A few thoughts on soil

From food plots to water management, post your habitat questions here.
DanP
Duck South Addict
Posts: 1487
Joined: Tue Mar 20, 2007 6:38 am
Location: Leland

A few thoughts on soil

Postby DanP » Tue Dec 16, 2014 9:39 pm

The thread in the classifieds looking for a ripper got me to thinking…. Folks have been complaining about this joint being dead so I will get on a soap box for a piece.
Now I will warn you that what I’m about to say goes against the grain for the most part, but its something I’ve been researching and experimenting with for a couple years now.

It started by looking at compaction on row crop land with a penetrometer. Come to find out in many soils, across many growers, a fall ripping did very little to reduce the compacted layer come spring planting time. Now this is not a blanket statement at all, but there are situations where ripping simply isn’t doing any good. Why is that? The conclusion I’m at now, which is subject to be altered as I learn more, is that soil problems begin with mineral/nutrient imbalance and the lack of soil biology (aka life). Take calcium and magnesium for example. Calcium is needed to provide structured, aerated soils with good water infiltration and storage. However, even if you have more than adequate calcium, but have high magnesium, then the soil can become tight and compacted reducing aeration, infiltration, etc. So mineral ratios play a big role in defining soil properties.

Organic matter also plays a huge role in all of this. Only problem is we’ve tilled most of our OM out, along with the soil biology. Most of the soil tests used around here measure total organic matter by burning the carbon out and weighing the difference. Only problem is it doesn’t tell how much of that OM is humus, the only part that really benefits us, which can lead one to think they are in better shape than they actually are. Something else to think about concerning OM. Everybody wants to grow high protein forage for deer, cattle or whatever. Well what makes protein? Amino acids. What are they made of? Mostly carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. The latter of which is commonly considered the crucial nutrient as the others are normally are in adequate supply. Nitrate is the major plant available form of nitrogen and its an anion, has a negative charge, and it is not held by clay based soil particles. This is why nitrate leaching is such a problem. What soil particle can have a positive charge and hold nitrate? Humus. So I guess the humus fraction of OM may be pretty important if you’re goal is to maximize growth and health of plants and animals.

Moving on to the biological side. Soil is meant to be full of life, bacteria, fungi, worms and stuff. These critters take care of making nutrients available to the plant, fixing nitrogen from the air, creating pore space, building organic matter, etc. These guys are just like deer or ducks, they have to have habitat to live. Their habitat is degraded when organic matter is lost, soil structure destroyed, and by a few harsh fertilizers/chemicals. Unfortunately the system we have created and most operate in is not conducive to producing or maintaining healthy soils.

So back to the compaction issue, there is another way.

1 – Provide adequate and balanced nutrient and minerals
2 – Minimize tillage
3 – Keep living roots in the soil year around
4 – Grow a diversity of plants to achieve specific goals

To expand on the last point more, because that is where this all started, you can address compaction by including plants such as tillage radish and sweet clover. These put down a tap root that is very effective in breaking hard pans, they also help build OM. We dug a soil pit on a field in Yazoo County that has been no-till for five years and had tillage radishes and other cover crops for four years. We found soybean roots at 38 inches. That field is non-irrigated and averaged 76 bu/ac this year. Granted, it was a wet year. However, this field has also been producing 180 bu/ac corn, a 50 bu/ac increase from when it was conventionally tilled. The soil structure has started to develop, internal drainage has improved (gets in field quicker) and water holding capacity has increased.

There is another way of doing things, its just not supported by big marketing and industry funded research. If it weren’t for seeing these alternative approaches working very well on very successful and profitable farms, I would be a major skeptic. But now I’m on a mission to learn more and I would encourage everyone else who manages a piece of land to start doing the same. Rather than simply doing what appears to work for most folks, start thinking about what your doing and instead of addressing a symptom (i.e. ripping) look for the root of the problem and work to address that.
User avatar
COONDOG
Veteran
Posts: 213
Joined: Wed May 18, 2005 8:19 am
Location: CLEVELAND

Re: A few thoughts on soil

Postby COONDOG » Wed Dec 17, 2014 7:24 am

http://www.aldeer.com/forum/ubbthreads. ... 098&page=1
http://www.qdma.com/forums/showthread.php?t=66427

If anybody has time click the links above and see what this guy is doing on his land. I got these off of the Bullnettler. There is a lot of useful information in these two threads.
I'm thinking about giving some of these ideas a try in a couple places next year.
User avatar
stang67
Duck South Addict
Posts: 2959
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2005 9:05 am
Location: LA

Re: A few thoughts on soil

Postby stang67 » Wed Dec 17, 2014 4:12 pm

Look for posts by Dgallow on QDMA forums. Lots of very eye opening videos about permaculture and cover cropping. Cool stuff.

I've wanted to post some of the YouTube videos about cover cropping here to ask the ag guys why everyone isn't following what the videos show. Search for David Brandt, Jill Clapperton.
User avatar
teul2
Duck South Addict
Posts: 13378
Joined: Mon Oct 22, 2001 12:01 am
Location: Delta
Contact:

Re: A few thoughts on soil

Postby teul2 » Wed Dec 17, 2014 4:49 pm

Good read Dan.
Looking for 2 duck calls from Dominic Serio of Greenwood (ones for Novacaine)
"Most Chesapeakes, unless in agreement that it is his idea, will continually question the validity of what he is being asked to do" - Butch Goodwin
DanP
Duck South Addict
Posts: 1487
Joined: Tue Mar 20, 2007 6:38 am
Location: Leland

Re: A few thoughts on soil

Postby DanP » Wed Dec 17, 2014 5:39 pm

COONDOG wrote:http://www.aldeer.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=1002098&page=1
http://www.qdma.com/forums/showthread.php?t=66427

If anybody has time click the links above and see what this guy is doing on his land. I got these off of the Bullnettler. There is a lot of useful information in these two threads.
I'm thinking about giving some of these ideas a try in a couple places next year.


Very good stuff there.
stang67 wrote: to ask the ag guys why everyone isn't following what the videos show.


Short answers:
Not a lot of research or support in the state
Different set of challenges (weeds, pests, disease) than they face up north
But the biggest kicker is that it requires a different way of looking at the ag production system, requires more thought, planning and management

Despite all that there a handful of farmers who are making it work, very successfully. We just started a three project to demonstrate this different types of management systems. Planted 5,200 acres of cover crops across 90 fields and 27 farmers. Will be rolling out a website and some videos in the next couple of months documenting what works in Mississippi. While I'm only 8 years into my career its definitely the most exciting thing yet.
DanP
Duck South Addict
Posts: 1487
Joined: Tue Mar 20, 2007 6:38 am
Location: Leland

Re: A few thoughts on soil

Postby DanP » Wed Dec 17, 2014 5:50 pm

This is a pretty cool invention to go on no-till planter or drill. Its modular and bolts up in sections on the toolbar. Basically a roller crimper that parts standing vegetation then rolls and crimps it away from the planting slit. The end result is a flat mat of vegetation that provides really good ground cover and weed suppression. This will be working in no-till food plots this spring.

Image
User avatar
stang67
Duck South Addict
Posts: 2959
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2005 9:05 am
Location: LA

Re: A few thoughts on soil

Postby stang67 » Wed Dec 17, 2014 6:51 pm

Boo. How many hunters have a no till? Thrown and mow.
DanP
Duck South Addict
Posts: 1487
Joined: Tue Mar 20, 2007 6:38 am
Location: Leland

Re: A few thoughts on soil

Postby DanP » Wed Dec 17, 2014 6:58 pm

stang67 wrote:Boo. How many hunters have a no till? Thrown and mow.


Tightwad. Don't pretend like your back pocket doesn't drag with cash :lol:

I tried throw and mow this year and I'm not all that impressed. It works and if the weather is in your favor it can really work. But the weather never works out for me so I'm gonna drill it from here on out so I can take my germ rate to the bank.
User avatar
stang67
Duck South Addict
Posts: 2959
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2005 9:05 am
Location: LA

Re: A few thoughts on soil

Postby stang67 » Wed Dec 17, 2014 8:07 pm

I tried on some thriving pasture ground this year with abysmal results this far, even with a good bit of ryegrass mixed in. Cutting holes for gate posts and seeing that pretty black dirt, I resisted the urge to disk this first year.

Here's a good, short video. Gabe Brown is another good name to search under for YouTube video. I've read frequent mention of incorporating grazing into the routine. Any plans to try that on the test plots, Dan?
http://youtu.be/QtRKxBZ1Y3Q
User avatar
JaMak84
Duck South Addict
Posts: 2193
Joined: Mon Dec 12, 2005 1:23 pm
Location: Cleveland , MS

Re: A few thoughts on soil

Postby JaMak84 » Fri Dec 19, 2014 12:46 pm

I wish y'all the best of luck dan. I'm tired of banging my head on the wall.
deltadukman: "We may not agree on everything, but we all like t!tties"
mlj300
Veteran
Posts: 378
Joined: Wed Dec 29, 2010 9:33 am
Location: Corinth

Re: A few thoughts on soil

Postby mlj300 » Sat Jan 03, 2015 7:32 am

DanP wrote:The thread in the classifieds looking for a ripper got me to thinking…. Folks have been complaining about this joint being dead so I will get on a soap box for a piece.
Now I will warn you that what I’m about to say goes against the grain for the most part, but its something I’ve been researching and experimenting with for a couple years now.

It started by looking at compaction on row crop land with a penetrometer. Come to find out in many soils, across many growers, a fall ripping did very little to reduce the compacted layer come spring planting time. Now this is not a blanket statement at all, but there are situations where ripping simply isn’t doing any good. Why is that? The conclusion I’m at now, which is subject to be altered as I learn more, is that soil problems begin with mineral/nutrient imbalance and the lack of soil biology (aka life). Take calcium and magnesium for example. Calcium is needed to provide structured, aerated soils with good water infiltration and storage. However, even if you have more than adequate calcium, but have high magnesium, then the soil can become tight and compacted reducing aeration, infiltration, etc. So mineral ratios play a big role in defining soil properties.

Organic matter also plays a huge role in all of this. Only problem is we’ve tilled most of our OM out, along with the soil biology. Most of the soil tests used around here measure total organic matter by burning the carbon out and weighing the difference. Only problem is it doesn’t tell how much of that OM is humus, the only part that really benefits us, which can lead one to think they are in better shape than they actually are. Something else to think about concerning OM. Everybody wants to grow high protein forage for deer, cattle or whatever. Well what makes protein? Amino acids. What are they made of? Mostly carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. The latter of which is commonly considered the crucial nutrient as the others are normally are in adequate supply. Nitrate is the major plant available form of nitrogen and its an anion, has a negative charge, and it is not held by clay based soil particles. This is why nitrate leaching is such a problem. What soil particle can have a positive charge and hold nitrate? Humus. So I guess the humus fraction of OM may be pretty important if you’re goal is to maximize growth and health of plants and animals.

Moving on to the biological side. Soil is meant to be full of life, bacteria, fungi, worms and stuff. These critters take care of making nutrients available to the plant, fixing nitrogen from the air, creating pore space, building organic matter, etc. These guys are just like deer or ducks, they have to have habitat to live. Their habitat is degraded when organic matter is lost, soil structure destroyed, and by a few harsh fertilizers/chemicals. Unfortunately the system we have created and most operate in is not conducive to producing or maintaining healthy soils.

So back to the compaction issue, there is another way.

1 – Provide adequate and balanced nutrient and minerals
2 – Minimize tillage
3 – Keep living roots in the soil year around
4 – Grow a diversity of plants to achieve specific goals

To expand on the last point more, because that is where this all started, you can address compaction by including plants such as tillage radish and sweet clover. These put down a tap root that is very effective in breaking hard pans, they also help build OM. We dug a soil pit on a field in Yazoo County that has been no-till for five years and had tillage radishes and other cover crops for four years. We found soybean roots at 38 inches. That field is non-irrigated and averaged 76 bu/ac this year. Granted, it was a wet year. However, this field has also been producing 180 bu/ac corn, a 50 bu/ac increase from when it was conventionally tilled. The soil structure has started to develop, internal drainage has improved (gets in field quicker) and water holding capacity has increased.

There is another way of doing things, its just not supported by big marketing and industry funded research. If it weren’t for seeing these alternative approaches working very well on very successful and profitable farms, I would be a major skeptic. But now I’m on a mission to learn more and I would encourage everyone else who manages a piece of land to start doing the same. Rather than simply doing what appears to work for most folks, start thinking about what your doing and instead of addressing a symptom (i.e. ripping) look for the root of the problem and work to address that.


Varquo taught you well! This makes sense to me.
Only Those Born & Raised in Nort East Mississippi Will Know Exactly What i MeanTo Those Set Adrift Amidst BrokeDick Rednecks,Radical Pentecostalism,Moonshine Bootleggers and PusserMania,There are Two Kings to Choose From-Elvis or Jesus.
-Jimbo Mathus
matador1
Duck South Addict
Posts: 2949
Joined: Sun May 25, 2003 7:16 pm
Location: Madison, Ms
Contact:

Re: A few thoughts on soil

Postby matador1 » Sat Jan 03, 2015 8:26 am

stang67 wrote:I tried on some thriving pasture ground this year with abysmal results this far, even with a good bit of ryegrass mixed in. Cutting holes for gate posts and seeing that pretty black dirt, I resisted the urge to disk this first year.

Here's a good, short video. Gabe Brown is another good name to search under for YouTube video. I've read frequent mention of incorporating grazing into the routine. Any plans to try that on the test plots, Dan?
http://youtu.be/QtRKxBZ1Y3Q


Wow! Did you see all those red worms when he dug that hole? That's pretty cool. Our place in the delta has very poor soil comparably and some of what is being talked about on his thread and the links are things I thought about.
Good info indeed. My challenges are 1. Access to equipment. Father in law farms and leaves me a big tractor after harvest to plant cool season with. Otherwise I'm limited throughout the year as far as equipment. 2. Cost, when you look at there are only two of us paying a lease and paying for all improvements i.e. Planting, fertilizer, lime,etc. any thoughts on how to curb cost but still be effective?
Thoughts. Suggestions?
Your resident mortgage loan officer. You've got a friend in the business. http://www.adamblack.net
User avatar
stang67
Duck South Addict
Posts: 2959
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2005 9:05 am
Location: LA

Re: A few thoughts on soil

Postby stang67 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 6:39 pm

Bump. It's not just about crop yields -- it's about water quality, water supply, and more.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDTZ3A9QiQA
User avatar
Smoke68
Duck South Addict
Posts: 1733
Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2009 10:51 am
Location: Starkville

Re: A few thoughts on soil

Postby Smoke68 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 7:39 pm

stang67 wrote:Bump. It's not just about crop yields -- it's about water quality, water supply, and more.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDTZ3A9QiQA


If you don't have 17 minutes, just watch the last 3. Incredible stuff.
Image
"Well we don't rent pigs and I figure it's better to say it right out front because a man that does like to rent pigs is... he's hard to stop" -Augustus McRae
User avatar
eSJay
Duck South Addict
Posts: 5828
Joined: Wed Dec 07, 2005 9:54 pm
Location: MadTown

Re: A few thoughts on soil

Postby eSJay » Wed Mar 11, 2015 8:30 pm

Good good stuff Dan(& others)!
I definitely don't understand all of this, but learning is still fun.
I can't help but wonder how receptive the farming community is to all this.
Is there enough hard data available to change the mindset of those who have been ripping and tilling for years & years because their Fathers & Grandfathers did.
"Sir, I never take a chance when shooting waterfowl...
I believe in hitting him very hard with big shot from a big gun....."

-Nash Buckingham

Return to “Habitat Forum”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests