Building Soil Health

On April 13, 2011, soil samples were collected for the Cornell Soil Health Test from the back field that is planted with this season’s garlic crop. The Cornell soil health test checks the physical, biological and chemical properties of a soil by measuring several key readings. This was a discussion topic at the Rodale Institute Soil Health Workshop that we attended in November, 2011.  In this posting, we are showing the results along with the “management strategies” to address the soil “constraints”. We figure that the constraints are probably common for farm soils in our area, and therefore this information could be helpful to others like us that are rekindling an old family farm. 

Bob Schindelbeck from Cornell University was at the soil workshop to explain the soil health concepts and processes.  The Cornell Soil Health Assessment Training Manual describes how to address the common soil health issues in our region. With these ideas, here are the completed process steps with the soil management solutions that we used on our field:

Step 1. Identify constraints, prioritize (from chart below)

  1. Low pH,
  2. Subsurface Hardness,
  3. Low Phosphorus,
  4. Low Active Carbon,
  5. Surface Hardness

Step 2. List management options (from table below)

  1. Add liming material in repeated applications based on soil tests ,
  2. Rip the compacted layer,
  3. Add fertilizer in repeated applications based on soil tests ,
  4. Add fresh organic matter
  5. Limit intensive tillage

Step 3. Determine site history/ farm background

  1. Farm fields inactive for more than 20 years prior to 2010.
  2. Heavily sodded with weeds.
  3. Soil nutrients depleted especially phosphate in these old hay fields.
  4. Farmer wants to improve soil using only organic amendments.
  5. New farmer has limited inventory of field equipment.

Step 4. Management Strategy

  1. Improve pH with Aragonite (seashell flour, 39% calcium, trace minerals, stimulates microbial life)
  2. Newly purchased OMNI Transformer 3 point Hitch Platform (toolbar) with 3 shank Scarifier (subsoiler for loosening deep hardpan) and 1 shank Mini Ripper (subsoiler for loosening hardpan).
  3. Fertrell fertilizers (readily available phosphorous, trace minerals, feeds beneficial microbial life)
  4. Bulk manure and cover cropping (organic matter inputs) and compost tea (boost soil microbes in soil’s food web)
  5. In short-term limited to crops with a tolerance to low pH soils such as garlic and potatoes.
  6. Micro-nutrient Soil tests.


About wooleylot

Garlic Farmer
This entry was posted in Farm News, Field Notes, Soil Nutrition. Bookmark the permalink.

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