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Fertilizer recomendations?? Soil Tests
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Posted 2/3/2012 20:07 (#2204121 - in reply to #2204036)
Subject: Re: Fertilizer recomendations?? Soil Tests


Managed Inputs is a relatively new term meaning fertilizing with fewer chemicals, balanced soils, and a cleaner environment. This concept is driven by consumers worried about chemicals in food. Environmentalists concerned with groundwater contamination and soil erosion, and Agriculturists anxious about safe, profitable business that can be passed on to future generations. Unlike other buzzwords such as low-input, organic, alternative, regenerative, and natural to name a few, managed inputs are well defined and have specific guidelines to promote success. The questions are: Does it work? And what effect does it have on quality, weeds, and operations?

First let’s look at what Managed Inputs is not. It is not strictly organic or just reducing inputs.
Managed Inputs is a system. A process with rules; working with natural laws, requiring an understanding of goals to be accomplished. When finding a managed input system, goals and objectives need to be examined, such as working with Mother Nature or exploiting her. Now the “what” of managed inputs is apparent, let us look at the “how”.

There are five basic rules to follow in managed inputs. These have been determined by accident or by decision, either way, they work.

1 - Analysis Aids in Balancing Soil
Good soil is a living thing made up of minerals, water, air, organic matter which converts to humus, all are necessary for healthy, high quality crops. Good soil is not the only factor, plants also need nutrients.

There are at least sixteen elements needed in the proper amounts to balance the soil. These nutrients include nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, sulfur, magnesium and others. Both macronutrients and secondary elements or micronutrients are needed. Because these nutrients must be used in specific amounts, soil analysis is necessary. The soil is tested to find nutrient deficiencies and excesses, aiding in choosing a fertilizer suitable for your project and the most for your dollar. Unbalanced soil may reduce quality, and could possibly trigger weed, pest, and disease attack. Weeds aren’t a curse, just an index of the character of the soil. By changing the soil structure with correct nutrients balance you can reduce and alter weed populations, how would you know what is happening unless the soil is tested regularly.

We test fourteen parameters: humus, nitrate nitrogen, ammonia nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, ERGS, ORP, copper, iron, zinc and manganese. These are the most important to test. For example, less nitrogen is needed in areas with high humus and balanced soil. When putting on what the plants takes off, all essential nutrients are needed. The emphasis is a balance of nutrients in combination with soil life to improve the condition of the soil and plant life. Calcium and phosphates are prime examples. Calcium and phosphates have a major impact on releasing other elements in the soil. All that might be needed is a minor adjustment in calcium levels. Let’s over view all the parameters of our soil test so you have a better understanding.

2 - Choose a Fertilizer with Non-toxic and Life Promoting Materials
Not all fertilizers are created equal, therefore we must use products which promote higher quality of soil life. By this we mean not all fertilizers react the same and some, over time, will cause adverse reactions in the upper and lower soil profile. That is why we recommend only certain types, which include the following:

Soft Rock Phosphate: Rock phosphates provide a continuous supply of phosphorus, and element needed for normal plant growth and high quality food. Rock phosphates also contain colloidal clay which aides in the binding of materials to the soil for longer periods of time, helping to ease the leaching of properties from the soil.

Compost and green manure crops: The first rule to remember is not all compost are created equal, and composting is an art form. If you are looking at composting please call us and we can cover this better. Green Manure is the most over looked portion of any and all crop rotations. Use common sense when looking at this type of system, and remember the soil is a digester.

Monoammonium Phosphate (MAP): This is a low pH, soluble source of phosphorus, useful for high pH soils.

High Calcium Lime and Pel-lime (Calcium Carbonate): Local quarry limes can vary, some are high calcium lime, but others are dolomite (calcium magnesium carbonate). DOLOMITE LIME SHOULD NOT BE USED.

Hard Rock Phosphate (Slow Release Phosphate): A slow release source of phosphate used to keep environmental levels of phosphate available for quality and vigorous growth.

Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate): A calcium and sulfur source which works well under conditions where calcium saturation is high and the pH is over 7.0 (will aerate soil, not raise calcium).

Potassium Sulfate (0-0-50-18S): A high quality mined potassium source which provides both potassium and sulfur. Compared to potassium chloride, it has a low salt index. It is readily available and its low chloride content does not harm plants.

Ammonium Sulfate (21-0-0-24.5): An excellent source of both nitrogen, and sulfur. Here in the upper Midwest, it works well to reduce high magnesium levels and provide the sulfur needed to make high quality proteins.

Calcium Nitrate (9-0-0-11Ca): A good nitrogen and calcium source for foliar feeding, also a specialty fertilizer for vegetables.

Ammonium Nitrate (17NH4-17NO3): An excellent source of both ammonium and nitrate nitrogen great for quicker green up and healthier turf.

Trace Elements: Trace elements in the sulfate or chelated forms are the most effective. Sulfate forms are also acceptable for the certified organic farmer.

Liquid Foliar: 100% Ortho is preferred because it is in the pure plant food form and 100% available or in the amino acid form which is the way the soil and plant store nutrients. Examples: NaturelTM, Seed Setter, Seed Bulker, and Legume Maker, just to name a few.

Most fertilizers used in mainstream agriculture are not what we consider to be agronomically sound, due to the form in which they are manufactured.

1) Chloride ions flood the root zone and displace important nutrients, creating an imbalance that interferes with nutrient uptake, starch-transport and protein synthesis.
2) Anhydrous ammonia dehydrates the soil at the injection point, and does kill certain strains of microbes as well.
3) DAP has free ammonia, and when used as a seed treatment type fertilizer, can cause germination problems.
4) Slow release nitrogen, poly forms, and nitrogen inhibitors,

* Everything that we have covered in this booklet is documented in college textbooks from Iowa State University, University of Minnesota, and Purdue University.

Unacceptable Fertilizer Materials:
1) Dolomite Lime (Calcium Magnesium Carbonate) is a calcium and magnesium source. Here in the upper Midwest, most soils are already high in magnesium. Adding more magnesium to the soil unbalances it and interferes with the uptake of other elements, especially potassium. High magnesium makes some soils more compact and tight. Dolomite supplies calcium and magnesium in a 2:1 ratio, two parts calcium, and one part magnesium. Ideally, a balanced soil is at a 6 or 7:1 ratio. Crops such as alfalfa remove calcium and magnesium in a 5:1 ratio, so with continuous use of dolomite lime, magnesium levels will get higher, while soil may become tighter. Under these conditions, it takes more of other elements to grow the same crop. Also, tight soils often lead to reduced nitrogen-fixing nodules and poor root health. A lower proportion of calcium also harms crop quality and health.
2) Diammonium Phosphate (DAP). Because of the many conversions (4) it goes through, you may lose too much for the dollar spent. This may be broadcast on very acidic soils and should not be used in starters that are close to the seed.
3) Potassium Chloride (0-0-60 or 0-0-62). The potassium is fine, but the high percent of chloride (47%) is not. Potassium chloride is a strong salt (with the highest salt index of any commonly used fertilizer). Plants need only eight pounds of chloride to grow, but can survive with more or less. Therefore, adding sometimes hundreds of pounds per acre is unnecessary. Some crops are sensitive to chloride, and chloride in the soil can change to chlorine when nitrate nitrogen is present, which is toxic to soil bacteria.
4) Anhydrous Ammonia. It may be the cheapest per-unit source of nitrogen, but it will cost you in the end. Ammonia is a highly toxic gas. It will kill any life near the injection point. Some can escape into the air, wasting money. Worst of all, it causes the soil’s humus to dissolve and leach, robbing the soil of potential nutrients and making it as hard as concrete.

If you need to find out about other products which are questionable, please contact us or send us a sample and we will analyze for quality as well as heavy metals.

3 - Cultivation Controls Soil, Air, Water and Decay of Organic Materials.
Cultivation aerates the soil, and helps provide moisture for the soil organisms. Tillage of raw organic matter into the upper layers of the soil helps to improve soil structure thus producing better aeration and drainage. Another option is to compost matter and lessen the hauling load before adding it to the soil.

4 - Microbial Residents.
Some microorganisms like a more specific selection of organic compounds, and others have the ability to find a source of energy and food value for their metabolic survival with large quantities of carbon compounds, combined with humification. Complexed polymers are broken down into simple segments. The simple segments are remanufactured by microorganisms into altogether different sequences, thus forming a complete series of new and different complex polymers and eventually forming humic acid molecules.

In general, four major types of microorganisms can be found in soil:
1. Algae
2. Bacteria
3. Fungi
4. Actinomycetes

In balanced soils we can see very high levels of every one of these examples, 1 gram of soil may contain 300,000 algae, 4 billion bacteria, 1 million fungi and 20 million actinomycetes. All these microorganisms are of significant value in the decomposition of organic materials. This process releases elements of nutrient value and captures Nitrogen from the atmosphere.

Algae: This microscopic plant’s primary function is decomposition of organic residues and thereby making nutrients available for plant growth.

Bacteria: There are many families of bacteria, the most predominant can be either aerobic, requiring air or free oxygen for life, or anaerobic, capable of growing or existing in the absence of free oxygen. Bacteria are so versatile that they can survive under extreme environmental conditions including variations of solemnities, pH conditions, temperatures of barometric pressures. Bacteria are second only to fungi in their digestive ability, and they will attack and break down almost any organic compound for use as food. They not only digest proteins and sugars, but fats, oils, cellulose and many other carbonaceous compounds.

Fungi: are extensively distributed throughout our environment. All fungi are aerobic, needing free oxygen for life, and are heterotrophic, capable of utilizing only organic materials as food. Fungi are very tolerant of pH variation, living in environments ranging from acidic to alkaline. However, they seem to do best in an acidic environment. Fungi adapt well to complex food systems, specifically the polymeric compounds that are not easily decomposed by bacteria and actinomycetes.

Actinomycetes: are numerous and their distribution is extensive. They are found in oceans, lakes, ponds, sediments and soils. Their abundance is second only to bacteria, and they exist in a very wide array of distinctly different family groups. In soil, they may range from 1 million to 1 billion per gram of soil. These microorganisms are efficient in breaking down the resistant compounds of both plants and animals.

Overview of Microbial Disintegration & Transformation:
The microorganism population is an assemblage of several general families including algae, bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes. There are many other groups and families of microorganisms, but these four make the most important contribution in humification. These microorganisms are so versatile in their diet that they can actually attack and decompose almost any complex matter. In this process, they transform carbon into new protoplasm and thereby create the energy required for their metabolic functions.


Now that you have an understanding of what Managed Inputs is, the “how-to” should be a little easier. First, know your objectives, your goals-- to exploit Mother Nature, or to work with her. You will need to think more, run more tests, dig into the soil, check root systems and evaluate alternative practices.

How long will it take to change over from chemical-intensive farming to Managed Inputs? Remember, your soil did not get in the condition it’s in, in a year. It will take several years to get an abused soil into good shape. During the transition, you will notice improvement yearly. You should not have to sacrifice. With proper planning, profits should rise. After a few years, your inputs should lower significantly. We are here to help you. We offer consulting year round. We can supply the highest quality life-promoting fertilizers.

If you are still not convinced that there is a better way to farm, and need to prove it to yourself. We can give you names of successful businesses near you who would be happy to show you what they are doing. Test plots are also great sources of information. For those of you starting in Sustainable Fertilization, you are not alone out there. Many more are seeking, searching and experimenting. They are excited about what they are accomplishing.

So, start with information and understanding. Go to soil testing for essential nutrients. Balance your soil with good fertilizers. Start feeding the life in the soil, and stop treating your soil like “dirt”. You are then on your way to a profitable, safe and clean way of operating. Remember, a test plot with side-by-side comparisons should be done for up to 10 years to see reasonable results.

Why Potassium Sulfate?
The importance of Sulfur for vegetable yield and quality is well documented in the literature. Both are contributing factors for improved product marketability and profitability. The sulfate source of K is often preferred where crops are sensitive to Cl, where salinity problems exist, or when very high quantities of K are required (Stewart, 1985 and Zehler et al., 1981).

Under different levels of rainfall, leaching was measured when K was applied from various sources (Sartain, 1988). Less K was leached from the sod root zone when K was applied as SOP rather than MOP (Table 27).

Table 27. The influence of source on leaching loss of K.
“Rainfall” applied, inches
K Source 10 20 50 75 100
% K Lost
Potassium chloride, KCI 17 75 91 91 94
Potassium sulfate, K2SO4 0 15 53 79 79
Potassium phosphate, K3PO4 0 0 0 18 33
Sartain, 1988.

Plant requirements for K and S supplied in SOP have been summarized for a number of crops around the world. Specific crop requirements and sensitivities emphasize the role of SOP in building sound soil fertility programs. Recognition of the increasing needs for supplemental S in crop production, combined with the established roles of K and S in plant physiology makes SOP a component of choice in balanced plant nutrition.

Management System

The following information is compiled from over a quarter century of hands on experience. The farm which Jeff grew up on was exposed to Dr. Cary Reams and Dr. Dan Skow thoughts, management system, and very unique soil system, which they used and promoted. It made complete sense as it changed three generations of this family farm, the operation would evolve over the next quarter century.

The farm Jeff was raised on and gained his passion for soil and fertility was located in south central Minnesota in heavy calcareous soils. When first exposed to the theory of Ionization, there is a true need for some type of faith or belief in some higher level of understanding that is until you start working with the system. After a quarter century and hundreds of crops and tens of thousands of soil tests, Jeff will testify that the system has and will work for every crop he has had the chance to work with. There must be an understanding that this theory has grown into a full fledged study and thought program that is no more forgiving than Mother Nature, and needs very careful understanding. One cannot just go out and just fertilizer for established yield, there must be a step by step plan that is designed from a soil test using tissue samples, brix reading, using a conductivity meter, testing for other nutrients other than just N,P,K, and building a balance in the soil.

The traditional agronomist will argue about the science behind this system, but lets look at what they use in the field; soil tests, tissue tests, and other than some understanding of the basics, what do they have to diagnose something that N,P,K, and trace elements will take care of. The fact is most four-year agronomy students receive very little plant physiology, microbiology, and true science. To quote a very close friend of mine,” We have segregated and specialized ourselves into ignorance”.

With all this said, lets look at where it all starts: Soil tests are the most misunderstood portion of this system. Without a truly great understanding of where you start from, how do you quantify what we are doing? The next step would be to have knowledge of raw materials. Several products out there are sold by the greatest of all sales people. But educated stewards of our soils make well thought through decisions that are designed to affect more than one growing year, but several years into the future, which makes for a better environment for our generation and the next.

The basics are which all students learn when going through Dr. Skow’s class. The basic cell is what micro nutrients need to be present to build the primordial cell; along with nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. With this said, the elements in discussion are basic to the primary building blocks to all living organisms, once this is understood one can comprehend the importance of the basics. When the six elements that start life are this important maybe the rest of the life cycle would be just as critical. The next step in the basics would be the base understanding of electrical charges and the interaction. This takes place in and around the medium, which you are working with, what effect the largest in quantity will directly have in response on the least in quantity.

The basics have just started since we have spent many years destroying soil tilth, and structure. Through the management of air and controlling the depth and the width of our root mass, through fertility, mechanical reduction of compaction, choices of fertilizers which promote increased soil life, and the health of this very fragile growing medium has been lightly over viewed. Let’s go through each area of concern individually. Fertility would be looking at the types of materials, making sure that we only use products that are in the sulfate (SO4) form, so you are able to make full use of the entire product and no loss to mineral tie up. Keeping the material in the amino acid form is so important to the soil and the plant to make the most use of the fertilizer, which has been prescribed, making sure you’re using only light amounts of chloride-based materials. Use products which have several types of phosphate due to the state regulations. Look at using only calcium sources which contain very low magnesium and at least thirty-four percent calcium. Be careful when experts come to the door with product from the by-product industry. Example would be city municipal waste from large communities with large industry and computer industry which would be run through the waste treatment plant.

Next would be to always be mindful of what is treated in the top six inches will at some point move through not just the top soil, but at some point the ground water tributaries and aquifers. With this said we must be compelled to keep all that we apply into the growing medium and increase the medium through proper tillage, timely applications of materials which increase the air movement, soil texture size, and increasing the holding capacity or storage ability for water and nutrients.
The next step would be to make sure we always use materials that are naturally needed in that geographic area. For example when in Missouri, Fe would be needed much more than in Minnesota. This may be confusing to some but most if not all of Minnesota has high Fe due to the Iron Ore deposits, which are very soluble or bio-available. If quick green up is what you are looking for, soil test and find the least available nutrient and apply that nutrient and you may find much longer-term green up and health. The next thought would lead to bacteria and all the microbiology system. With modern mono-crop mentality, we have burned up, chemically eradicated, as well as fumigated possibly several species of bacteria and related soil biology. Most modern soil scientists will overlook this small microscopic critter and not think twice about this living organism and its benefits.

Nitrogen: First of all you need to know there are two forms of nitrogen, Ammonia and Nitrate forms. Both are needed at differing stages of a plants life. Nitrate is needed when the plant needs to stay in the growth stage or vegetative. Ammonia is the form which is needed for seed production. This doesn’t mean we cannot grow crops with ammonia (urea) but it would make more sense to use the right material. Nitrogen is one element that will be nitrate and ammonia, and will switch back and forth with just a simple issue as temperature change. Remember that nitrogen is the only element that will move into the plant without any other element.

Phosphate: This is one of the most controversial elements of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Very little solid information and inefficient testing have proven that through scare tactics the system has tried very hard to ban. What most of us don’t realize is that phosphorous is the catalyst that brings all the elements into the plant. What is meant by catalyst? An example would be that the minister brings the bride and groom together but doesn’t go home with them. With this said we truly need phosphate! Remember this element is non-mobile, and needed in high levels in the sap of the plant, this will aid in weather proofing any and all crops, which relates to increased drought stress, increased color, leaf density, and root retention, just to mention a few.

Potassium: One of the most over applied nutrients in the history of mankind. This doesn’t mean we don’t need K2O, we need to keep this element in balance with phosphorous with a minimum of a 2:1 ratio remembering that potassium is needed only half as much when using the LaMotte soil test. When potassium is at high levels we see increased water uptake, chloride flooding the root zone which will remove other nutrients from the root zone, increased fungal or insect problems. The potassium of choice is sulfate of potash (K2SO4), So Po Mag, chili nitrate of potash, as well as high-grade liquid potassium.

Calcium: The element, which is truly needed as much by weight and by volume. In keeping with our studies this material keeps a charge flowing through the system. We apply calcium as a nutrient not a soil amendment. By this we can affect calcium solubility with very little calcium. With as small amounts as 100 to 200 lbs Pel-lime and 500 to 1000 lbs ag lime. We use pH as a guide for nutrient availability. Once you understand the true importance of calcium you can begin to see how self sustaining this program can be.

Some people think that this system and soil test are not true chemistry, but ask this question, “Is true chemistry absolute?” We have changed several science based experts thoughts. With this said lets look further into this. The system that we use currently for soil testing is based off pH above or below seven pH. This will allow all nutrients to be lifted from the soil and be placed onto a soil analysis. As several experts in the turf world have said we need a test which will allow for the testing of what is only truly soluble and available to the plant, which means that we need to look closely at our environment, natural resources and how we quantify this with a soil test which takes everything and measures it, whether the nutrient is one hundred percent available or not. This is why we only use the LaMotte soil test method. To simplify we must understand that we are measuring for only plant available nutrients. To achieve this, our lab uses extracts that emulate the acid that the rootlet excretes, giving a measurement of plant absorption. Is this new science or just the common sense approach to soil science?

Magnesium: The largest misconception is the over abundance of this element in our soils. Once this is understood you will understand why we have compaction and a need for higher and ever increasing nitrogen levels. This element is needed but must be kept in ratio with calcium (7 parts calcium and 1 part magnesium). Once this level is achieved, many of the issues which we have covered will no longer persist.

Sodium: When we work with soils that have high sodium levels we need to know the background. If 19-19-19 or 10-10-10 or products like this have been used, these soils will carry much higher ERGS reading. Once having said this you will understand that we must have the back ground of the operation to make the best recommendations. The key to sodium is that a little is not enough, and too much is over kill, this element must be managed.

ERGS: We have covered several issues, from balance to ratios, and a few other terms you may not be familiar with, but if you understand that this system is based from the stand point of energy, and all elements carry a charge, then you will go forward from this point and have a greater comprehension than most four year agronomy students.

ORP: This is a very unique part of our testing system. ORP will tell right away if there is a need for aeration. If there is we develop the program around this, examples would be: aerate and apply 11.5 lb per 1000 sq ft. Gypsum, or Soil Prep Plus. This is a very unique test to soil testing and we are one of a very few which test for this test procedure.

pH: This parameter is a very overrated measurement. The commercial testing lab has this down to a science to explain everything from soup to nuts. The first thing to understand is that pH will guide your nutrient availability. We do not use pH to guide our calcium recommendations since our calcium test as well as the rest of the parameters are in the soluble form.

Sulfates: This test is seldom run at the lab. We have over years found with higher calcium levels, as a soluble reading, the higher or greater sulfates the system can handle. The same would be for lower testing calcium soils, the lower or fewer sulfates the system can handle. The largest differences between the types of sulfates we recommend are in the SO4 form, not the SO3. Examples of this element are elemental sulfur (yellow in color) and oxy sulfates.

Boron: This element has several functions which over lap other elements. The largest of benefits which Boron effects and regulates include the translocation of sugar across membranes, starch production, and promotion of energy release in the cell.

Copper: This is the next of our four trace elements we test for, and the least in available in the upper Midwest. This nutrient has natural fungicide properties, reduction of plant diseases, and over all health issues.

Iron: This element is one of the most over used and abused nutrients in the history of turf. Someone figured out that through the use of Iron sulfate or oxy-sulfate and green dye, along with some nitrogen you get great response on turf, but they forgot what happens when you forget to add large amounts of calcium, you get Iron toxicity. The best thing is to test before applying any Iron and you will find out as we have, it is not needed. If green turf is your goal, understand your varieties of grass and apply a balanced program.

Zinc: This element is one we question the need to add into a program. This is one element that we do watch and add into corn programs when we first start working with a new farm. Once things are balanced we add very little, since all our dry fertilizers have natural trace elements.

Manganese: This element is very critical to life itself. Without Mn you won’t have cell initiation or development. This is so very critical to grass production. Remember manganese is the element of life, without it there will be no cell structure.

The last few pages have been put together to give you a better understanding of this program and what the long-term opportunities for you and your company. We would challenge each and everyone that looks at this system or program to truly understand what has been presented to them and to understand this material that we stand on, is not just dirt but a living breathing organism.

I would really look at a second test, using a Morgan soil (LaMotte) Bowling Green, Mo Perry Ag Labs could run them.
The CEC test which you have is like a Money market account you can look but can't touch, the Morgan would be equal to your check you can see and get your cash ASAP. they both have a plac but when crop for the last 30 years I could not farm without using both test.
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