Showing posts from November, 2022

Manure Benefits Soil Health

  Manure is a great fertilizer for improving soil health, commonly used before commercial fertilizer. If manure is applied correctly, using the 4R’s (right source, right rate, right time, right place) and proper best management practices, manure greatly improves crop growth and also increases biological activity, leading to improved soil health. Some of the environmental benefits include: increasing soil carbon and reduced atmospheric carbon, reduced soil erosion and runoff, reduced nitrate leaching, and reduced demand for commercial nitrogen fertilizer derived from natural gas. Manure increases soil organic matter because it has nutrients plant require for adequate growth (N-P-K, micronutrients), so plants grow better and faster, producing more roots and crop residue to build soil carbon. Manure consists of carbon residues which the plants can use in the form of carbon dioxide for increased photosynthesis. Adequate soil carbon is limiting plant growth, so manure and carbon may boost p

Fertilizer Stratification

  Fertilizer stratification occurs when a farmer surface apply soil nutrients like phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) without doing any tillage. Deep tillage (plowing 6-8 inches deep) generally moves and mixes surface applied nutrients down about 3-4 inches, or roughly 50%. Some farmers worry that nutrients applied at the surface will not be plant available. Marion Calmer, an experienced no-till farmer and researcher in Illinois, found that roughly 54% of his P and 43% of his K was found in the top 2 inches of his soil. Since he plants corn 2 inches deep, many nutrients were above his corn roots. In dry weather, he was seeing stunted corn and nutrient deficiencies (P deficient purple corn). For every $1 in fertilizer (P & K) applied every year, he got back about $.40 in additional corn yield. He had been applying commercial fertilizer for 30 years to his no-till fields by surface applying nutrients. When he started checking with soil test every year, he found that he was gaining abou

Roundup: Friend or Foe

  Roundup or glyphosate (RR) is the most common agricultural herbicide used to kill broadleaf and grass weeds. In the USA, 280 million pounds of RR annually is used on about 298 million cropland acres. Worldwide, about 19 billion pounds RR (almost 10 million tons) have been applied since 1974. Roundup (RR) is a common generic name for glyphosate but it also called Rodeo, KleenUp, Accord, Imitator, Eraser, Pronto, Touchdown, Cornerstone, Buccaneer etc. The USA is the biggest user of RR in the world. Since many crops have been genetically modified to tolerate RR, it is commonly used on corn, soybeans, canola, sugar beets, cotton, and alfalfa. But it is also used as a weed burndown or to terminate cover crops before crops are planted or emerge including wheat, oats, sunflowers etc. Glyphosate (RR) is used almost everywhere because it kills most weeds effectively and cheaply. Over time, many weeds have become weeds resistant to RR because of over usage. Weeds are very resilient and often m

Beneficial Bacteria Biologicals

  Biologicals are simply live microbes that perform many important soil and plant functions. Some microbes are biofertilizers (microbes that improve plant nutrition); biopesticides (microbes that control or kill pathogens, insects, other pests); others produce plant growth hormones or help plants survive environmental stresses (drought, temperature, soil pH, wet soils) etc. Biologicals are starting to become more common as farmers learn how to take advantage of the benefits they supply, especially in healthy soils and plants. Farmers have inoculated legumes and clovers with bacteria to fix nitrogen (N) in nodules. Now farmers can inoculate plants for bacteria that are free living and also supply N to all plants. There are at least 200 strains of bacteria that are known to live inside plants and around plant roots. With the new discovery of rhizophagy (plant roots eating bacteria for nutrients and growth), applying biologicals may soon be a common practice. Corn (C), Soybeans (S) and Wh

Roots eat Bacteria

  Do plant roots really eat bacteria? The answer is Yes (sort of!). In the last 5-10 years, our understanding of how plants acquire nutrients has changed dramatically. With new stronger microscopes; Australian scientist and Dr. James White, Rutgers university have discovered that plant roots are taking in endophytic (translation: “within the plant”) bacteria and acquiring nutrients from these microbes. One study estimates that 47% of the atmospheric nitrogen (N) and perhaps as much as 70% of the plants N might be acquired from bacteria absorbed and living between plant cells and within plant cells. This newly discovered processed is called rhizophagy. We should not be too surprised. Farmers inoculate legumes (soybeans, peas) with Rhizobium bacteria which reside in plant nodules and fix N . Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF) also enter roots and live between plant cells. AMF are like root extenders, bringing back water and soil nutrients in exchange for plant sugar. Endophytic bacteria