Friday, November 18, 2011

Organic Matter

A fellow directed a question to me, soil life and others on Crop Talk as to why he wasn't seeing his organic matter go up on his Maryland farm.

I answered the best I could but I am not sure how you communicate all these ideas via word and print.

In his rotation he is chopping off more residue than he is putting in, even though he adds manure and a cover crop to his rotation. He is on low organic matter, non glaciated soil much like I have here at the bottom of this farm on the glacial moraine.

We hear of farmers actually increasing their soil organic matter like gardeners can do but in his circumstance he can't get ahead of the game. It sounds like he must have a lot of microbial activity but the microbes are eating up what little residue he puts in his rotation to feed the next crop.

Soil is a vast, deep and interesting subject. A young farmer friend showed me an "app" for his droid connected to Soil Web that shows the soil type on your farm via the GPS connected to the soil survey. It knows where you are and looks up the mapped soil type where you are standing. I thought that was really cool.

I was surprised to see we were talking above Blanchester Silt Loam, a very low organic matter soil that is very old, over 100,000 years old the soil scientists think. It was a low area but really a higher elevation swamp and probably was a lake many centuries ago.

This location is over 1000 feet elevation above sea level. Increasing the soil organic matter on this soil would be about like the fellow in Maryland. It would be slow and difficult in one man's lifetime after centuries and eons of other practices.

That is why farming is so exciting to me, there is so much to learn and so little time. I am still learning this week so I guess you could say I had a good week overall.


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