nitrogen - the key elementNitrogen is one of the most critical elements we need to manage very carefully in modern crop production. In Dr. Reams tapes on crop production he emphasizes the importance of nitrogen, and the roll of nitrogen in the formation of a cell.

Dr. Reams states that the base element of all biological cells start with nitrogen. If nitrogen is not available when a new cell is to be formed in a plant, the cell will not form and growth ceases. He also notes that nitrogen is the electromagnetic charged element that draws the other elements to it in order to start the formation of a new cell based on the genetic code in the DNA. Dr. Reams states that all cells, regardless of species or kind, require nitrogen for the budding of a new cell. This is why it is so important to maintain a constant, steady supply of nitrogen throughout the whole growing season.

 All cells, regardless of species or kind, require nitrogen for the budding of a new cell.

 Parameters for a steady supply of nitrogen

 Low supply of inorganic nitrogen

The key to a steady supply of nitrogen involves many parameters. Some we can control and some God controls. Nitrogen availability depends on proper moisture, temperature, oxygen, micro-organisms and calcium. The process of maintaining a favorable supply of nitrogen is a low supply of available inorganic soil nitrogen. This low supply of inorganic nitrogen is often supplied by man and the most successful producers learn to do this in such a way as not to over do it. If too much inorganic nitrogen is put on the natural system shuts down and does not work for you.

A practical application of this is applying 3 gallons per week of liquid 28% nitrogen through your irrigation water. I had several people do this last year with excellent results. Better yet, add liquid humates, nitromax, liquid fish, sugar, or 1 - 2 pounds of dry water solubles along with the nitrogen. If you have a hot, dry year you may consider using ammonium sulfate at a rate of 2 -4 pounds per week after the corn reaches 18 inches or more. Calcium nitrate works very well under this plan, or along with liquid nitrogens.

Soil analysis and ergs test

The plan you use should be based on a soil analysis. The soil ammonia and nitrate test plus pH and organic matter would be very helpful in determining which combination of fertilizers to use. Running the ergs test would also be very helpful in planning a program.

Visual appraisal

Once you have a soil test available you need a visual appraisal. Things to consider with a visual appraisal is crop color, caliber of stalks, color of the Ditch, soil texture and soil aeration. This is also a good time to evaluate the decomposition of the previous years crop residue.

Review tillage practices and discuss changes for the next year

When the previous years residue is plentiful you need something to get better decomposition. It is a good idea to review tillage practices and discuss changes for the next year. I have been in a number of fields where the trash is building up and not decomposing properly. These are often minimum till fields where something has gone wrong. I generally recommend a better crop residue incorporation plan in the fall, along with a small amount of nitrogen with some biologicals to hasten the process.


The reason I mention biologicals so much is because the formation of a healthy cell, according to Dr. Reams, is highly dependent on carbon which all biologicals contain. Dr. Reams states that the second most important element in cell formation is carbon. Carbon can be obtained from the air and the soil. The air furnishes carbon in the form of carbon dioxide through the stomata in the leaf. Carbon in the soil is necessary to help maintain moisture so the bacteria in the soil can convert air nitrogen from a gas to a liquid or compound state to be used by plants. Carbon is also important in the cell of plants to hold moisture in, allowing proper biological reactions to take place. Water in the cell is the number one catalyst needed for reactions to take place properly.


Many people realize the importance of nitrogen in crop production, but many simply do not understand the need and importance of carbon. Carbon is the basis for sugars and energy, plus colloidal minerals in our plants. When carbons are lacking in plants, sugars are lower and oils are lower. The lower the sugars and oils drop in plants the greater the loss of vitamin C and other vitamins.

Oils and sugars help the plant acquire proper levels of essential minerals in food so that we can maintain our health. When plants lose sugar and oil, because of improper fertility management, the plants sometimes get severe mineral imbalance, which leads to disease and loss of economical production.

Dr. Reams gave me a chart once that may help explain the importance of carbons in crop production.

Brix Moisture Brix Air Dry Air Dry Moisture
4 80% 21 (17) 15%
8 80% 27 (30) 24%
12 80% 34 28%
16 80% 37 35%
20 80% 40 40-45%

This chart is based on the moisture a good quality crop should keep at without spoilage at air dry moisture levels. Currently you will find hybrid corn at 4 - 5 brix during the growing season at 80% moisture, which is the moisture content of a good, healthy growing crop. If you dry this crop that is 4 brix for storage, you will need to get it below 15% moisture in order to keep it from spoiling.

If you study this chart you will notice the importance of getting the brix up in your crop in order-to take less drying time before you can store the crop. If everything works right, the higher the brix reading the higher the oil content should be and mineral content.

The oil content is very low in grains and forages today, that is why many feeding programs are adding fats and oils to feeds to get more productivity. Sugars and oils act as preservatives to grains and roughages, thus improving taste and quality. If you were to take 20 brix alfalfa and feed it to dairy cows, you would not need very much grain to get 80# of milk. The trick is how does one do this.

Currently many varieties of corn and alfalfa are being bred for protein. The result being high protein food and low energy. The net result of this is sick animals and people. It is true, we get volume but not true quality.

Improving the state of our land and raising the brix in our crops

There are things we need to consider to improve the state of our land and thus raise the brix in our crops. First, we need to consider putting composted organic matter back on our land. Granite meal and in some cases a planned liming program will also help. Next, we may need to select a different method for genetically selecting our seed. For example, look at some of our old varieties of seed that seem to produce better once the land is better mineralized with granite meal and compost. What all this boils down to is a new revolution in agriculture to bring about this kind of change.

swine production and feed qualityAs a veterinarian, I have seen a lot of different things happen in the area of livestock production, but none like a recent incident. A partner of mine came across a swine herd in Canada with exceptional production. He thought it would be a good idea to import some of this breeding stock into our area. After listening to him tell of this, I asked what the animals were fed. Barley was the main feed stuff. After hearing this I told him I had a better idea. My suggestion was to import the barley, because I felt it was the barley quality, rather than genetics, that made the difference.

More than once I have seen livestock production on a particular farm preform excellently, while after moving to another only to revert to the level of production, based on the feed quality of the new place. To further emphasize my point, I recently went with my son to buy some show geese. This farm was having an excellent hatch rate when most in the area had very poor, or none.

There are several reasons why this farms hatch rate was so much better than others. First, they used a lot of oats in the diet that was 42# test weight or better. They wanted only crib dried corn that was clean, bright, and free from mold. Next they would use only old processed bean meal for protein, plus some top quality alfalfa hay in the diet. They used brewers yeast for vitamins and bone meal for calcium phosphorus and trace minerals. The owner said they had tried many commercial brands of feed but didn't have near the success as they had with this plan. As I was driving home with my boys I couldn't help but wonder how plans like this might affect other types of livestock production units.

A New Revolution In Agriculture Is Needed To Bring About Change

Dr. Reams told me that if you over dry high quality feeds you destroy their effective feed value. For example, 12 brix alfalfa should not be dried down to 15 -16% moisture because this will affect the ability of protein and minerals to the animals that consume it. This is why it is so important to understand the whole picture not just part of it. In the past I have outlined many programs that have modified Dr. Reams concepts, but at best are only a interim step to reach a lone; term goal. The use of man made fertilizers with acids and chemicals in the short term produces increased yields and improves quality to a point, but the long term goal is a negative as far as I am concerned.

I recently checked some milk with my refractometer and it read 16 brix. I checked some milk on another dairy and it was 6 brix. I wonder what the difference is between the two, but I know one thing for sure, one sure tastes better. I just wish I knew all the parameters that made the difference between the two. I believe it has something to do with the feed.

If you study the brix chart for a while all kinds of possibilities may occur to you, but none can be achieved without first understanding how plants manufacture sugars. What ever we do, this should be a more important goal than yield and volume. It sure would be nice if we could get paid on this basis. The bottom line is sugars are the source of stored energy each of us lives from and without it we die. Man has learned to take various crops and concentrate these sugars to put into foods, but it is not the same as what God put there in the first place.

D.L. Skow D.V.M.

Wendell Owens

of International Ag Labs

Wendell Owen

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