Showing posts from August, 2022

Beneficial Soil Fungus Part 2

  Beneficial soil fungus called mycorrhizae fungi (MF) can optimize crop yields. MF use to be abundant be MF must have a live root as a host. Plowing soil, fallow periods, and annual crops caused many beneficial MF to died off. Long fallow periods, 14-16 weeks; greatly reduce (85- 98%) MF population levels while shorter fallow periods, 3-6 weeks; reduce MF populations 30- 70%. Some hardy MF species survive in tilled crop land but using cover crops with a live root, can gradually increase MF populations over time (maybe 5-10 years). Inoculating a crop with MF spores speeds up the process and crops respond quickly.  A full rate of MF inoculant, depending on formulation, costs about $12-15/acre. This rate is designed to provide 150,000 propagules (spores and root fragments containing MF) or more per acre. MF research on crops is extensive with over 155,000 published research articles at this time with 10X more research articles on the use of corn (maize MF) than corn using anhydrous ammon

Beneficial Soil Fungi

  Mycorrhizal fungi (MF) are one of the most beneficial organisms on the planet. These fungi colonize plant roots, acting as root extenders to aid roots. MF are more efficient than roots and MF benefits are numerous. Increased root mass. Plants allocate a certain amount of energy to the root system. In the absence of MF, plants must build root hairs, which requires a lot of energy. Plants colonized with MF do not produce root hairs and instead use a much smaller amount of energy to allow MF to perform the job of absorbing water and nutrients. The hyphae (root-like structure) of MF is about 1/16th the diameter of a root hair (1/10 the diameter of human hair), and it takes about 1/256th the energy investment per mm of length to build than a root hair. With this energy savings, MF colonized plants tend to build much better root systems. Improved drought tolerance. One of the primary functions of a root system is water uptake and a colonized root will do so much better than an uncolonized

New Soil Health Measurements

  The Soil Health Institute (SHI), a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing soil productivity, recently announced results from a 3-year research project on identifying soil health measurements across North America. Over 100 scientist reviewed data from 124 sites in Canada, Mexico, and the United States; comparing conventional tilled farming systems to longterm no-till, cover crops, and perennial cropping systems. Over 30 key soil health measurements were taken at various research sites in this project. Measurements were taken across a wide range of climates, soil types, environmental conditions, cropping practices, and different management. Scientifically, evaluating that many sites and that much data gave the project the scientific rigor to valid these soil health measurements across many different systems. Evaluating soil health is all about how well soil’s function. Functions such as water, carbon, and nutrient recycling are important for good plant productivity. Healthy soi

Phosphorus and Lime Fertilization

  Farmers are making plans for fall harvest, fertilization for phosphorus (P), and lime. Farmers need to minimize P losses at the edge of the field by following recommendations that maximize productivity while minimizing environmental impacts on water quality. Lime fertilization is less of an environmental issue but following certain guidelines is economical. Avoid overloading soils. Soil test and follow tri-state fertilizer recommendations. For corn and soybeans, 20-40 PPM Mechlich-III is an acceptable P soil test level with 30-50 PPM for wheat and alfalfa. Where soil test levels are above 40 ppm Mehlich III, do not apply additional P in a corn-soybean rotation. Fertilizing soils above these levels increases risk of P in runoff and tile drainage.  Avoid winter application. Eliminate surface application of manure or fertilizer to frozen or snowcovered fields. Frozen ground is ground that is frozen so that tillage is not possible. Surface applied manure or fertilizer is subject to runof

More Practice Soil Health Tips

  After being on the road teaching (Iowa, Pennsylvania), I am home recovering from COVID. Here are the last 15 tips from my factsheet: “25 Tips to Growing and Managing Cover Crops”. Tip 11: Soil Microbes (especially bacteria) are like soluble bags of fertilizer and directly feed plant. There is about 1000-2000X more soil microbes associated with live roots than bare soil. Plants supply 25-45% of their total carbohydrate root reserves to feed soil microbes which retrieve soil nutrients more efficiently than plant roots hairs. Bonus: Beneficial microbes love sugar in small amounts, so add 1# sugar/Acre to nutrient, herbicide, fungicide spray applications. Tip 12: Use grasses with fibrous roots (cereal rye, oats, barley) before soybeans to maximize phosphorous uptake. Cereal rye controls weeds through competition for light and nutrients, allelopathy (natural herbicides in stem and leaves), and reduces diseases by keeping the soil drier due to transpiration (loss of water to the atmosphe