Category Archives: fertilizer

A Taste Of Farming In Maine

You can’t get more land-locked than Nebraska, where I grew up. So I find going to Maine and seeing the very different ways of life and livelihoods through food in that state fascinating. Mainers also exhibit a special vibe, a vibe that feels very real, genuine, simple and good.

Here are a few photos from early September in Maine to help you get a feel for what I felt while there.

It was pure luck to stumble upon the Brunswick, Maine farmers market, the oldest farmers market in the state, other than Portland’s. Two women were selling lobsters for $4.49 a pound, less than hamburger at today’s prices. Much of this trip was about lobster, eating it, watching the hard working lobstermen, and seeing the lobster traps set up. A neighbor acquaintance here in Boulder who grew up in Maine likes to say that “You knew who the poor kids were in school because they had lobster in their lunch buckets.”

This is the fella that I enjoyed visiting with the most at the Brunswick market. His name is Dick Keough and he farms on seven acres, with four hoop houses. I noticed that he was selling baby lettuces so I asked if they were for those who have winter gardens in Maine, knowing that the legendary four season gardening expert, Eliot Coleman, hails from these parts. My suspicions proved correct, as Keough is a big winter gardener and is a friend of Coleman’s. He said that they use eight (or more) layers of plastic in the coldest winter time periods, including bubble wrap – in their winter hoop houses. A key piece of knowledge is that there are 27 winter vegetables that can tolerate being frozen, so if you stick with those in your winter hoop gardens in Maine, and figure out the art and science balanced with the right amount of attentiveness, winter vegetable growing there can be a success.

When I asked Keough why he had such strong nice fall rhubarb, he credited fertilizing it with Espoma Plant-Tone which he uses for his other vegetables, too. Plant-Tone is an all-organic fertilizer containing beneficial soil microbes. Keough is a seasoned gardening expert who has participated in the Brunswick farmers market for 27 years, and he told me that it is obvious to see how Maine’s climate is changing. He said that in recent years he only uses a snowblower about three times per winter, whereas this area used to get lots of snow all winter-long.

Other interesting things that I noticed at the Brunswick farmers market were the low cost for eggs at only four dollar per dozen. Here in Boulder at our farmers market they often cost six dollars per dozen. One stand was selling their own home made cider vinegar. One stand sold grass-fed beef. I spoke with its farmer, Dennis Wilk of “King and I Angus” and he explained to me that nearly all beef raised in the region is “grass-fed” due to the nature of the land, the small farm sizes, and, I suppose, the lack of organized large-scale industrial feedlots and cattle markets. How nifty is that?

Dick Keough told me that sometime, I must allow a day to visit Pineland Farms in New Gloucester. It is a 5,000-acre working farm that demonstrates responsible farming techniques.

This scene is near the children’s garden at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens at Boothbay. Though the 270-acre garden is relatively new, it has already become one of the main tourist attractions along the coast.

This is a stack of lobster cages in Portland near two of our favorite lobster/fish shacks, The Porthole, and J’s Oyster. Yummm.

Popham Beach was reasonably uncrowded and we walked its entire length. This was the view of an island right across from it that had a house on it. Years ago I read the 1896 book, The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett who captured the mood of Maine island living so well. I stared and stared at the island and the home, trying to imagine what it would be like to live there. I must re-read Jewett’s book sometime soon. Maine is all about a “mood”, especially if you live there in its difficult weather and moody forest all the year-round. It is a very special place.

Leaf Illustrations and Charts to Help Diagnose Plant Nutrient Deficiencies

For the farmer or gardener, it is important to be able to read your plant. The seasoned grower develops an intuitive sense over time in response to plant signals of stress. The key is observing and being able to notice unhealthy leaves, and developing the ability to understand what the plant’s leaf is telling you. Something to note is that a young leaf’s message differs from an old leaf’s message. In this post, I have assembled a number of good graphics to help you do just that. While there is some overlap between the illustrations, they should be helpful as a whole in helping you figure out your specific problem.

PLANT LEAF CHART OF NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES


Credit: Twitter @FarmerRaviVKV “Plants speak to us through their leaves what they want. Farmers must keenly understand the language of his plants.”


DIAGNOSING NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES CHART


Credit: Twitter @trouttroller Day 2 of #canoLAB14. John Mayko with a great slide depicting location of nutrient deficiency symptoms.


SIMPLE PLANT DEFICIENCY GUIDE


Credit: Twitter @JSKProperty. Plant deficiency guide – Some possible problems because of nutrient deficiency or even too much of any one nutrient.


CORN LEAF NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY ILLUSTRATION


Credit: farmwifediary.blogspot


CHART OF NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY SYMPTOMS IN PLANTS



Credit: Atlantis Hydroponics.
For more charts showing the inter-relationships between nutrients (excess-induced deficiencies) see this PDF, also from Atlantis Hydroponics.


LEAF DEFICIENCY GUIDE (MAPLE LEAVES)





Credit: CANNA.


NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY FLOWCHART – OLD AND NEW LEAVES – CHLOROSIS AND NECROSIS


Credit: UNKNOWN


NUTRIENT ANTAGONISMS CHART


Credit: UNKNOWN


NUTRIENT DISORDERS MARIJUANA LEAVES



Credit: mjforum


DEFICIENCIES AND ABUNDANCE OF FERTILIZATION ELEMENTS (MARIJUANA LEAVES)



Credit: OCK.PEACE.ORG


NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY SYMPTOMS – Citrus


Credit: Twitter @247Garden. Nutrient deficiency symptoms at a glance! #growing #gardening #hydroponics #green Courtesy of NATESC and IPCC.


AQUATIC PLANTS – LEAF NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY


Credit: Zapins at Aquatic Plant Central. Plant Deficiency Picture Diagram for aquatic plants.


CHART EXPLAINING LEAF NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY


Credit: Hawaii.edu. Plant Nutritional Deficiencies Symptoms chart.


If you have any links to other great graphics on this subject, please leave them in the comments.

EPA: Agricultural Nitrogen and Phosphorus is Reason for Gulf Dead Zone

The EPA’s recent report about hypoxia in the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico is very damaging for agriculture. They tell us that eliminating the pollution-caused hypoxia would require large shifts in food production and agricultural management.

As shown in the above graphic, they have determined that 71 percent of nitrogen released into the Gulf is from agriculture, and 80 percent of phosphorus is from agriculture. Furthermore, the states that contribute the most to the farmland induced nutrient pollution of the rivers and gulf are reluctant and resistant to inducing any changes which would reduce the farm runoffs, though they have been asked to do so.

Sadly, runoff of these nutrients also translates to loss of our precious topsoil resource in our nation, something every citizen should feel responsible to defend politically. Soil runoff threatens future farmland productivity.

Right policy could reduce farm nutrient runoff, and the biggest culprit right now is the Renewable Fuels Standard, which requires us to grow millions upon millions of acres more corn than we need. Which means the EPA’s plea to reduce the Dead Zone makes no sense because they are also the ones who set the RFS mandated use of corn ethanol. Does their right hand know what their left hand is doing?


source: www.epa.gov/oig/reports/2014/20140902-14-P-0348.pdf

Unfarming: The Way to Win a Million Dollars


Above: May 2011 flood on the Mississippi River. USDA Photo.

A little while back there was an announcement that anyone who could solve the world’s dead zone problems like we have in the Gulf of Mexico here in the U.S., could win a million dollars. Instantly, I thought my ship had come in, because I knew the answers to the challenge right off the top of my head. It would take me five minutes to do an outline, an hour to write it up, then, bang, a million bucks and I’ve bought my way into New Zealand. But then I caught the clincher “solutions must meet a suite of simultaneous and sometimes conflicting needs – from protecting water resources and near-shore ecosystems to ensuring the capacity and vitality of agricultural productivity” — at which point I gave up without trying. Appropriately, the contest comes out of Tulane University, based in New Orleans, Louisiana.

For starters, how I’d love to see a minimum natural area bordering all waterways, scaled to the size of the waterway. But, why is it that when something makes such obvious sense, then, it just cannot happen? Look at this from George Monbiot excerpted from his lengthy rant against corporate agriculture yesterday over at The Guardian:

We should turn the rivers flowing into the lowlands into “blue belts” or “wild ways”. For 50 metres on either side, the land would be left unfarmed, allowing trees and bogs to return and creating continuous wildlife corridors. Bogs and forests trap the floodwaters, helping to protect the towns downstream. They catch the soil washing off the fields and filter out some of the chemicals which would otherwise find their way into the rivers. A few of us are now in the process of setting up a rewilding group in Britain, which would seek to catalyse some of these changes.

Fifty metres is only 164 feet. Along the mighty Mississippi, we should have at least 2-5 miles of natural forest and prairie land — so George is being really conservative in his baby step plan.

There is good news today in industrial farming practices as they relate to the Dead Zone. There is less overuse of fertilizers, and precision agriculture and cover crops are helping.

But we need a wiser long-term vision, a vision which would bring back a healthy biodiversity to the Midwest. I’d like a lot of shelter belts to return to farming areas, “agroforestry” if you will; and, wildlife corridors which would run up and down the former prairie lands which would be available to the public for enjoyment and help to attract a vibrant younger population back to the Midwest; and let’s throw in a minimum percentage of taxpayer-funded natural land, or buffer strips, on every farm, too. By removing tiling from beneath buffer strips, those areas could actually catch fertilizer run-off. Finally, we could turn more of corn country into grasslands on which to raise large herbivores, and other livestock. All of these things could really help to reduce the Dead Zone… but what will NOT reduce the Dead Zone is the monoculture crop status quo.

The U.S. Midwestern industrial agriculture farmer ails economically today from the monoculture commodity oversupply problem. We have not gained export market share of our major three commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat) in fourteen years (see graph). This land which is polluting the Dead Zone due to fertilizer runoff is not, unfortunately, feeding the world. No, it is feeding our cars and the end-points of crony capitalism.

Are these things feasible? Yes, anything is feasible given the right policy support… over time.

Unfarming. Now that’s a word for this century.

3 Picks: Netherlands Lab Burger, Biofuels Exports, Nitrogen Fixing Bacteria


Photo credit: Maastricht University

Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) Scientists cook world’s first in-vitro beef burger today: From Kate Kelland, “A corner of west London will see culinary and scientific history made on Monday when scientists cook and serve up the world’s first lab-grown beef burger. The in-vitro burger, cultured from cattle stem cells, the first example of what its creator says could provide an answer to global food shortages and help combat climate change, will be fried in a pan and tasted by two volunteers….”

2) Ethanol and Biodiesel Export Amounts Update: Nick Paulson at the Univ. of Illinois shows us graphs of the past several years in export amounts of biodiesel and ethanol. “The continually increasing biofuel mandate volumes along with the challenges introduced by the E-10 blend wall are making it more difficult for obligated parties to comply with the RFS. This has been reflected by the significant increase in RIN values since early in 2012. Yet, the U.S. continues to export both ethanol and biodiesel.”

3) The University of Nottingham is promoting a new technology which they say could enable the world’s crops to take nitrogen from the air rather than expensive and environmentally damaging fertilisers: “Professor Edward Cocking, director of the University of Nottingham’s Centre for Crop Nitrogen Fixation, has developed a unique method of putting nitrogen-fixing bacteria into the cells of plant roots. His major breakthrough came when he found a specific strain of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in sugar cane which he discovered could intracellularly colonize all major crop plants. This groundbreaking development potentially provides every cell in the plant with the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. … It is anticipated that the N-Fix technology will be commercially available within the next two to three years.”

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.