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Book of the Week: Tuning in to Nature

By Philip S. Callahan

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Acres U.S.A. book, Tuning In To Nature: Infrared Radiation and the Insect Communication System, by Philip S. Callahan. Copyright 2001, softcover, 264 pages. Regular price: $25.00.

Tuning in to Nature by Philip S. Callahan

Tuning in to Nature was written in 1975 as a direct result of an experience I had shortly after World War II ended, when I was still attached to the RAF Coastal Command in northern Ireland.

During July 1945, I took a Jeep from Belleek to Castle Archdale in Fermanagh County, northern Ireland. The RAF Coastal Command had its western Ireland headquarters on Lough Erne not far from our American Radio Range Station near Belleek.

When I picked up a technical report by the RAF on the XAF (10 cm radar) the researcher pointed out that most boat hulls were in sharp focus since 10 cm is a short wavelength in comparison to a boat. Diesel launches under way, however, were “blurred with indistinct edges over the stern.” It did not take long to deduce that the XAF radar was “seeing” the diesel exhaust — in short, the radar was smelling exhaust by electronics. This rather simple observation led to my irreversible belief that insect spines (sensilla) are indeed real antennae.

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Minerals for Healthy Soil & High-Quality, Top Yields

It’s a new century, and there is more knowledge about farming and the role of minerals, and there are more farmers paying attention to it. When it comes to farming, we know what the “base” is: putting all the pieces together including minerals, biology and soil structure — and using crop fertilizers that provide above and  beyond what the soil can dish out in terms of nutrients and biology.

A fall mixed cover the author grew after rye was harvested. He used the cover crop to capture nutrients in a biological form and to cycle nutrients to get more minerals into the following cash crop.

Even though there’s a lot of discussion about soil health, no-till and soil structure in farming right now, not enough attention is paid to minerals.

It seems like so much of agriculture is spending its time and money chasing magic biologicals, foliars or plant protection and not focusing on doing everything you can to feed your crop a balance of minerals and prevent the problems in the first place.

So what is your limiting factor or constraint that interferes with plant production and plant health? You need to understand that your farming practices have a lot of influence on plant health, and plants that are healthy protect themselves — just as you have an immune system that functions well if you are healthy. Reduce stress; eat a balanced diet with a balance of nutrients; eat a variety of foods that are clean without foreign compounds to fight and a good biological balance. If you get all that right do you need to take supplements?

It’s not farming the same way it was in grandpa’s day because there was a lot he didn’t know. He didn’t understand nutrients, soil health or soil fertility, and didn’t have the tools we have. He was stuck with a “plow.” If I asked you to do everything you could to get your soils healthy and mineralized, what would you do? Continue Reading →

Tractor Time Episode 17: Brendon Rockey, Potato Farmer and Speaker on Biodiversity


This episode’s guest is Brendon Rockey, a third-generation Colorado potato farmer. He spoke last October at a soil health conference near Greeley, close to our office, and when I wandered down to hear his talk, I was a bit surprised. We are surrounded by conventional ag folks in the Greeley, Colorado, area, but instead of talks about spraying schedules and storage tanks, I heard a guy talking about a wildly diverse field, about growing at 7,000 feet above sea level, about the importance of microbial life in the soil, and even how his neighbors even called him “weird.” As soon as I heard all that, I was pretty sure we had an Acres U.S.A. guy in Brendon.

Brendon Rockey

Turns out, we did. He will be speaking at our conference this year in Louisville, Kentucky, about what he does on his farm, and how he went from “weird” to the envy of his community.

Today, we’re going to talk to Brendon about this journey, and explore his farming techniques that go against a lot of conventional thought, and talk to him a bit about his quinoa crops as well.

Learn more about Brendon Rockey here, and his farm here.

Learn more about the 2018 Eco-Ag Conference & Trade Show, where Brendon Rockey will be speaking in December, here.

Diatomaceous Earth for Pest Control

There is an ongoing circulation of bad, misinformed, incomplete, and overall biased information regarding diatomaceous earth. This article is intended to bring to light much of the research (peer-reviewed articles and government regulation) surrounding DE and the potential dangers of its contents in a way that people can understand.

Many of the websites that list the benefits and uses of diatomaceous earth have a stake in the game. They are usually trying to sell you diatomaceous earth or make a commission by referring you to another store through an affiliate link. They are incentivized to paint the product in the best light. A lot of the bad “not so fun” information is left out or not highlighted as nearly enough as it should be.

As a result, you have a recipe for disaster with people reading, sharing and spreading anecdotal information stemming from these articles about a topic potentially affecting thousands of people causing respiratory issues and/or further pest problems. Continue Reading →

No-Till Growing: Vegetable Production

Robust spring cabbages at Tobacco Road Farm.

Over the last 20-plus years of vegetable growing at Tobacco Road Farm in Lebanon, Connecticut, we have constantly sought ways to improve the health and vitality of our crops and soils, and going no-till has been part of that journey.

About 3 acres of land is in vegetables, with half in year-round vegetable production and the other half cover cropped through the winter months.

The crop rotations are very close, with yields very high, so the intensity of production demands very careful soil care. To this end, soil amendments, fertilizers, inoculants and compost have been carefully selected and applied over the years.

Under this intensity of production, tillage was previously utilized to an excessive degree. This left the soil with a soil structure that was lacking in aggregation, tended toward surface crusting and with a plow pan always in need of mechanical breaking. The loosened soil of the tillage layer dried excessively in summer, leading to irrigation needs, and the soils’ air/water balance was constantly in jeopardy. Continue Reading →

Book of the Week: Preventing Deer Damage, by Robert G. Juhre

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Acres U.S.A. original book, Preventing Deer Damage, written by Robert G. Juhre. Copyright 2011. #6329. Softcover. 108 pages. BOTW price: $10.00. ($14.95 regularly priced.)

By Robert G. Juhre

Fences are good for defense, but do it early. If fencing is to be part of your strategy to protect a new project, do it before you plant that orchard or till that vegetable garden. Not only is it easier to build while the land is vacant, it is better that the deer do not estab­lish a habit of visiting the area to be planted. We will cover a variety of fence choices in this section. Weigh these

Preventing Deer Damage, $14.95

alternative ideas care­fully. Some are relatively expensive; some require maintenance; some are unsightly; some are time intensive for the do-it-yourselfer and some are oriented for specific needs. Because these various fencing solutions vary greatly in cost, appearance and effectiveness, they may be only part of your overall plan. At this point, we are assuming you are trying to keep deer out, not coexist.

Wood Fence with Sheep Wire, 12-Foot High

A 12′ high fence, constructed of treated 4” x 4”s, set on a con­crete base that is below the frost line, should have a 30-year life. Remember, your entrance gate needs to be the same height. Use 2” x 4” cross bars to firm up the corners or cables with turn buckles which can be used for the same purpose. Now attach 6’ sheep wire with 4” mesh to the lower section of the posts that have been set on ten foot centers. Tighten each section with a fence stretcher (usu­ally available at rental stores) and fasten the wire to the posts with galvanized staples. After the lower section is completed, follow the same procedure for the upper run of fencing wire. Attach the lower and upper runs of sheep fencing together with pig rings. These can be found at farm stores along with a special pliers-like tool for clos­ing them easily. If 6’ high sheep wire is not available, then use 4’ high wire. Now your installation is only 8’ high. To reach the desired 10 feet, you will have to string two runs of wire, a foot apart, across the upper two feet of space. Continue Reading →