Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Soil 303: Depleted

Conventional agricultural soils are depleted of organic matter because we burn out the carbon in the soil by heavy use of anhydrous ammonia. We also export organic matter from the farm when we sell the corn and soybean stalk residue (called stover).

I've mentioned this on our blog previously that anhydrous ammonia is used so the farmer doesn't have to haul around water, the nitrogen gas combines with the water in the soil. But it also burns out the organic matter in the soil and kills the soil life.

This makes the soil hard and lifeless. Do you ever wonder why farmers use those gigantic tractors with about 10,000 horse power. It is partially to pull the titan sized "no till" implements. There have been studies done on the amount of horsepower needed for tillage from year to year and it has increased exponentially due to the reduction in soil "tilth" largely due to reduction in orgnic matter.

The life in the soil is what creates the ability for the soil aggregation to hold the soil particles together. Soil aggregates are held together by organic compounds created by soil life.

Farmers get all excited about no till and leaving residue on the surface of the soil. There is nothing wrong with that, it does break the fall of rain droplets and help with mitigation of soil temperatures. But you can still have significant erosion if you don't have soil aggregates.

Soil life and organic matter is the key.

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