cherriesI recently received some sweet cherries from Doyle Cleveland of Bloomingdale, Michigan. The cherries were fantastic. They were very sweet, plump and firm.

The brix reading on the black sweet cherries was 21 brix, while the white sweet cherries were 23 brix. This is considerably better than the chart Dr. Reams gave to me which has excellent cherries at 16 brix.

I called Mr. Cleveland to check with him on how he achieved such excellent quality. His soil test on the cherry ground in the fall of 1987 showed no nitrogens and 60 pounds of phosphate, 90 pounds of potassium and 403 pounds calcium, with a-soil pH of 6.85.

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.

for every action there is a reactionA price for progress

The modern day corn hybrids are very different than when I was a young farmer. I remember about the second or third year I farmed, the corn blew down. We still picked corn as ear corn and we had a pull type cornpicker. This became a huge problem because in order to harvest this corn, we had to harvest going one direction. I started harvesting on one side of the field picking corn one way, then driving back to the other end of the field empty and then harvesting my way back again. This became real discouraging, because right across the fence was a neighbor with a mounted picker harvesting both ways. About noon, my patience was exhausted and I went to town and traded cornpickers and that was my first mounted cornpicker. This wasn't the perfect solution either, because it was a lot noisier and dirtier, not to mention the increased risk of fire when some corn silks would get around the manifold. But was much happier because I was harvesting corn both ways. I think about those good old days now when I get in my combine with an air conditioned cab and no dust to inhale. What progress to the easy life.

zuchinni plant

Two Farmers

Imagine two farmers or ranchers from the same community meeting over breakfast at a local café. Over scrambled eggs and hash browns they compare notes on their farming operations. One is very efficient at harvesting solar energy and selling it at a profit. The other is not efficient at capturing solar energy and is slowly going broke. What is the difference? Both have access to the same amount of sunshine but with vastly different results.

After purchasing land or paying rent sunlight energy is free—no taxes, no patent infringement, and very dependable. And yet so many farmers and ranchers do not fully utilize this free gift. It is the job of the farmer to use biology, moisture, and geological resources to transform solar energy into a sellable product. This is how wealth is created. In other words the farmer sets up the environment that determines how much solar energy is captured.

human health starts in the soilSometimes, when beginning a certain endeavor, it is important to look at the final destination of what we are hoping to achieve before we set out on the journey. This high and lofty vantage point can help guide and energize us once we have taken the plunge and are in the midst of all the struggles and difficulties that lie in our path to the final destination. A classic book on this by the famous puritan author John Bunyan (1628-1688) is told as an allegorical story in Pilgrim’s Progress. In this story Christian decides that he must make the journey to the Celestial City. The journey he takes and the adventures he encounters while progressing toward the Celestial City make up the story told in the book. If I had to sum up the whole book in one statement it would be: Count the Cost—Then Pay the Price.

Gardening vs. Buying Commercial

This same principle carries over to gardening. Why garden anyway? Food is very much available and fairly cheap all around us. A lot of what we can buy is much more convenient to prepare than cooking from scratch with garden produce. Besides that, a garden is actually quite a bit of work. First you have to prepare the soil, then fertilize it, then plant it, then water and weed it. Lastly the produce must be harvested and preserved for future use. Why go though all the bother? Is it really worth the effort? These are questions and issues that each of us must answer on our own and according to our own circumstances.

I have done a lot of humus tests lately using the Lamotte Soil Humus Screening Test. The results have been very interesting and informative. At least 90% of the soils tested the past four years have shown a high humus reading based on the Lamotte method. The soils that didn't respond must have some problems that still need work. I wish that I had a 90% success rate on a lot of other things I have done in life.

humusThe question now becomes, "What does this mean?" I believe this means the potential for better quality in the crops produced. Quality is often talked about, yet hard to define when speaking of grains, fruits and vegetables. To me, better quality means better shelf life of fruits and vegetables, higher oil content of grains, well defined flavor, rich color, high weight per volume and a high sugar content.

IAL past,  present, futureWhat are we learning from our lab?

In the past few months we have been doing a lot of research on the mixing of calcium and phosphorus. As most of you know, this is not an easy job, and if you have accidentally mixed them together it was an experience you won't forget. I remember four hours of my life with a shovel and hoe trying to remove cottage cheese-like material from a 1300 gal. tank.

Why is it important to mix these together? When we study what Dr. Ream's taught about foliar sprays, he always wanted some phosphorus or soft rock phosphate in the spray. This was a problem for him, because the soft rock was not easily sprayed or handled. Also, the soft rock was not easily absorbed by the leaves of the plant. The phosphoric acid was ideal for the absorption by plants, but didn't mix well with calcium.

looking at all the variablesIn my area of the country corn and soybean harvest is progressing very rapidly. Yields are all over the board with corn running anywhere from 23 to 200 bushels per acre having essentially rainfall.

I know of four different fields of corn nearby that were alfalfa last year and corn did not even make 30 bushel. Yet corn on bean ground in the same area has had highs of 160 to 200 bushels per acre. Normally the alfalfa sod ground would have the better yields. This year however, sub soil moisture was greatly reduced because of the alfalfa roots.

An example of this is a local dairy firmer who for several years has been getting 170 bushels on his alfalfa sod. This year it yielded only 23 bushels, while his other ground yielded 100 to 120 bushels.

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