soils and do the best in no-till fields (no tillage), in cover crops fields with good soil organic matter levels, and where crops are rotated. These fields also had higher levels of beneficial bugs, bacteria, and fungi. Earthworms decreased the need for chemical fertilizer by an average of $50/Acre. Earthworms love healthy soils (No-till Farmer, 2024). Tillage is a major deterrent to earthworm growth. Tillage destroys their burrows, kills some adults but also desiccates earthworm eggs and wipes out future generations. Nightcrawlers are top feeders, using surface residue for food and to maintain soil temperature. Tillage destroys soil organic matter (SOM) which red wigglers need t

Enhancing Plant Nutrients with Microbes

  Scientist are looking for ways to produce a regular source of food on the moon. You can not just plant crops in a greenhouse on the moon and expect them to grow. They need nutrients that recycle and are in the right form. That takes microbes. Understanding what microbes make nutrients plant available may also allow “earth” farmers to use less commercial fertilizer. Farmers are now using biofertilizers (microbes) to enhance plant nutrition. Here’s a summary of important plant microbes used to make plant available nutrients. For nitrogen (N), the rhizobium bacteria convert atmospheric N2 into ammonia (NH3). The rhizobia (R) infect the plant in root nodules and then convert N into useable plant forms. Farmers inoculate soybeans, hay, and cover crops with specific rhizobia strains to generate free N for the plant. Use Bradyrhizobium japonicum for soybeans; R. trifolii for red clover, crimson clover, and white clover; R meliloti for alfalfa; and R. leguminosarum for peas, beans, and true

Maximizing Corn Phosphorus

  Phosphorus (P) is an expensive nutrient but critical for good crop production. Phosphorus is the backbone to the plants genetic code, for ATP (energy transfer/storage) in plants, and for cell division and enlargement. When P is severely limited, plants turn a purple color, which is common on cold wet soils in the spring. However, plants often have a hidden hunger for P which may limit yields. Chad Penn, Research Soil Scientist for USDA from West Lafayette, Indiana at the Ohio No-till conference; shared recent research on corn P nutrition. Available P in soil varies by soil type and weather conditions. Farmers try to optimize P application, but it varies so much, even within a few inches or feet. Even with extensive soil testing and grid soil sampling, P is often either under applied or over applied. The ARS-USDA research is trying to find a way to put on just the right amount of P so that it maximizes yield. Chad discussed the two main sources of soil P. The first fraction is the sma

Benefits of Non-GMO Corn

  Farmers are starting to buy seed for next year to get the early discounts. GMO (genetically modified) corn and soybeans are popular in the United States. About 90-94% of soybean and 87-92% of corn in the USA are GMO. The USA produces 38% of all GMO crops in the world. Other countries, like Europe (Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Italy) and Mexico have banned or limited GMO crops. Mexico and Europe want food security against monopolies. In Europe, after World War II, food security became a big issue and they consider the risks too high to accept GMO crops. What constitutes a GMO? Scientist select a gene that helps with a certain trait (insect resistance, herbicide tolerance, drought, etc.). They transfer that gene to another plant, test it, get government approval for the gene, and then release it for commercial production. A benefit of GMO crops is that they speed up natural selection for beneficial genes. Gene stacking involves putting several beneficial GMO genes in the sam