Showing posts from February, 2020

Compaction or Poor Soil Structure

I have a long-standing feud with engineers about soil compaction. Engineers insist that soil compaction is caused by wheel traffic (true) but it also comes from excessive tillage, rain (think hard driving rains) and gravity (to a lesser degree). Soil compaction is poor soil structure due to a lack of roots and active carbon (soil organic matter, SOM) from root exudates. Tillage adds soil oxygen that promote bacteria that breaks down the good soil structure (macro-aggregates, macro’s) or soil that crumbles. The glues that form the macro’s comes from plant roots and microbial waste or byproducts. Bacteria wastes are important for cementing soil particles into micro-aggregates (micros) while fungi are important for producing glomalin that cement micro’s together into macro’s. Micro’s are the building blocks to good soil structure, but without the glues, they cause poor soil structure or compacted soils. A balance of soil bacteria and fungus are needed for good soil structure. Tillage prom

Reducing Phosphorus Runoff

Tremendous farmer turnout occurred for the new Ohio H20 plan for $30 million being provided to 14 Northwest Ohio counties to improve Lake Erie water quality. Almost everyone agrees that phosphorus (P) in surface water is a major issue. The excess P in surface water is causing Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) in Lake Erie. Since we are dealing with many algae (singular), the plural is algal not algae (common mistake). One pound of P in water may produce 500 pounds of HAB. The HAB in water need 1/10 the amount of P that our land-based plants need to thrive, so even a little P in surface water causes HAB to thrive. In the 1970’s/1980’s, the problem was total phosphorus which includes dissolved (or soluble) reactive phosphorus (DRP) plus the particulate phosphorus (PP) or P attached to soil particles. Recently, researchers have concentrated mainly on DRP because it flows with the water and is easily HAB absorbed. DRP was rising the fastest while the PP appeared to be stable. Recent information f

Adapting to Extreme

  Extreme weather appears to have become “normal”. Actually, maybe the last 50 years (1960- 2010) may have been “abnormal” when you look at long-term climate records. What is considered extreme weather today was more normal several hundred years ago. What should we expect and how can we adapt in the future? Yearly average moisture for Northern Ohio has been 32-36 inches with 42-50 inches in Southern Ohio. The last four years have been among the top ten wettest on record and Northern Ohio averaged 50 inches (excluding Lake Erie affected counties), possibly going to 60 inches. Northern Ohio weather today is more like Southern Indiana weather 30 years ago. Extreme weather events will change your future farming operation. During wet springs, farmers use large equipment and additional hired help to plant in a shorter time period. Growing winter cover crops with evapotranspiration may dry the soil quicker. Controlled traffic and cover crops also promote firmer soils for timely planting. Rese