Showing posts from August, 2021

Using Electricity to Assess Soil Health

A new break-through in soil health testing has occurred which may allow researchers and farmers to instantly measure soil health and microbial activity. A group of Washington State University researchers are using small electrical currents to assess soil microbes and soil health impacts. Soil microbes process 90% of the soil’s energy and nutrients. Each microbe is like a soluble bag of fertilizer, supplying plant roots with nutrients, amino acids, proteins, and even whole enzymes. Measuring soil health has been difficult. Soil scientist, fertility specialist, and farmers have used soil chemistry and harsh chemicals to make nutrient analysis. They also measure soil texture and pH to try to understand a soil’s chemical and physical properties. While chemical and physical measurements may be valuable, they do not always measure soil productivity directly. Soil biology is extremely important as well. Unfortunately, there has not been many good tests to measure both biological activity and

Fall Slug and Vole Control

  Slugs and voles are becoming major problems on some farms. One farmer lost 80 acres to slugs, another 40 acres. Slugs and voles prefer moist, wet conditions, slow crop growth, and lush vegetation. Unfortunately, there is no one management practice that reduces either pest. It requires a coordinated attack which begins in the fall as grain crops are being harvested. Both slugs and voles have several weaknesses. First, their populations are cyclical, peaking and crashing about every 2-5 years. Extremely cold winter weather with little protection, greatly reduces both pests. Slugs burrow deep into the soil, but when the soil frost line meets the water table during a deep freeze, many slugs perish. Voles do not hibernate but need 40% more energy in the winter to survive. Cold weather without snow or heavy vegetation greatly reduces pest numbers. Mowing a cover crop down to 8 inches or planting species that 50% winter kill helps reduce pest populations. Mowing reduces cover (insulation fr

Overwintering Cover Crops & Small Grains

  The H2O Ohio program is a state conservation program that pays farmers for conservation practices. It includes overwintering cover crops and a small grains program to help keep nutrients out of Lake Erie. Farmers are now signing up for these programs but may not know or remember all the details. Here is a summary of the key points for each program. The purpose of these two programs is to encourage the establishment of overwintering cover crops program or a small grain. The primary goals are to reduce sheet, rill, and wind erosion and improve water quality by reducing excess nutrient flows to surface water. Adding overwintering cover crops and small grains also increases crop and soil diversity to improve soil health. Some key points on the overwintering cover crop program: The overwintering cover crop must be established no later than October 15th. Some farmers may need to hire a plane, helicopter, or a highboy applicator to get the cover crops planted in time, depending on time of h

Understanding Genes and the Environment

  Two new scientific articles help explain how DNA, which makes up our genes, and the environment work together to express those genes. It was thought that humans had over 3 million genes, but now estimate that it closer to 300,000 genes. Microbes which live in humans and in plants supply the majority of the genes that control many life functions. Scientist are finding that the genes humans and plants obtain from their parents or “heredity is nothing more than stored environment” according to Luther Burbank. Farmers can see this relationship when they plant the same seed in different fields with different soil types, and the crop expresses itself differently. This effect is compounded as multiple generations are grown in different environments. This same process expresses itself in the organisms we call ‘diseases’ or ‘pests.’ Sometimes a disease organism is not really a pest if it is in a healthy soil environment. The soil environment often determines which genes are expressed. For exa

Manure Incorporation with the Ohio H20 Program

  Livestock farmers have an opportunity to be apart of the Ohio H20 program on manure incorporation. This program pays famers for three years to apply manure to a cover crop or a growing crop in the summer or early fall. The program is designed to encourage farmers to tie up nitrogen or phosphorus in manure to decrease the risk of manure or nutrient runoff into surface water. Keeping nutrients and manure on the land and out the water helps to keep our water clean to drink (after treatment), and is good for recreational activities like swimming and fishing. For farmers to get state funding, the local soil and water conservation district (SWCD) needs to approve a mandatory nutrient management plan for each farm. When manure is applied, the local SWCD needs to be notified within 24 to 48 hours. Every farm needs to follow the recommended setback distances and apply manure based on Ohio NRCS 590 standards. Before manure is applied, get a copy of the weather forecast for day of application a