The Elaine Ingham Challenge

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.

I thought you make quite a good TV presenter!
 

Simon Chiles

DD Moderator
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.

The point I'm trying to make ( albeit badly ) is that the increase in OM will improve the soil in more ways than one, and the healthier soil will make healthier plants. OK it might show up as a nutrient deficiency ( and maybe if you could pre empt the situation you could mask the problem ) but this is only a small snapshot in time and you could spend a fortune trying to correct the imbalance at a point that is probably too late. Therefore I feel that increasing the OM will hopefully help us grow more consistent yields by getting the physical, biological and chemical parts of our soil to work better together.
However I have always felt that proper no till is about combining the best of organic and conventional farming and, as all things in life, a compromise is often the best solution.
 

BSH

Member
BASE UK Member
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 ??

It was interesting to me that on the second day that I went on there was rally no discussion about worms? There was as per some other threads here talk that organic farmers as well as conventional were getting it all wrong but when I asked how we should grow or crops i didnt really get a straight answer. I said that from what she described we should have a permanent understory of low perrenial cover, with no round up and no tillage and then with good biology/ lots of the RIGHT compost tea we could grow continous wheat!!! Except of course there was no way of establishing the wheat in this scenario. If no chems then there would have to be tillage. In my very limited experience no tillage and residue on the surface does more to increase worm numbers than being organic and doing tillage and as clive said if worms are up the top of the food chain in the soil food web then there must be increased biology. Also the worms themselves are creating the biology with there gardens and slime covered walls to there tunnels so my impression is worms are the most important organism to manage?
 

Barleycorn

Member
BASE UK Member
Location
Hampshire
I think that there is tillage, and there is tillage.

As we are usually incorporating grass leys and green manures, and cannot use sprays, we have to plough. However I don't think that shallow ploughing / pressing, followed by maybe a very shallow cultivation, then drilling is really going to cripple the worms. Disking or power harrowing etc is a totally different kettle of fish. All a compromise really, but once you understand the damage that can be done then you mitigate it as much as possible.
 
It was interesting to me that on the second day that I went on there was rally no discussion about worms? There was as per some other threads here talk that organic farmers as well as conventional were getting it all wrong but when I asked how we should grow or crops i didnt really get a straight answer. I said that from what she described we should have a permanent understory of low perrenial cover, with no round up and no tillage and then with good biology/ lots of the RIGHT compost tea we could grow continous wheat!!! Except of course there was no way of establishing the wheat in this scenario. If no chems then there would have to be tillage. In my very limited experience no tillage and residue on the surface does more to increase worm numbers than being organic and doing tillage and as clive said if worms are up the top of the food chain in the soil food web then there must be increased biology. Also the worms themselves are creating the biology with there gardens and slime covered walls to there tunnels so my impression is worms are the most important organism to manage?

I agree, apart from the physical benefits of their channels improving aeration and drainage, their worm casts have a much higher fertility than the surrounding soil. This mostly happens due to nutrients already present in the soil becoming more available after they pass through the worm.
 

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
I think that there is tillage, and there is tillage.

As we are usually incorporating grass leys and green manures, and cannot use sprays, we have to plough. However I don't think that shallow ploughing / pressing, followed by maybe a very shallow cultivation, then drilling is really going to cripple the worms. Disking or power harrowing etc is a totally different kettle of fish. All a compromise really, but once you understand the damage that can be done then you mitigate it as much as possible.


but it will break all those established biological networks that Dr Imgham talked about - thats why she's felt organic guys were as wrong as the conventional farmers

her ideal is zero-till farmer using no inputs - just doesn't sound possible !
 
but it will break all those established biological networks that Dr Imgham talked about - thats why she's felt organic guys were as wrong as the conventional farmers

her ideal is zero-till farmer using no inputs - just doesn't sound possible !


I agree, I can't think of ways around some of the issues that will occur ...... Doesn't sound like a high percentage way to go .

As others have said, a compromise where some practices are utilised together with notill is probably a good approach.
 

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
well she did quote an example of a conventional guy that was using compost tea in addition to his normal inputs and was seeing a 15% increase in yield - probably a more comfortable approach for many

I also think direct applications of either molasses or humic acid dependant upon what your microscope reveals could be of benefit to feed what you do have

plus as always as much OM in your soil as possible and at every opportunity (cover crop, residue, compost, muck etc )
 

Barleycorn

Member
BASE UK Member
Location
Hampshire
We tried organic min till, there's a farm near Calne that uses a German system where they cultivate very shallow with horizontal knife type cultivators, and drill using an air seeder on it.

We tried the cultivator, but didn't have a lot of success due to the amount of trash, and deep rooted plants such as cocksfoot and lucerne take some killing.
Also you have got to remember that some plants such as rye produce inhibitors as they break down, thus affecting the germination of the following crop.

Perhaps in the ploughing situation a good compost tea may 'hold the fort' until the biology settles down. I think perhaps we think that the soil is more fragile than it is. Fungal hyphae will be disturbed, but bacteria are pretty resilient. If you think how quickly the roots are colonised by bacteria and fungi there must be a degree of resilience in the soil.
 

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
We tried organic min till, there's a farm near Calne that uses a German system where they cultivate very shallow with horizontal knife type cultivators, and drill using an air seeder on it.

We tried the cultivator, but didn't have a lot of success due to the amount of trash, and deep rooted plants such as cocksfoot and lucerne take some killing.
Also you have got to remember that some plants such as rye produce inhibitors as they break down, thus affecting the germination of the following crop.

Perhaps in the ploughing situation a good compost tea may 'hold the fort' until the biology settles down. I think perhaps we think that the soil is more fragile than it is. Fungal hyphae will be disturbed, but bacteria are pretty resilient. If you think how quickly the roots are colonised by bacteria and fungi there must be a degree of resilience in the soil.

it was suggested that treating seed (soaking) with compost tea was a good way to "hold the fort" and get biological connection from day one, maybe for guys that use tillage / organic farmers this is a good approach ?


other thing I have been thinking is that I could use my fert applicator tank on the drill to put tea in the slot with seed
 
I've got nothing against responsible tillage.... My wife's parents run a tight ship involving potatoes and maize grain in a responsible rotation. They have good soil that has been maintained under tillage for a while now.

This talk of 15 % yield lifts as a general thing sounds huge. As always in agriculture, it depends on what short comings a system has, as to how easy it is going to be to achieve huge improvements fast.

For example do you think there is anything you could do at the moment that will give anything like 15%. Maybe once in a generation does some single technology emerge that will give a step change improvement.

Whereas if someone has some obvious issues then some massive gains can potentially be easily had. I know of examples where if they listened to some basic agronomic advice, I could double their yield.
 

ZXR17

Member
Location
South Dorset
Worked on a farm next door to Laverstoke three years ago. They were definitely cultivating then and their arable crops that I saw were .... I better be polite, nothing special !!!
I think @Clive you would be disappointed with what you saw away from their laboratory set up at Laverstoke
 

Barleycorn

Member
BASE UK Member
Location
Hampshire
it was suggested that treating seed (soaking) with compost tea was a good way to "hold the fort" and get biological connection from day one, maybe for guys that use tillage / organic farmers this is a good approach ?


other thing I have been thinking is that I could use my fert applicator tank on the drill to put tea in the slot with seed
Mike Harrington sells a mycorrhizal seed treatment called bioroote. We have all our grass seed dressed with it. Perhaps this would be a more reliable route than compost tea? As has been said there are good teas and bad teas, but at least with a manufactured preparation you know what's in it. He also makes N enhancers and phosphate fixers. Perhaps a suitable seed dressing mixture could be made up. It can be applied by conventional seed dressers.
 

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
Mike Harrington sells a mycorrhizal seed treatment called bioroote. We have all our grass seed dressed with it. Perhaps this would be a more reliable route than compost tea? As has been said there are good teas and bad teas, but at least with a manufactured preparation you know what's in it. He also makes N enhancers and phosphate fixers. Perhaps a suitable seed dressing mixture could be made up. It can be applied by conventional seed dressers.


@parker your agronomist that you bought to see my crops / drill was working with Mike H wasn't he ? what wa the stuff he wanted to try through my drill tank ? was that the product above ?
 
it was suggested that treating seed (soaking) with compost tea was a good way to "hold the fort" and get biological connection from day one, maybe for guys that use tillage / organic farmers this is a good approach ?


other thing I have been thinking is that I could use my fert applicator tank on the drill to put tea in the slot with seed

Did she suggest that inorganic compounds in foliar micro-nutrient sprays would have a majorly destabilising effect even at the low rates they are applied at?
 

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
Was there any indication of how bad? It would seem likely that some compounds would be worse than others, and that different rates would cause differing levels of impact.

anything will have an effect on the balance - by feeding either fungi or bacteria in preference, theory went that as soon as balance was lost the system to access mineral nutrition fell over and the plant once more was dependant upon soluble nutrition and if you didn't feed that addiction yield and plant health would suffer
 
anything will have an effect on the balance - by feeding either fungi or bacteria in preference, theory went that as soon as balance was lost the system to access mineral nutrition fell over and the plant once more was dependant upon soluble nutrition and if you didn't feed that addiction yield and plant health would suffer

And did she think that modern wheat / barley / etc cultivars had the ability to function in a balanced system in the way you describe? It again seems plausible that modern varieties have been bred in unbalanced conditions and may have lost the ability to interact in a mutually symbiotic manner with a healthy soil system.
 

CHAP Webinar - Innovative tools to overcome the challenges of Regen Ag

  • 281
  • 0
https%3A%2F%2Fcdn.evbuc.com%2Fimages%2F186160299%2F486662465563%2F1%2Foriginal.20211115-160823


Applying principles of regen ag can incur a range of on-farm challenges. Learn how innovative tools & machinery can help with these hurdles.

This event will be held online from 1pm to 2pm on Thursday 2nd December 2021 so please block it out in your diary.

About this event​

Intro
This...
Top