Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Soil is Alive

One of the great responsibilities of a pig farmer is to protect the living organism which is his field. Did you realise that fields, dirt, is alive?

It really is.

Bacteria, worms, all manner of bugs, and other biologic things live in the soil. This is why, when you get a cut and it gets "dirty" you are given an antibiotic (biologic). A healthy field is teaming with healthy soil. So how do you keep a field healthy?

One basic step is the "soil test".

 We (and most other farmers I know) test soils about every three years on my farm. As crops are removed a part of the soils fertility goes with it. As manure is spread on the field, in this case from the hog barn in the background, fertility is added back to the soil. The soil test is to see if those two things a in balance or not.

It can be back breaking work

The process starts after harvest with a man or women, a strong back, a big foot, and a soil core sampler.

The core sampler is driven into the ground

The left overs from the crop just harvested contain nutrients that will decompose and become part of the soils nutrient profile as well. These left overs protect the soil from erosion during the winter and coming summer.

core samples are collected in GPS identified bags

These samples will be tested in a laboratory and a report produced that shows the soil conditions for each collection point. This information then is used to develop a plan for nutrient management for the next three year cycle.

Each bag has   5 cores from a GPS point to form an average at that point

You can start to see why a strong back is important. Each bag represents about 5 acres.

even this machine still gets tiresome getting in and out

The ATV is a gift from God to the people doing this work.

 It is a combination of hard work and really smart soil scientist that help me manage all the nutrients of a field to keep it in excellent health. Here is an article that explains alot more about the really smart people that are working on this management issue This is an important part of how I fulfill my responsibility as a steward of the land for myself, my family, my neighbors, and the generations to come.

Thanks for thinking about my field with me.

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