Sunday, April 02, 2006

Thoughts on "organic materials"

So that you all don't think I'm against the use of organic material, I'll
quote from Food For Everyone, by Dr. M. "all crop residues should be
returned to the soil unless they are insect-infested, diseased, or in the
way of the next crop to be grown." And for those who'd like to read about
Utah's "Zoo-Doo Man", please go to this link

Some of the folks in the group may appreciate the extent of Jacob
Mittleider's work ethic and attention to detail and record keeping by
knowing that he is the holder of 11 plant patents - all earned between 1945
and 1963 - for flowers he developed while in the nursery business.

The 2-1-2 ratio for NPK was determined after exhaustive experimentation in
thousands of field-growing situations. Dr. M already knew the relative
usage of the three in plants was quite similar to that - even closer to
3-1-3 or 4-1-4 or higher in some plants - but he was growing acreage crops
to keep people alive in all these countries, and over the course of time
settled on 110# nitrogen, 60# phosphate, and 110# potash per acre as the
best single figure that would work well for most all field crops (he had to
observe the KISS principle). That squares quite well with published figures
for actual usage per acre of NPK by vegetable crops - although different
studies report different amounts for the same crop, for example corn is
reported as using 110-50-110 in one study and 145-71-141 in another.

Nowadays his findings are being supported by some of the large fertilizer
companies, such as Scotts and Growth Products. Scotts sells Pete-Lite
Special as a complete nutrient mix, with 20-10-20 and 7 other minerals, plus
they recommend adding 397# of calcium carbonate per ton. And Growth
Products, Ltd sells a 14-7-14 formula with 6 other minerals that they say is
"in the 2-1-2 ratio that the horticultural industry favors." They
recommend that mix be used on all types of plants, and while the formula
does not include calcium or magnesium, they recommend their Cal Mag Max be
used at alternate feedings of the 14-7-14.

There are literally tons of potassium per acre in most soils - however,
usually less than 1% is available to the plants at any given time. We add it
because visual symptoms have so often indicated it was deficient in the
plant. And it's inexpensive - a 60% potassium sulfate is less than $.10 per
pound in bulk (by the ton).

We mix one feeding of Weekly Feed in the soil before planting, so some
phosphorus is available that way, however, in spite of the reported
inability of phosphorus to move more than about 1" in the soil, I have many
times seen a deficiency corrected quickly by the banded application of a
corrective treatment on the soil surface and watered in.

The comment on the website and in some books "Use fertilizer to control
weeds between plants." just refers to the tendency of the salts in
concentrated fertilizer to burn plants on contact. Applying it down the
center of the soil-bed between plant rows somewhat inhibits the growth of
weeds there, but we still need to use the scuffle hoe occasionally.


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