The Elaine Ingham Challenge

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
@Clive @martian @Simon Chiles @Knockie @Simon C is there any way that any of you would do a comparison between this method and the albrecht/kinsey method? I.e take a 20 acre field and divide it in half and see how it goes?

i considered doing a full on Albrect method field a while ago - trouble is it's a very long term principle and extremely expensive if you go for it from day 1 - even for a smallish field I would be looking at many lorry load of inputs

In short its a very hard thing to trial short term
 

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
I remember standing in the field looking at the rape and as you say the line to which the compost had been spread was very clearly visible, however I was standing next to @York at the time who suggested that the difference was Boron deficiency.

to a line ? or maybe that compost had lots of boron ? ;)
 

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
Exactly, she has been pushing these ideas around for a while now and if it was easy to do, there would be a few organic farmers out there showing us a clean pair of heels.

from what she was saying most organic farmers are doing it as wrong as us conventional guys though with tillage and use of allowable inorganic soluble nutrition and chemistry lime lime on copper sulphate etc

how many no till organic guys are there is the uk ? is laverstoke even zero-till organic ??


ie is anyone in the uk actually doing exactly ALL what she is saying or are a few just doing some of it ?
 

Simon C

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Essex Coast

I think that @Simon C proved that the "compost part of the equation" worked when we visited his farm for the NTA meeting back in 2009(?). We saw one of his fields planted with winter rape (in a very difficult season-wet) which half was treated with compost half was not...the difference crop and no crop. I am sure Simon C has posted photos of it in the past. It proved that compost will bring back soil life and boost crop production.
I had a visit form the late Guy Lafond from the Indian Head research centre in the early 2000's and he had been looking at compost tea's as a part of the no-till equation but he warned that you need to get the right "starter" or you could end up applying something that could harm your crop or worse still make it toxic.
Compost s very much part of our system (when I can get my hands on the right stuff!) but as yet I cannot quite get my head around compost teas.

Here you are,@Jim Bullock. Video of me trying to explain the now famous compost demonstration. I find it a bit embarrassing, but in the interest of UK bio farming it deserves another airing.
 
This year and last I have a few fields that have been in permanent pasture for ever.

They go into beans as a pioneer crop then cereals. Essentially they're organic but for a few minor details. The fungi/ back ratio should be higher fungi but to make these viable in will still need some lime and some p and k in whatever form. In theory its a good example to prove soil food web activities.
 

Richard III

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
CW5 Cheshire
ie is anyone in the uk actually doing exactly ALL what she is saying or are a few just doing some of it ?

It's probably a fairly safe bet that no one is doing all she says, but she is also claiming previous mistreatment of the soil can be cured quite quickly with her amendments, so the two don't quite sit together right. It could conceivably be that a No Till farmer could get the system to work better than an organic one, most are firmly wedded to cultivations.

I like to think that what @Simon C achieved with his compost was an Elaine Ingram effect, if it was, it was achieved while chemicals were still being used in the system. Unfortunately, Simon has of yet not managed to repeat such a dramatic result.

Even if the system works, I'm sure there would be some plant that would act as a weed and cause problems. I would have thought ryegrass is of a similar succession status to wheat, so would love the conditions provided. For the idea to fly, I think it would have to be able to withstand at least limited chemical intervention.
 

Simon C

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Essex Coast
Even if the system works, I'm sure there would be some plant that would act as a weed and cause problems. I would have thought ryegrass is of a similar succession status to wheat, so would love the conditions provided. For the idea to fly, I think it would have to be able to withstand at least limited chemical intervention.

Well done @Richard III, you have identified an obvious problem there with ryegrass and there will be other things appearing too. No-till does offer the wheat an advantage though, put the seed into moist soil while conditions are still dry on top and leave the ryegrass seed to take it's chance laying around in the dry. Another reason to drill earlier to get the wheat ahead and out competing the later emerging grasses. Trouble is modern wheat varieties have no allelopathic defense against other plants so it is back to older varieties, or at least some of their genetics, or oats, triticale, or barley.
 
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Simon Chiles

DD Moderator
to a line ? or maybe that compost had lots of boron ? ;)

As you can see from the video it was to a line. York dissected a plant from the poor bit and showed me the signs of Boron deficiency, and that's the point, it doesn't take much to make a difference.
The real message is that OM, I think, is going to be the main driver of yield however you achieve it. For some it will be compost but for larger farmers or people like me with bits of land all over the place then cover crops will be the answer. On the cover crop front I think we still have a lot to learn about what is suitable for our soil types and climate.
 

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
As you can see from the video it was to a line. York dissected a plant from the poor bit and showed me the signs of Boron deficiency, and that's the point, it doesn't take much to make a difference.
The real message is that OM, I think, is going to be the main driver of yield however you achieve it. For some it will be compost but for larger farmers or people like me with bits of land all over the place then cover crops will be the answer. On the cover crop front I think we still have a lot to learn about what is suitable for our soil types and climate.

York was proving Dr Ingham correct them as if the difference was boron and none had been applied to any of the field it could only be coming from the mineral soil on the good half and something was making it available

agree totally that the more I think about this the more the practicalities at scale seem difficult - cover crops are surely a very good alternative to balanced compost and used in conjunction with microscope assessment and applications of humic acid or molasses as needed maybe we can create the balance in the field rather than in a heap, it will just take longer maybe !

I found here comments on the great plains rather revealing - 30% OM when they started farming it, less than 1% today !

some of the worlds most productive soil turned to dirt in a century !
 

Simon Chiles

DD Moderator
York was proving Dr Ingham correct them as if the difference was boron and none had been applied to any of the field it could only be coming from the mineral soil on the good half and something was making it available

agree totally that the more I think about this the more the practicalities at scale seem difficult - cover crops are surely a very good alternative to balanced compost and used in conjunction with microscope assessment and applications of humic acid or molasses as needed maybe we can create the balance in the field rather than in a heap, it will just take longer maybe !

True. If you knew that this was going to be the end result of Simon's rape it would have been interesting to spray half the poor bit with Boron to see the difference. However it's easy to say in hindsight.
 
As you can see from the video it was to a line. York dissected a plant from the poor bit and showed me the signs of Boron deficiency, and that's the point, it doesn't take much to make a difference.
The real message is that OM, I think, is going to be the main driver of yield however you achieve it. For some it will be compost but for larger farmers or people like me with bits of land all over the place then cover crops will be the answer. On the cover crop front I think we still have a lot to learn about what is suitable for our soil types and climate.

I'm a huge fan of the benefits that OM impart to the soil..... It's one of the main reasons I'm involved in notill.

I always remember a passage from a scientific journal from my varsity days.....
....."the n,s and k that becomes available from om mineralisation, happens at a time in the growing season, and at a place in the soil profile, that is difficult to simulate by man made means".
 

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
I saw it, and it was to a line.Would Boron deficiency be affected by compost?

if ingram is right then the borron would be coming from the soil - this made possible because the compost has fed and corrected the biology which is then getting it from the mineral soil and feeding the plant, where as where there was no compost the boron is still locked up unavailable in the soil
 
York dissected a plant from the poor bit and showed me the signs of Boron deficiency, and that's the point, it doesn't take much to make a difference.
Obviously many of us stood in that field over 5 years ago, and if I remember it correctly, the rape on the poor half was not (only) struggling with mineral deficiencies, plants were just not there really. @Simon C , correct me, but I think the basic difference was in the soil that the poor half was sitting wet and muddy all winter long and drowning most plants leaving the surviving ones in airless, concrete soil when it dried up, whereas the compost-treated half was just draining off better and leaving a bit more crumble and "open" soil for the plants to survive and grow away in the spring !??
 
Obviously many of us stood in that field over 5 years ago, and if I remember it correctly, the rape on the poor half was not (only) struggling with mineral deficiencies, plants were just not there really. @Simon C , correct me, but I think the basic difference was in the soil that the poor half was sitting wet and muddy all winter long and drowning most plants leaving the surviving ones in airless, concrete soil when it dried up, whereas the compost-treated half was just draining off better and leaving a bit more crumble and "open" soil for the plants to survive and grow away in the spring !??

That's a good point, obviously I wasn't there but have seen or heard of situations where some physical soil or drilling condition , or soil chemistry (ie low pH on peas/barley) can limit plant and/ or root growth. So when an analysis of the plant foliage is taken it shows up one or a number of deficiencies ...... Yet this can be secondary to the original cause.
 

Richard III

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
CW5 Cheshire
There is also the fact that the previous crop of wheat had done 1.5t/acre more, this would not have had anything to do with boron. I suspect the better crop of wheat will have removed more moisture and this could explain some of the reason why the compost side was dryer.
 

Simon Chiles

DD Moderator
There is also the fact that the previous crop of wheat had done 1.5t/acre more, this would not have had anything to do with boron. I suspect the better crop of wheat will have removed more moisture and this could explain some of the reason why the compost side was dryer.

From experience with FYM, OM is not normally a benefit in the first year, it's normally year two and three that show a response. I also note that a strong healthy plant will take a good drowning for some considerable period of time ( had some wheat last year that disappeared under water last year that went on to yield 10t/ha ) whilst it will finish a weak struggling plant.
I'm not an expert on rape I'm just saying what York told me. Regardless the compost definitely was a benefit as can quite clearly be seen.
 

Richard III

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
CW5 Cheshire
I'm not an expert on rape I'm just saying what York told me. Regardless the compost definitely was a benefit as can quite clearly be seen.

I'm sure York knows how to identify boron deficiency, and it is interesting that he found it. What I find more interesting is that lack of boron could could be the cause of the problem, or as @Hartwig points out, a symptom of poor soil conditions. Or as @Clive points out, Elaine Ingram would claim her biology is providing the boron. Just goes to show the complexity of the subject we are discussing. :)
 

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
Obviously many of us stood in that field over 5 years ago, and if I remember it correctly, the rape on the poor half was not (only) struggling with mineral deficiencies, plants were just not there really. @Simon C , correct me, but I think the basic difference was in the soil that the poor half was sitting wet and muddy all winter long and drowning most plants leaving the surviving ones in airless, concrete soil when it dried up, whereas the compost-treated half was just draining off better and leaving a bit more crumble and "open" soil for the plants to survive and grow away in the spring !??


Dr Ingram would also put that down to biology - so far we have discussed the ability of biology to extract mineral nutrition and make it plant available but she also presented that it is biology that creates structure in soils by the "glues" that bacteria and fungi provide sticking particles of aggregate together to from crumb

her solution to compaction layers was not a subsoiler but to inject tea to the depth of layer - this is done a lot in the USA on amenity land and contractors are common so I guess it must work ??

just took my dogs a walk over some wheat and it all makes sense, my worm numbers are my higher since i set out to raise OM levels - the worms are high in the soil web food chain so if they are present so must be all below them from bacteria and fungi to protozoa and nematodes, my soil has developed better structure despite lack of cultivation, how can that happen if nothing is going on ? i realised i had never really asked myself that question ? it must be the biology thats making the structure from the obvious worms and other larger species right down to the microscopic organisms within the soil, there is no other explanation other than perhaps a bit of effect from weathering freeze/ thaw etc ??
 

Simon C

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Essex Coast
This boron thing is a red herring. It may well have been deficient, but I bet Na, Mg, Zn, Mo, Cu and the rest were also deficient. @Hartwig is correct in that it was the soil structure that had been changed out of all recognition by one application of 4tons/acre of compost and I could still see that line three years later in what ever crop grew there.

In the rape, on the poor side the plants had been drowned out by standing in water all winter. Any normal farmer would have ripped the whole field up in the Spring and planted something else just to tidy it up but with The NTA day approaching, I thought it was too good a demonstration not to show it.

I didn't understand then what was going on, but the only person there who correctly guessed what we now know was the correct answer was @Honest john. He said that the enhanced biology must have changed the soil structure in some way.
 

Update on the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot

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Update on the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot

Written by Lisa Applin

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In July, we opened the applications window for farmers to join our Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive is 1 of the 3 new environmental land management schemes. It sits alongside the future Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery schemes.

Through the Sustainable Farming Incentive, farmers will be paid for environmentally sustainable actions – ones that are simple to do and do not require previous agri-environment scheme experience.

We are piloting the scheme to...
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