|The first field we remineralized. Previously, it was a sea of poison ivy, |
blackberry briars, and hundreds of sapling cedars, pecans, oaks, and pines.
This year it's going to be the buck pasture. In preparation for that, I ordered a soil test last month. Recently, we got the results.
|Click to biggify (takes you to Photobucket)|
The results surprised me. I thought the field we did last year would have had the worst soil. This one was worse. To help me understand what the results meant, I got out Neal Kinsey's book, Hands-On Agronomy. It's the best guide for this analysis because it was done by his soil testing service.
Not surprisingly, the soil there is acidic, but I didn't think it would be that acidic (5.0). Also, all the minerals tested were deficient, except sodium. Sodium was very high.
Sodium excess is apparently caused by excessive irrigation, or a soil compaction layer which doesn't allow the water to move the sodium through the soil. The latter would likely be the case here. The solution for excessively high sodium is calcium, which must be brought up to a minimum level of 60%. Ours is only 30%. Calcium will be added in the form of dolomite, which will also raise the soil's pH. Two things accomplished with one substance. Plus, dolomite will add much needed magnesium to the soil.
The recommended form of nitrogen is feather meal. This is one of the more expensive forms of nitrogen, so I was tempted to substitute something cheaper. Then I read that feather meal is one of the slower releasing, longer lasting forms of organic nitrogen fertilizer. Blood meal is quick acting and cotton seed meal lowers the pH (which is too low as it is!). The amount is as recommended for what we intend to plant there, corn and cowpeas. (That's assuming it ever stops raining so we can get the soil turned!)
Of phosphates, the soft rock phosphate is also a long lasting, slow release form. Almost everything I grow shows signs of phosphorous deficiency (purplish leaves and often stunted), so this is an important addition to our soils.
There are numerous trace minerals called for as well. Some say these additional micronutrients aren't necessary, that once the soil pH is corrected the minerals will correct themselves. This can be true if they are already present in the soil. If they have been washed or eroded away, or used up by vegetation, there will still be a deficit even after the pH is correct.
At one time we thought we'd just rely on compost. Compost is good, but not all compost is equal and can be deficient or imbalanced just like soil. Neil Kinsey's recommendations are based on the Albrecht system, which focuses on mineral balance in the soil. Besides making sense, we've seen the results for ourselves, in our new pasture.
You can read more about the Albrecht System at Fair's Biofarm Assist.
You can find out more about Kinsey Ag Soil Testing Services here.
Where did we buy most of our soil amendments? Some (dolomite and borax) I found locally. The rest I ordered from Seven Springs Farm. They have good prices but the shipping is not cheap. We consider it an investment in our land, however, and so worth the expense.