Up until now I have not created a lot of controversy. This is about to change.
I started farming my own crops when I was in the eleventh grade of high school. In the time between then and 1986 I had many soil tests taken. I believed everything on that sheet. In 1986 I joined with Dr. Dan Skow and we got International Ag Labs going. The first indication I had that my belief system may not have been right was when we started visiting laboratories and found that there were many different opinions. The very first surprise I recall was when we visited a land grant college lab and they showed us the different procedures.
When they got to organic matter, we were told they ranked it in three categories. These were high, medium and low. We asked how they tested them and were told “when we hold it in our hand and it is dark colored, it is high. If it is brownish or grey it is medium, and if it is yellow or very light colored, it is low.” At that time I didn’t know much about the testing procedures of soil, but I knew this wasn’t very scientific. I am now up to 2010 and the controversy still continues. We will look at some of the different procedures and I will share some of the opinions I have formed over the last twenty four years.
A 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.
Biological products and the market place
Starting a biological soil program seems to be a very difficult thing for many farmers to do. The fear of the unknown and lack of documented research become real barriers.
Using liquid fish fertilizer on a crop is often questioned by farmers. I am asked if it really works or I am told they have never heard of such a thing. I remember reading about Indians using fish for plant nutrient in my grade school text books.
In most states, liquid or dry fish cannot be sold as a fertilizer, only as a soil admendment. If I would advertise fish products for soil as a fertilizer and make any claims I would be breaking the law. I would be subject to fines and possible jail sentences. The same is true for seaweed products. Seaweed has been used for centuries by people along the oceans as a nutrient source for crop production.
During the last 30 days I have been doing a great deal of traveling, and I have seen a lot of good crops as well as bad. This year's crop results are going to be greatly affected by method of tillage, seed variety, fertilizer and rainfall.
So far, deep placement of fertilizer looks like the most promising method of application for a dry year. I have a few accounts who put anhydrous knives on their cultivators and deep placed liquid nitrogen 6" - 8" deep between rows. This seems to have greatly improved crop color and growth.
Taking a look at humus
Humus is an aspect of soil fertility that is often overlooked. I think we need to look at this aspect of soil much more closely and learn how to maintain and increase humus in our soils.
According to text books, humus is the reservoir in the soil which stores plant food. Humus in the soil is that portion of plant and animal residues left after decomposition. It is usually dark in color, thus giving soil the dark brown to black color.
Much has been written about soil nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and calcium, but very little about humus. Yet humus probably has more to do with the economics of crop production than any other soil parameter.
Humus has a very direct effect on the availability of plant nutrients to the rootlets of plants. The lower the humus content of a soil, the more difficult it is for plants to find sufficient readily available nutrients for healthy crop growth. The more humus present in a soil, the more stable the soil's root zone environment. This normally leads to better yields at less cost per unit produced.
Earthworms are a very important part of the soil ecology
I recently ran into an interesting phenomenon that might be of interest to many of you, especially those of you who use night crawlers for fishing. I was at a hog farm checking the chlorine level of the farm's well water and observed that when ran the chlorinated water out onto the ground, the night crawlers came wriggling out of the ground very rapidly. The owner told me that he has used this method of catching night crawlers for years.
I find this very interesting since most fields under current cultural practices have few or no earthworms. I know now that the use of potassium chloride drives them out and if that doesn't get them, the anhydrous ammonia does.
Using molasses in fertility programs
I have been asked many questions recently about molasses and its use in soil fertility programs. Many people who are unfamiliar with my program recommendations become very concerned over the use of molasses in a soil program. I wish they would become as concerned over the use of herbicides and insecticides.
I have been looking in college textbooks for verification of the use of molasses in a soil program and have finally found one. The book is called Microorganisms At Work. In Chapter 43 of this book it talks about how molasses may be useful in a soil program to take free nitrogen from the air and make it into a form that can be utilized by plants. The process is called nitrogen fixation. This process converts free nitrogen into nitrogen based chemical compounds or organic compounds.
How to get answers to successful crop production
I hope everything is going well for each of you and hope you are getting plenty of rain. I have been listening to some of Dr. Reams' old cassette tapes on soils. The one I enjoyed most was his comments on the importance of Jesus in our daily lives and crop growing program. He was reminding me as I listened to the tape that man is not nearly as smart as he thinks.
First of all, man cannot make a seed, let alone get it to sprout without God. Man cannot bring the wind which helps the sap flow nor the rain. He only thinks he can sometimes.
I 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.
Units of energy - anions and cations
It has been some time since we have had a newsletter on the concepts of energy and how energy affects crop growth. I have been reviewing Dr. Reams old notes and cassette tapes concerning energy principles, and felt this would be a good time to review them with you also.
First we must all understand that ultimately all energy originates from the sun. The sun, which is some 93 million miles from the earth, bombards the earth with very small, negatively charged particles of energy. These particles can travel through walls and buildings. Dr. Reams called these charged particles anions and defined a single anion as the smallest known particle of energy. He further stated that anions spin or rotate in a clockwise direction. The light you see when you burn something is anions being liberated from the mass. Mass is made up of atoms, and according to Dr. Reams concept of energy and plant growth, atoms are made up of anions and cations.