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Glen Howell

Glen Howell

Differences in organic manure?

Scientists at the USDA-ARS in Orono, Maine have discovered that dairy cows producing USDA-certified organic milk also produce different manure than cows fed in a commercial operation.  The results showed that conventional and organic dairy manures from commercial dairy farms differed in concentrations of plant nutrients, including phosphorus, metals and minerals.

"The researchers found that the two types of manure had at least 17 different chemical forms of phosphorus that varied in concentrations. The organic dairy manure had higher levels of phosphorus, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and magnesium.

Organic dairy manure also contained more types of phosphorus found in association with calcium and magnesium. Such forms are comparatively slow to dissolve and would thus gradually release the nutrients. Slow-release fertilizers generally increase the likelihood that they eventually will be taken up by crops, rather than being washed out of fields into nearby surface or groundwater sources.

Because of this, slow-release fertilizers often can be applied at comparatively low rates. Manure produced by cows in organic production systems may show similar characteristics compared to manure from conventional systems."

 Read more here-http://www.ars.usda.gov/IS/pr/2009/090422.htm

 

 

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!

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Pennycress: Do Farmers Want to Plant Weeds?

When I (Glen) decided to start farming in 1993, a neighbor took me aside and gave me some words of advice.  “It’s ok to not have the biggest yields, but it’s not ok to have the weediest fields.”  His words came from a lifelong battle with weeds, without the benefit of transgenic crops that we almost take for granted today.  However, a potential oil seed crop, pennycress, is typically labeled as a weed in today’s agriculture.

Pennycress is receiving attention in Illinois & other areas because of its high oil content.  Its seeds contain more than 35% oil, while soybeans typically have 16-18% oil.  This means that an acre of pennycress could produce 115 gallons of biodiesel per acre, according to www.growpennycress.com.  Another significant potential benefit is that pennycress is a winter annual, meaning that it completes its life cycle in the spring.  That may lead to the opportunity to produce two crops on the same area of land in one year, also known as double cropping.  If it happens, double cropping offers farmers the opportunity to diversify, helps in reducing crop sensitivity to weather, and spreads out the overall risk.

Pennycress.  Does it offer promise for the future?  Maybe, but there will be a number of associated challenges.  Agronomic, economic, and perhaps most importantly, social considerations will all have a significant impact on the ultimate outcome.

 

 

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!

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Are Soybean Aphids Affected by Soil Bacteria?

When I was an agronomist in retail sales, one of my biggest challenges was soybean aphid control and management.

It seemed like the season started earlier every year, and it did not end until the end of the growing season. One of my observations was that some fields seemed to be a magnet for infestation, while nearby fields remained nearly free of aphids. I was unable to figure out why. Now, researchers at Penn State have identified that the choice of bacteria used to inoculate soybeans , may provide protection against aphids.

Read more about what they have found here: http://cornandsoybeandigest.com/natural-nitrogen-fixing-bacteria-protect-soybeans-aphids 

I found this article quite interesting. This is an example of how little we understand about the complex relationships found between plants, bacteria, and the soil. It also illustrates the importance of soil quality and management.

 

 

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!

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Does Cation Balancing Have a Place?

Balancing Soil Nutrient Levels in Agriculture

Soil tests provide some great information to producers and consultants.  They usually include such things as pH, buffer pH, and CEC along with nutrient levels like Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K).  Some agronomists and producers look at the pH and then ignore everything else except for the recommendations based on yield.  This might not be the best strategy for long term soil health.

There are some people who advocate looking at the relative proportions of the cations (Hydrogen, Calcium, Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium) in the soil and trying to achieve a balanced level of fertility.  This would be equivalent to achieving a balanced livestock ration or human diet. 

A Virginia website which talks more about cation balancing can be found here:  www.vabf.org/soilre1.php. I think the author makes two very important points in the conclusion:

1) A foliar or tissue test will show what the plant is actually using.  This may be different than what a soil test indicates.

2) There is no substitute for the knowledge that a farmer has about the land he is managing. 

 

 

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!

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