energy management

June check list

June is usually a good time to start checking your crops and soil tilth. If you are raising row crops you can be doing this while you cultivate. Take notice of your soil structure and ease of cultivation as you drive across your field. Is the soil lumpy, mellow, or easily crumbled? Watch the moisture condition of your soil. Does the soil compact easily after a rain or do rain drops easily penetrate the soil? Does the soil have a crust after rains and how thick is the crust? If there is thick crust like 1/2 - 1 inch thick, and a lot of white in the crust there is a strong possibility of a sodium build up. It's not uncommon to see sodium salt build up in no-till farming practices. Hanna instruments recently came out with a pocket sodium meter which is very handy to use for checking sodium. The digital read-out reads from 0-3.5. A reading above 2.8 is pretty good, and below 2.8 indicates a salt build up problem and management practices need to be changed.

Soil composition and lack of oxygen in soil can greatly affect crop quality as well as restrict yield. This can be particularly true when raising root crops because oxygen is a very important element and is needed in very large quantities during peak growth periods. The lack of oxygen near the roots during the peak growth phase of a crop can reduce root crop development by 50-75 percent or more. One thing I have done to improve this problem during June cultivations is mix 6-8 pounds of bicarbonate of soda in 6-8 gallons of water along with a few gallons of liquid nitrogen and side dress between rows as you cultivate. I have talked to other people who have used a combination of hydrogen peroxide and calcium to improve oxygenation of a soil to improve crop growth and quality. Mechanical cultivation also helps soil aeration but also dries out the soil. The reason soil dries out so much now a days from cultivations is because of the low humus level of soils. Humus in the soil is what holds moisture and slows down the drying out of soil. In fact, if the top soil contains enough humus it will draw moisture either from the air or from the sub soil unless there is a severe hard pan. Humus greatly improves soil aeration but is difficult to maintain under current cultural practices.


orchardI recently walked an orchard where herbicides were used and noticed practically no life in the soil within the drip line of the trees. The soil had lost all its moisture holding capacity and had an earthy smell. June is a good time to assess the need for herbicides. It's going to be absolutely necessary for our future survival to learn how to use a lot less or none at all for our very survival. Herbicides often upset the ecological balance. Their biggest impact is on single celled plants in the soil such as yeasts, algae, and fungi which produce antibiotics that control certain bacterial species in the soil plus provide sugars and energy for ether species. Yeast also produces B-vitamins that are needed by bacteria. This is why I find a good response to using vitamin B-12 in my cropping program where herbicides are used. This is also why it has become necessary to use sugars when rebuilding soils to replace the ones that the single celled plants in the soil used to produce.

Herbicide and acid based phosphates greatly affect the availability of phosphates to plants thus affecting the plants ability to produce sugars which further complicate the long term problems to soil management and soil fertility. The lack of air in a soil and the use of high salt index fertilizer plus cultural practices allow many anaerobic bacteria to proliferate which can produce very toxic metabolites which can be just as harmful as anything that man can produce. Once you start to notice and understand these things you'll begin to realize how important it is to get on top of these problems, management wise, for your future well-being.

Soil is a renewable resource and yet we treat it just like dirt. Watch previous crop residue decay patterns as you cultivate to see if you need to change fall management practice to better aid the proper rot cycle of residue. If you soil is compacted and your sugar readings are low during June this means it would be a good idea to consider enzyme products, soil conditioners, lime, humates and some form of sugars in your fall program. First and foremost be sure to work the crop residue into the top 1-2 inches and no more. Notice and check your crop for herbicide carry over in June. Check roots of crops and send soil samples in for herbicide residue carry over. If you are having a problem, incorporate a herbicide removal program into your fall management program. I have several products that greatly assist you with a herbicide residue problem. I mainly use either RL-37, SoilAid or Residue Treat. Each of these work quite well especially if you have excellent snow cover that melts down into soil in early spring. If there is no snow cover and no rain after application, there will be no results. It's always amazing to me that when results don't reach expectations, people forget that water plays a very important role in crop production. The bottom line is that soil fertility is a very complex system and many factors play a role in reaching a successful result. Man's role is really very small, but the role he does have is very critical to a successful result.

Factors which affect energy management

Sometimes timing is everything and once you learn the critical factors of energy management it's much easier to understand why. There are several factors which affect energy management and understanding them is critical when it comes to quality crop production. First is the basic mineral rock magnetism of soil. Included in this group of minerals are ground rock powders, such as granite dust. Others include good quality limestones, natural raw rock phosphates, silicas, clays and humus. Once this ground work is laid, you can consider composts, bacteria manures, sugars, molasses, fish, humates and sea weed. Finally, you use small amounts of synthetic nitrogens, phosphates, and potassium to stimulate crop growth. The problem we have today is using all synthetic and high salt and acid index fertilizers, while forgetting about organics and raw rock powder. The following program outlined for soil from Pennsylvania will help illustrate some of these concepts.

Soil analysis and recommendations

Soil analysis is as follows:

Conductivity   180
Sodium   2.8
Nitrate Nitrogen   20
Ammonial Nitrogen   0
Phosphorus   50
Potassium   90
Calcium   455
Magnesium   452
pH Reading   7.3

This soil has a lot of problems and will take several years to correct. This first problem is a 1:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium. I would like to see a ratio of 7 parts calcium to 1 part of magnesium. When the ratio is this narrow you usually have a very tight compacted soil. The narrow ratio also indicates that the soil is nearly devoid of any biological activity. If the soil was biologically active, it would release the magnesium into the air and not allow it to build up in the soil. This would be true unless a lot of magnesium was being added each year. I checked with the owner of this soil and he was not aware of any magnesium being added for some time. The calcium may be low because there is none or because the soil life is so low that none is being made available to the system. Some soils are naturally high in magnesium and are very difficult to work with. In some cases, it might be better just to sell the property and start over some where else. One other reason for the narrow ratio may be lack of enough rainfall to maintain microbial life. A soil that has such a narrow ratio of calcium to magnesium has a difficult time maintaining a sufficient amount of nitrogen to maintain economical crop production. The minute I see such a narrow ratio, I immediately know that I will need more nitrogen to grow the same crop as the one with a much wider ratio.

It's also important to split apply nitrogen on these soils to help keep the cost of production economical. For every pound of soluble magnesium you have the potential to release one pound of nitrogen into the air. The problem decreases as the ratio widens until you get a ratio wider than 10:1. Then you may need to add some magnesium to keep plants from getting excess build up. I hope you understand by now that this is a difficult soil to work with. The soil is hard and compacted, devoid of an active microbial system because there is no oxygen or nitrogen. I am seeing more and more of these situations and finding it very difficult to economically bring about sound, economical crop productions.

The first thing I recommended for this soil was 500 lbs. of calcium sulfate, commonly called gypsum. Gypsum does an excellent job of mellowing a soil so that air can enter and allow dormant bacteria to come back to life. If a soil stays in this condition for too long a period of time, toxic metabolites build up from anaerobic activity. This soil also presents a problem if much herbicide is used because we don't have an active, plentiful supply of bacteria to break them down.

Next I would put on 1000 lbs. of high calcium lime to help expand the calcium to magnesium ratio. The high calcium lime will not do much good unless you make sure conditions are created to stimulate aerobic bacteria. I would then add 250 lbs. of soft rock phosphate along with 100 lbs. of 11-52-0. The best would be to blend all these dry products together and spread on top of the ground and lightly work into the top 1-2 inches of top soil. The blending together of these products will keep them up in the root zone.

Next I would spray on the following mixture:

Liquid 28% Nitrogen 22 gallons
Table Sugar 8 lbs.
Dry Water Soluble 18-44-0 12 lbs.
B-Complex 22cc
B-12 50cc
Sea Weed 3 oz.
Humate Enzyme Mix 2 quarts

The sugar should be dissolved in 8 gallons of water before adding to the liquid nitrogen. The 18-44-0 dry water soluble should be mixed in water with good agitation before adding to the main mix. It makes about one gallon of water for each pound of dry water soluble powder. The sea weed powder should be mixed in water 48 hours before you are going to spray and then added to main spray after it is well dissolved. The final spray mix should come to about 50 gallons for each acre. The vitamins, sugar and humate enzyme are all products that should help activate biological life in the soil. The results should be more readily available nutrients for the growing plants. The soil plan outlined should help correct the many problems that exist in this soil. This soil is going to need the nitrogen levels watched and more added when necessary to grow top quality crops.

D.L. Skow D.V.M.

Wendell Owens

of International Ag Labs

Wendell Owen

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