The Ottawa Herald from Ottawa, Kansas on January 28, 1963 · Page 15
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The Ottawa Herald from Ottawa, Kansas · Page 15

Ottawa, Kansas
Issue Date:
Monday, January 28, 1963
Page 15
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F How's Your Soil Fixed For Food? FLOYD W. SMITH Processor of Soils KMMU State University Available soil nutrient supplies play a major role in conservation of our soils.. This role is exerted in at least a several - fold manner. Any soil which is well supplied with essential plant nutrients will be able to produce more vegetative cover than one which is not so well supplied. Obviously a soil which has a good vegetative cover, regardless of whether it is a permanent cover of grass or whether it is a cultivated row crop, will be better able to resist the ravaging effects of soil erosion than will a soil which has a poor cover of the same crop. Even if we confine our consideration of vegetative cover to only the so-called soil conserving crops, it should be recognized that an abundance of nutrients will insure greater growth, more protection against erosion and the incorporation of more organic matter in the soil. The maintenance of nutrient supplies also contributes directly to the conservation of the soils productive potential. Mere preservation of relatively inert soil particles is not really compatible with good conserve tion philosophy. However, if we preserve a soil in such fashion that regular additions of nutrients are made not only to counteract the losses of such that are incurred in various ways but also to provide increasing supplies, then we are able to achieve positive conservation results. Likewise, incorporation of or ganic matter, both because it serves as the permanent storehouse of nitrogen and appreciable amounts of such other elements as phosphous and sulfur, and also because it maintains satisfactory soil structural conditions when blended with mineral parti' cles, is important in permanent conservation programs. Any soil, if it is to produce plants successfully must have, among other things, an adequate supply of all the necessary nutrients which plants take from the soil. These nutrient elements not only must be present in forms that plants can use, but they also must be in balance with the amount needed by plants. Any elements into these two groups cient quantity, will limit plant growth or if it is present in improper proportions, normal growth will not occur. The various soil nutrient elements which are required by plants may be divided into two groups, the major plant-nutrient elements and the trace elements. The mere separation of these elements into thse two groups should not be construed as having anything to do with their relative essentiality. Obviously one element, though required by the plant in only very small amount, is just as essential to normal development of the plant as one required in much larger quantity. The major plant nutrient elements, which plants obtain from the soil, may be listed as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur, while the list of trace elements includes iron maganese, boron, copper, zinc and molybdenum. The list of major plant- nutrient elements includes those which are used by the plants in comparatively large quantities. Of mis group of elements, three are especially likely to be limiting factors in crop production. The elements nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, are, from the farmer's standpoint, the nutrient elements of major concern. The element nitrogen, insofar as the supply in the soil is concerned, was derived originally from the air. It is estimated that there are about 150,000 tons of .this element in the air over every acre of land surface, yet in the gaseous form it is wholly unavailable for use by any of our higher plants. It is only through complicated processes, either biological or chemical in nature, that this nitrogen ii rendered available for plant utilization, M the necessity of conserving the original supply of soil nitrogen and augementing this supply, whenever it may be necessary, cannot be overemphasized if economical crop production is our goil> The ottroftB content of KM- , sas mils was originally very high, but, due to yean of cultivation, most of our soils have suffered large losses, and the nitrogen balance fe, therefore, precariously low. In many instances, losses of topsoil by erosion has resulted in the loss of much of the nitrogen content of the soil since most of it is contained in the surface soil. Declining crop yields are due, in no small part, to the loss of nitrogen from our soils. Many of the most fertile soils in this country, including those of the corn belt states where yields have been notoriously high, do not contain more than 1,200 to 1,500 pounds of total phosphorus in the acre plow layer. It can be demonstrated, by means of chemical analyses, that an average corn crop, producing 60 bushels, requires about 14 pounds of phosphorus. Thus, a soil containing 1,400 pounds of phosphorus in an acre, even if all this phosphorus were made available to the crop, could support only 100 such crops of corn Many of these soils contain on ly 500 to 600 pounds of phospho rus, and, therefore, can support only about forty 60-bushel crops of corn. More important, however, is the fact that only a very small portion of this total supply of phos phorus is readily available to any given crop. Also, due to its relative immobility in the soil, much of that which is available does not come in contact with plant roots so that it can be utilized The result of these conditions is that such a soil will not produce 40 good corn crops and then cease production entirely; instead, this soil will produce a few good crops and a long succession of very poor crops. Declining crop production is the inevitable result of failure to maintain a high level of available phosphorus. The presence of adequate quantities of available phosphorus in our soils has other advantages which might be mentioned. Frequently, our growing seasons may be short, and late-planted crops of corn and grain sorghums cannot mature. An abundance of available phosphorus in our soils will hasten maturity and serve as crop insurance against an early frost. Additionally, phosphorus must be in abundance in our soils for maximum benefits to be realized from legume residues which have been incorporated in the soil or from nitrogen fertilizers which have been applied. The old adage that "no chain is stronger than its weakest link" is especially applicable to soil fertility. An abundance of soil nitrogen accompanied by a low level of available phosphorus presents a chain with a very weak link—the link represented by the element phosphorus. In this example, the added nitrogen may actually reduce the yield of the crop due to abnormal growth because of a lack of phosphorus. Also maturity of the crop will be delayed and in the case of wheat, shrunken and shriveled grain may result or in the case of corn, soft grain and abnormally small ears will be produced Phosphorus plays a vital role in the production of soil conserving legumes. Strong legumes — the ones that have outstanding soil conservation properties — in- evitabley demand much phosphorus. This is the case with alfalfa, sweetclover and the clovers. Any legume which makes profuse growth is likely to need much phosphorus. Any legume which does not need much phosphorus is not likely to make profuse growth. The element potassium provides somewhat of a different picture than either nitrogen or phosphorus. Most of our soils are well supplied, so far as total amount of potassium is concerned The average soils of this country will contain approximately 20 times as much total potassium as they do total phosphorus and approximately 10 times as much total potassium as they do nitrogen. Thus, the lack of potassium is not so readily apparent nor so easily understood. However, in the case of this element, much of thai in the soil's storehouse is relatively inert as far as the fertility of the soil is concerned. The potassium held in an unavailable stored form is rendered (Continued on Page 7) THE OTTAWA HERALD Monday, Jan. 28, 1993 NATIONAL| Will Your Land Prosper? It's In Your Hands! fc£X'/3&£ % /»**~\, What you know and do about soil conservation makes the big difference in future productivity for your farm. Investigate now. . . see how crop rotation, to prevent soil depletion; contour plowing, for sloping land; drainage for wet land; and other tested techniques can help you prevent soil erosion. . .assure continued profitable production. Modern soil conservation is Eased on research and experiences from all over the country. It is continually being improved as research and experience point out the better ways to conserve and use the soil. It gives you the tested techniques to maintain the productivity of your land. Test Your Soil As a FIRST Step in Your Soil Improvement Program FREE So/7 Sample Bags Are Available At PEOPLES NATIONAL Printed on the bag are complete instructions on how to take samples of your soil. . .then take sample to your County Extension office. The PEOPLES NATIONAL Bank, "Your Partner in Soil Conservation", is prepared to help you obtain any informa- tion you may need for instituting or continuing your own con- servation program. Call on us also for advice on financing this security measure. 4 O/ Guaranteed Interest Paid on Certificates /O of Deposit Issued for One Full Year. 17th Annual Meeting Of Franklin County Soil Conservation District Wed. Jan. 30th-10 a.m. Memorial Auditorium, Ottawa 11:00 A.M. Motion Picture, "VALLEY OF STILL WATERS" 11:30 A.M. Drawing for "Early Bird" door prize 11:45 A.M. Lunch 1:00 P.M. Business Meeting Reading' of Minutes of Previous Meeting Activity and Financial Reports Election of Supervisor Presentation of Bankers' Award Introduction of Guests 2:00 P.M. Program Harold Ensley "The Sportsman's Friend" 2:45 P.M. Door Prizes Donated by Merchants of Franklin County MEMBER F.D.I.C. Since 1871

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