A decade ago, honeybee populations around the world began declining at an alarming rate. In the early years of this trend, beekeepers lost 60 percent or more of their hives to a mysterious phenomenon that came to be known as colony collapse disorder (CCD). In each of these cases, worker bees simply disappeared, and it doesn’t take long for a colony to collapse without workers to provide food and to care for the young. Although this trend seems to have leveled off somewhat in recent years, the current average rate of 30 percent annual mortality is still nearly double the average rate reported prior to 2006.
Soil pH adjustment may seem like a pretty straightforward operation, but there are many things to consider before undertaking such a bold step with soil chemistry. The first step is determine the direction you need to go and the products to use to achieve your goal. I cannot stress enough the importance of getting a good soil test. I’ve heard people say that based on the type of weeds or the fact that moss is growing means the soil pH needs adjusting. Assuming those statements were true, which direction and how much adjustment should be made? Without a good soil test it is pure and simple guesswork.
In our Tractor Time podcast this week, we were lucky enough to have Susan Sink, vice president of development and external relations with American Farmland Trust, stop by our office in Austin, Texas, to chat about the future of farming, and what is currently happening in Washington D.C. that all farmers should know about.
Susan and the team are based in Washington D.C., and work with policymakers as well to craft major legislation like The Farm Bill, which affects almost every farmer in the country. They travel around and talk with farmers, both conventional and organic, and see how different environments — both political and geographic — affect the agriculture industry across the country.
Susan is also a farmer who has diversified her cattle farm in hopes of finding a way to keep her farm going in a very challenging environment for cattle farmers. She speaks to her own experience, and provides words of wisdom and hope that every farmer out there can hear and appreciate.
Hosted by Ryan Slabaugh.
You can learn more about the American Farmland Trust at www.farmland.org.
You can find all of our podcasts on our Tractor Time Podcast page at www.ecofarmingdaily.com, or in the Apple store.
As Charles Walters, founder of Acres U.S.A., said in his talk that will follow, if he had asked his father in 1945: “Are you an organic farmer, he would have said “What’s that?” In less than a century, we’ve come far enough to forget how we have farmed for centuries. And how new the introduction of industrial pesticides and herbicides is for farming, and how little we truly know about the massive effect it’s had on our health, on our environment and on our food supply.
Anyway, in the talk that will follow, Charles Walters spoke to this point with the help of Lee Fryer, and a few farmers in the audience. He will tell you that even today, the effort to, as he put it, “to liberate the organic farmers,” goes on. With truth on our side. That the challenge now is to return the burden of proof to the conventional agriculture systems, to those who want to coat our foods with poison, to prove that it is as safe as organic farming, and not the other way around.
Introduction by Ryan Slabaugh.
Listen to and download the first three episodes here.
Wood ash, as Jon Frank shares, can be a resource for making your own super fertilizer: You’ve heard of super foods — foods especially endowed with nutrition that merit special attention. I would like to suggest a simple, effective fertilizer you can make yourself. Often overlooked and many times deprecated because it was over-applied — it is time to give wood ash its due. If you burn wood for home heating you already have a ready supply. If not, all it takes is a bonfire and you are in business. I like to incorporate plenty of charcoal in combination with the wood ashes. This approach is more closely aligned with the creation of Terra Preta. To cut the dust, I like to mix wood ashes with moist leaf mold. You may want to enhance your fertilizer by mixing 1 pound of kelp meal and 1 pound of sugar for every 20 pounds of ashes. If phosphorus is low in your soil, add bones to the bonfire and crush them with the charcoal.
I suggest using anywhere from 5 to 50 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Avoid using on soils with a pH above 7.8. The use of wood ash does not replace soil test and fertility recommendations; rather it supplements it and reduces the overall need to purchase costly off-site inputs. The beauty of using wood ash is that the spectrum and ratio of minerals present in the ash have already been preselected by plants. Its fine dust is very fast-acting in soil. Wood ashes are very rich in trace and secondary minerals, without adding nitrogen.
Beyond Wood Ash
To create an optimum growing environment in your garden take these actions:
- Keep the mineral levels in your soil well supplied;
- keep soil-applied nitrogen very low;
- keep the soil consistently moist, and
- make your own super fertilizer.
And now for the word of caution. Externally applied nitrogen is a safety net. Its use should not be discontinued in the following situations:
- Indoor growing — Greenhouses and high tunnels are very intensive and require more production to remain profitable.
- Commercial grain production — Don’t even think about it.
- Soils heavily sprayed with herbicides and pesticides — The microbial system struggles in this environment and requires applied nitrogen.
by Jon Frank
For more information about fertilizer, subscribe to Acres USA.
Grassland ecosystems are threatened around the world, although positive restoration techniques can be used to convert them back into sustainable models of agriculture.
The United States of America is the self-proclaimed “breadbasket of the world.” There is no denying the massive quantity of staple food crops (corn, soybeans, wheat, rice) that the United States produces. However, more and more people are coming to realize that there’s something moldy in the breadbasket. There is mounting evidence (with supporting documentation courtesy of the USDA) that annual agriculture, as practiced today, is now one of the most destructive technologies on the planet. What could possibly be more destructive than rendering sterile, with toxic chemicals, one-third of the surface area of a continent? Unless it is turning over the top 16-24 inches of the soil with plows, once or more every single year?
Agriculture kills everything in a given area except the crop, and for up to eight months of the year agriculture leaves the soil exposed, free to blow away in the wind or wash away in the rain. Even when a mature annual crop is in the field, the soil surface is usually bare, exposed to wind and water erosion.