Friday, September 27, 2013

My Soil Collapsed

When Keith and Jeff were here to look at my Apex soybeans and other crops, Keith said "this soil is collapsed."  I was devastated!  My soil collapsed?  What does that mean?

You can see the texture of it where we knocked out a dead tree.  That soil won't hold enough water and oxygen enough during dry periods to stay spongy when you walk over it.  Tillage has taken its toll over the decades.  This silt loam soil needs more organic matter, among other things.

He had taken out his pocket knife and dug up a top layered fracture of one of the fields on our new farm.  We got a good buy on that farm a year ago because no one else bid higher.  Maybe they knew something I didn't but we were tickled pink to get it.

When soil doesn't have enough organic matter or structure and it gets hot and dry for a few weeks, it usually collapses.  Keith's soil doesn't do that, it stays pumped up like a body builder.  I want to make my soil more like his but I only have a few years left to do it.

My soil will never be that good, but it can still be productive, full of life and on the road to recovery.  It doesn't have to be beat to death and lack structure like it does today.  It's already on the right path due to lime, fertilizer and timely planting.  A wheat crop with the straw blown back on it will improve its biology and structure but it takes time!  It takes so much time so we must start now.

Most would say pour the manure to it but we don't have easy access to manure.  I have not seen any manure test without pretty high amounts of glyphosate in it so I don't want to go that direction, either.

Green manure is my best bet and a wheat crop comes closest to providing that, except I plan to steal the protein and carbohydrate from it and sell it.

Does your soil collapse when it dries up?  I would say most soils around here do.

What can you do next to improve it and keep it pumped up longer?

Ed Winkle


  1. I used to hear of planting buckwheat to help break up hard-pan and increase tilth. Does anyone still do that?

  2. Have you ever considered or tried anything similar to the "cover crop cocktail" ideas of people like Gabe Brown, Dave Brandt, or Jay Fuhrer?

    If planting a combination of radishes and wheat does wonders, then maybe planting a cover crop combination with 13 or more different seeds would do even more.

  3. Looks almost like sand.
    There are dairy farms in Wilmington and Hillsboro you may be able to get manure from.

    I'd spray manure and plant cover crops for a whole year one field at a time.
    Glyphosate from manure (if any) would be long gone by the time you go back to normal crops.
    What about cleaning up that wood that's part of the new land, chipping and composting branches to add to the poorest land? Quickest way to build humus there is. Wood chips are also very absorbent and double the potential of liquid manure (pigs or bovine) when you compost both together.
    There might be urban waste around that you can use as fertilizer and soil structure improver too. I am guessing that you will be spending winter harvesting 20 Olympic pools of dead leaves rather than traveling to a sunny country this time... ;)

  4. Ed,

    I may be in your country next week on Thursday. Got time for a combine passenger or no?

    Phil a.

    1. Welcome anytime Phil.

      Study up on your glyphosate Chimel. Isn't the half life there more like 10 years? I have talked to farmers that said it took 10 years or so to completely rid their soil of glyphosate on a chemical test.

      Gorges, yes buckwheat has a place in many rotations and my grandfather used it.

      All excellent comments guys.

      Ed Winkle

      I don't have years to build these soils, I know it's a copout. Keeping it covered with wheat or a cover crop is the best I can do. I need every payment I can get from this soil to make its payment. Yes, Rich that is what it needs.