New technology was used to take carbon readings of the soil that we use to cultivate our small-scale, handcrafted, locally grown garlic. Data collection, scientific observations and grid point plots were the tasks for the day. Using sleek stainless steel soil probes, 8-inch deep soil samples from 10 different points were collected and analyzed on site. A fancy optical device measured the soil carbon content. A GPS receiver scanned for satellite signals from outer space to mark each soil sample location. A penetrometer with a shaft mounted pressure gauge was driven into the soil to measure soil compaction. Soil samples were also saved in plastic bags to be chemically analyzed in a laboratory at a later date. These scientifically controlled carbon tests were preformed by Mobile Field Lab Technicians from the Rodale Institute.
Additional soil samples were collected for the Cornell Soil Health Test from the back field planned for next season’s garlic crop. Rodale Technicians obtained samples from 6 inches deep, with two soil penetrometer readings at two sites. The Cornell soil test checks the physical, biological and chemical properties of a soil by measuring several key readings including Carbon, Potentially Mineralizable Nitrogen (PMN), Root Health, Soil Aggregate Stability, Water Holding Capacity and Soil Chemistry.
The happy farmer observed all this not understanding everything, but was able to connect together a few basic concepts. Soils that receive organic matter from manure compost and cover crops inputs support greater soil microbial activity, which in turn, provides a long-term, reliable supply of nitrogen to plants. Organic matter in the soil adds carbon, which promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria, which increases the likelihood of hearty plants.
The baby garlic plants observed this Rodale technology at work too but, weren’t much impressed. Their roots were busy gathering nourishment from the soil. The plants were receiving the needed amount of sunlight, moisture and warm temperatures to grow strong and healthy using thier age-old processes of photosynthesis and respiration.