Seasonal agronomy tips
The mineral depot spring orders are in the process of being sorted and shipped out. By May 4, all of you should have what you ordered unless you have heard differently from me. We had a very successful spring bulk order, even if shipping took longer than anticipated, with a larger than expected volume of materials. We brought in some newly available items like greensand from Brazil.
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BFA mineral depot program
We also found some new items that will likely be announced for the fall depot order season, including a mined phosphate mineral from a volcanic deposit that is similar to carbonatite in terms of trace elements, calcium, and possibly paramagnetism, but with the phosphate content of soft rock phosphate. A very intriguing option for those needing phosphorus.
This is the time of year most of us will have seedlings started, and some will be planting outside already. Remember to use inoculants (which you can get from us throughout the growing season, until supplies run out) and foliar blends to get your transplants and seeds off to a strong start. I like to mix up an inoculant root drench and dip my trays of seedlings, seed potatoes, bare-root shrubs, berries, and trees in it before transplanting. I also dust seeds with inoculant prior to planting. A little goes a long way with most inoculants. The only caveat is that with most, once mixed with water, you should use immediately (within a few hours), so only mix what you need.
I also like to use a foliar applied microbial inoculant once plants have emerged and have a few leaves. You want leaves colonized with healthy microbes to help protect them against pathogens. This year I am trying a few new (to me) ones that are specifically designed to offer protection against some of the more challenging crop diseases. I am trying Garden Sentinel, RootShield, Actinovate, and Companion. I will report back if I find any of them particularly effective (or not).
My favorite products to use are:
- Terra Biotics “Complete”
- Agri-Dynamics “Rhizo-shield”
- Tainio “Mycogenesis”
But there are many other inoculants that provide benefits, and I encourage people to try them out.
Last, about nitrogen. Nitrogen is not standard on the Logan Labs soil test, and it is conspicuously missing from most of our discussions of mineral balance and amendments. That is because it is probably the trickiest element to manage. Nitrogen needs change depending on soil conditions, weather patterns, crop species, density, irrigation, organic matter, and many other factors. Even the time it takes for a sample to reach the lab can have dramatic effects on the reported level of nitrogen, so it is not even included in the standard test. In general, for most crops, it is theoretically possible to not need supplemental nitrogen to get good results. But this is often a challenge. If your soil has good organic matter levels, a thriving population and diversity of soil life, and if you can keep temperatures and moisture levels reasonably stable throughout the entire growing season, you can grow many crops without adding nitrogen. But you must have cobalt and molybdenum present, as well as the microbes that can use atmospheric nitrogen.
For many growers, there is a good argument for adding some extra nitrogen, certainly for yield, but also for crop quality improvement. The key with nitrogen is to use an appropriate amount (usually much less than conventional growers use, and somewhat more than most small organic growers use), and in the correct form. Organic growers want to make sure they are not using too much “hot”, rapidly available nitrate nitrogen often found in abundance in manure. A small amount of nitrate nitrogen is most helpful in spring, when conventional growers can use small amounts of ammonium nitrate or calcium nitrate to get plants off to a strong start when soils are cold and not particularly active (better, when possible, to always wait until soils warm up to optimal temps prior to planting). Slower release organic nitrogen sources like the protein nitrogen options (crab, fish, soybean and alfalfa meals) are good to add as they take time to breakdown so their nitrogen is available later when most plants need it to build a big frame. In the conventional world, ammonium sulfate can take this role, as it takes 90 days to breakdown, minimizing leaching, and ensuring nitrogen (in the useful for fruiting, ammonium form) is available at the time the plant needs it to be building out the ability to finish the crop year.
Nitrogen is tricky, but vitally important. Hopefully this short teaser will encourage thinking about it, reading more, and perhaps revisiting your nitrogen management plans, or maybe joining the upcoming agronomy conference call (see below) to discuss!