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Soil and Crops

Microbiology of Soil
Post At
09/15/2013 - 2:58 P
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reply from
Peter Zurkow
I am not a practicing farmer but have become fascintated with concepts of zone tillage and no till farming, which appear to both address reduced compaction and better plant nutrition.

My questions is whether the secret sauce is decompaction (in the case of zone tillage and no till) and the organic nutrition contained in mulch (in the case of no till) or the the fact that in both cases the microbiology of the soil is improving by better air and water availability to sustain appropriate microbial life -- bacteria, fungi, other microbes, nematodes, etc. (which have also prospered through the mulching process).

If the key component in "restoring" or "improving" the soil is the microbial activity -- which presumably has its own ability to reduce compaction -- then shouldn't the goal of many research institutions be the creation of microbial rich soil amendments?

Woud appreciate any comment as I try to come up the learning curve of sustainability.

Reply at
09/21/2013 - 8:54 P
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reply from
Jim Boak
The "Secret Sauce" is all of the above and more. The creation of yet even more ammendment prducts would be another way to move money from a farmers pocket to someone else's when the secret sauce ingredients are already on the farm.

No till or strip till is not a solution. It is a tool. I can show you full tillage operations that have healthier and more productive soil with fewer purchased inputs than no till operations and I can show you no till operations with fewer purchased inputs that have healthier soil and are more productive than full tillage operations.

What really works the best, and this is the best kept secret; is that if you understand soil and plants - especially roots - you can choose the tools and use the tools that you need for the very best and most profitable result.

We dont need to purchase more amendments. Everything we have is already there exept perhaps the knowledge.
Reply at
09/22/2013 - 7:55 P
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reply from
Dennis K Dryden
Jim, Please explain how the full conventional tillage can have healthier and more productive soil than

no-till soil...true no-till like in years, not season(s).
Reply at
09/22/2013 - 12:00 P
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reply from
Michael Thompson
I think that no-till can be a good start to building soil health and microbiology, but I think that we need to look at using cover crops, biological products to enhance root growth, and also biological products such as kelp to stimilate soil microherd. There is so much to know about soil health, and no soils have the same microboilogy. We know so little about the soils underfoot, I think we all need to experiment and see what works best on our farms.
Reply at
09/23/2013 - 7:15 P
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reply from
Dennis K Dryden
Listening and attempting to practice what D. Beck and Jill Clapperton "preach" has helped more beginning and already-practicing no-tillers around and through these thoughts.

When listening to adds for biological products, I'm reminded of their comments that NOT all soil is created equal...different areas/fields/counties/states have different make up of soil micro critters. Also reminded of seed companies that want to treat all seed for all problems with their additives..and like an internal combustion engine set up as a diesel, put gasoline in the fuel and expect problems, or take out one valve and expect poor performance. I'm NOT saying all additives are batwings and swamp water, but if there isn't any test data of that product from your immediate area, maybe the company needs to be paying you for testing the product.
Reply at
09/23/2013 - 8:20 P
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reply from
Mark Ludwig
I also have seen good biology in both no till, conservation till and some more agressive tillage systems. A few general rules in my book; test the soil comprehensivly and address macro and micro needs. Ballance cations, keep the Ca up esp. on clay. Avoid compaction, address it when it's there. Cover crop any time there is a chance, you have to feed the soil life. Run a diverse rotation. Track OM and if it is dropping, find out why and change things. Grow fretility when possible, both N from legumes and release native minerals with biology. Till only with a purpose and only as deep as needed to achive your goals. If it's deeper than 3 inches, you are really hammering your soil life. I put new tech ahead of most additives, read plant color for N applications, stay on tram lines, use near IR aerial scouting to keep on top of changing conditions etc. In my book good practices are the cake, soultions in a jug are the icing. The iceing enhanses the cake, but doesn't do much if the cake is poor.

my $.02

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