At the end of my in my blog titled I am not a farmer, but I play one on TV, I told you I would post I list of books I planned to read this summer. Very shortly after that blog I ordered a number of books. I have only read 3; two were booklets (less than 50 pages).
The third is "Weeds and Why They Grow", by Jay L. McCamon. I finally decided to finish this one when out at Husker Harvest Days 2 weeks ago, some colleagues and I were walking through the corn plots and noticed an abundance of black nightshade. I told my colleagues that that indicated a fertility imbalance. None really took me seriously.
It’s tough for many to accept that weeds grow because of certain soil conditions. Weeds are not the problem; they are the symptoms of problems. The origin of the word “weed” is “weod” meaning “little herb” If herbs are intended for healing, then weeds are also for healing of the soil.
I have personal experience with this. I am conducting a test plot on the field surrounding my house. The main weeds are foxtail, dandelion, and curly dock. The soil samples came back showing low organic matter, and low calcium. Infield observations were hard pan 6-8” little water infiltration, and poor soil structure.
What does Weeds and Why They Grow say, foxtail, dandelion, and curly dock are all weeds that grow in low calcium soils. Foxtail and curly dock like low humus, curly dock also likes hard soils, and foxtail likes poor drainage.
Many weeds act as collectors of minerals. When they die and decay the minerals from the plant are added back to the soil in a form available to plants. The roots systems of many weeds can penetrate deep into the subsoil to loosen it. They also bring up minerals and make it possible for the root systems of less vigorous plants to follow.
Fredrick Clements, an eminent botanist stated, “ Each plant is an indicator”. The purpose of weeds is to correct soil problems. The common dandelion seems to thrive on bringing calcium back to the soil surface to become available as the plant decays. Broad leaf weeds like a soil environment in which the available potash exceeds the available phosphate. If the potash continues to increase relative to the phosphate, a point may be reached where herbicides cannot control the broadleaf weeds.
Calcium is the element that causes the soil particles to move apart for aeration and drainage. Magnesium makes the particles stick together. One soil consultant has determined that is some soils the excess magnesium is held as trimagnesium ortho phosphate, Mg3(PO4)2-22H2O. Notice that the last part of the formula is twenty-two molecules of water. Is it any wonder that soils high in magnesium tend to dry and crack when water is tied up in a compound instead of available to plants? Note: two molecules of phosphate is tied to the magnesium.
What about that field at Husker Harvest Days? Well without a soil test it is hard to know for sure but according to “Weeds and Why They Grow”, Black Nightshade likes low calcium, low phosphates, very high potash, very high magnesium, low humus levels, low soil porosity, anaerobic soils, hard sticky soils, and high levels of aluminum.
As I finish the other 7 books I will comment on the ones that are worthy.
The Blogronomist is maintained by Craig Dick, head blogronomist and VP of Sales and Marketing. Here you will find a wide array of blog articles from Craig and expert guests on topics related to soil and crop health, farming, and so much more. If it’s not here, ask us!