Field Corn and Silage
While the dairy herd at Peila Farms is grass fed, we’re going to be converting some acres over to growing both field corn and corn silage this year. The ground has a significant amount of organic material in it from all the dairy cow traffic over the years and we’re thinking we might be able to get some decent yields out of it. My husband’s brother in law works with a company that sells this seed treatment here: http://www.genesis.ag/products/invigor-8/ to some big growers in the area, so we gave that a try. HIs B.I.L. also recommended we get a soil test to see what we were dealing with since this was virgin ground as far as corn plants were concerned.
Initial Soil Tests
So, last fall we marked off the fields that we planted this fall and ran some soil samples out to ag labs international and logan labs. The reason we ran two different tests was that they carry out the tests in different ways. You can read about those differences here http://www.aglabs.com/soiltesting/.
Strong Acid Test:
One of them (logan) uses something called a strong acid soil test and will tell you essentially everything that is available in your soils:
In addition, the strong acid test measures the amount of Organic Matter, the Cation Exchange Capacity, pH, and Electrical Conductivity of the soil. These will be labeled CEC, pH, and EC on your soil test results.
Weak Acid Test:
The weak acid test is something that ag labs international does and the idea is that the weak acid is supposed to mimic the effect of root exudates on soil m bound minerals and nutrients found in the plant’s rootzone or “rhizosphere”. While the strong acid test will tell you what’s in your soil, the weak acid test will tell you what maybe plant available.
The findings were pretty surprising. Essentially, the cow manure is high in both nitrogen and phosphorus. Apparently, however, the N can get lost..either through run-off or as ammonia to the air, but the P tends to stick around. As a result, the phosphorus levels were sky high in our soil tests compared to where the nitrogen was and we were also a little high in sodium (Na).
My hubbie’s BIL explained that balance is probably as important or moreso than overall levels and we were quite a bit outa balance. Unfortunately, corn is a heavy nitrogen feeder, and as luck would have it, that was the big macro-nutrient we were missing the most of. We got talked into trying a microbial inoculant, http://www.genesis.ag/products/revita-N/, some urea ammonium nitrate (UAN), and we’ll probably need to go on with more nitrogen before the corn gets ready to “tassel” (flower and eventually make cobs). The idea is that we never want the corn to be lacking in nitrogen. While we want to feed it before it comes out of the ground and before it starts the heavy reproductive cycle, the biological we put down has bacteria that can grab the nitrogen out of the air. Soybeans do this already by themselves, but with corn you sometimes need to give a little help in that department. If you’re interested in reading more about the biologicals company, you can read more about them here: http://www.genesis.ag/
On Going Testing
The last step is that we’re going to be doing ongoing tissue sampling on the plant to see how our fertilizer applications effect the corn throughout the season. I’ll let you know how things go. Btw, for those interested, of course we’re also going to be planting some sweet corn this year for the CSA. So, if you’re interested in joining the CSA for fresh, local, organically grown produce, contact us.