Mike Petersen

Going further under the microscope of Macro-to-Microaggregates

I wrote on the 4th of February on this site some details of how Strip-Till is complimentary to developing more stable macroaggregates, those that are between 1.0mm up to 4.0mm in size and maybe larger.  Within that structural unit I displayed a closeup of an oat root with a cottony mass around the bright white root growing through a small soil ped.  Let us delve a bit closer to see some more.

Macro-Micro-Primary sized units of soil structure with key features highlighted.

All of this is to say, what we soil scientists are getting to know more about and I want to offer you what some of  those important facts are:

The image on the far-left depicts how roots and microscopically fine mycorrhizal hyphae along with roots interconnect the soil and help hold smaller particles of silt, sand and clay together to form granular, crumb or fine subangular blocky structural units. The image in the middle gives a close-up of the microaggregate, spores in close enough proximity to the root that they can spear the root with an appressori and inject its rNA into the root and begin the formation of its symbiotic relational organism (called an “arbuscle” – tree-like form) within the root interior cells to feed itself and feed the host root.  As this all occurs the hyphae can extend outward from the root up to 10cm in length.  This hyphae stores a thick glyco-protein within the hyphal tubular walls, when the fungal hyphae die or dessicate it is this extremely sticky glue-like substance glomalin that aids in tightly holding organic particles along with microbial debris to soil clay and silt particles.  This complex substance can last up to 21 years. Scientists have found from soil sampling at various depths, glomalin is in and along old root channels to the depth of 140cm (55 inches) [1].

In the diagram above, on the far right side, microbial sized debris is pointed out.  These materials are the sites where soil organic carbon (SOC) exists and stored to provide easily available nutrients and also hold up to 400 times its weight with water.  This SOC is very important to bacteria for their food source of carbon.  Earthworms that consume small mouthfuls of soil bacteria, nematodes, amoeba, all who hide in these crevasses and nourish the earthworm.  As the worm passes the material through its gut it too excretes stable microaggregates with mucous-like substances that can release to other bacteria foodstuffs.  These materials can stabilize soil structural units with specific chemical and electronic bonds.  With Strip-Tillage as a once-a-year minimal disturbance will aid mixing this some in the upper 6 to 11.5 inches and cause minimal disruption in the storing of soil carbon.  The glomalin substances can mix and stick more particles together along with a redistribution of the fungal spores to find more roots and restart the infection of more roots and continue the cycle.  Strip-Till does not turn or tumble soils such as a disc or moldboard plow will.  That kind of tumbling effect dries the soil out, exposes spores, soil carbon, mycorrhizae fragments to the atmosphere, dries them out and will cause rapid oxidation – losing the important substances that help the health and stability of soils.  Many times worms are exposed, their tunnels and home burrows are broke open and the cut or torn-in-two worm may die or try to burrow down and again and then die.  Yes strip-till disturbs the earthworms in the till-zone.

My studying of the till-zone after the strip-till implement pass (over the past 10 years) has shown me the strip-till pass is much less destructive and earthworms can recover in 7 to 14 days, still sense where their tunnels are and continue existing.  Due to our tilling of less than 33% of the total soil matrix across a 20 foot zone by 10 inches deep and not turning it over I believe we are aiding the building up of soil health.  Even “direct seeding” efforts can cause some set back of the fungal/bacterial interaction.

I will keep digging into what Strip-Tillage can do to aid soil health to remain strong, viable and accumulating soil carbon.  Stay tuned to us here at precisiontillage.com and we will provide a ‘below the boot on the ground look”.

 

 

References used:

  1. Glomalin: an arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal soil protein.   Pradeep Kumar Singh, Meenakshi Singh, and Bhumi Nath Tripathi;   Found in: Protoplasma (2013) 250:663–669
  2. Mycorrhizal Symbiosis, S.E Smith and D.J. Read, Second Edition, Academic Press, 1997.
  3. Plant-Environment Interactions., R.E. Wilkinson, Second Edition, Marcel-Dekker AG, 2000.

Orthman/Ohio State University Offers an Approach to a New Tomorrow

Precision Seeding

The team of specialists at Ohio State University under Dr. John Fulton are studying the values of how a Strip-Till Systematic approach to alleviating compaction, providing an ideal seedbed and then setting up the tillage zone with precision placed nutrition works.  This last season [2018] at the Molly Caren Center which is just west of Columbus, OH some 10-12 miles just off I-70 and at the Clark County, Ohio research facility, Fulton and staff demonstrated and have published their results in their 2018 eFields Report (which is out electronically and in published forms).  We at Orthman are providing an 8row-30 inch 1tRIPr along with a Salford twin bin 10 ton steerable fertility cart, with flow control apparatus and technical expertise as they study placement [shallow/medium depth/deep and broadcast], and variable down-force rates on the planter in the strip-zone compared to other systems approach.  And I do say – the results show great promise for growers in the Eastern Corn Belt and westward to consider a system that can save money, labor, fuel, trips across the field, water, soil erosion concerns lessened, an emphasis on applying phosphorus products, fertilizers applied in more crop appropriate quantities, and potential yield improvements.

I do want to direct your eyes and fingers at the computer to check out www.agcrops.osu.edu/people to touch base with Ohio’s Extension folks another way is to reach out to Dr. Elizabeth Hawkins who is a major part of the eFields Program; hawkins.301@osu.edu.  One can download the report if so desired  by going to https://digitalag.osu.edu/efields/efields-reports. It may behoove folks who are in the eastern Indiana, Western Ohio to Michigan region to make it to one of the four upcoming public review meetings being held to go over the 2018 results/studies: February 13th 9:00 to Noon EST Clinton County Extension office, Wilmington, Ohio or February 20th, 9:00-Noon EST, at Robert Fulton Ag Center, Wauseon, OH; February 27th, 4:30-8:30pm EST at RG Drage Career Conference Center, 2800 Richville Dr. SW, Massillon, OH and last one – February 28th, 9:00-Noon EST at Upper Valley Career Center, Adult Applied Technology Center, Piqua, OH.  There is a host of great studies and data presented in the eFields report.  Let me tease you with some information I gleaned quickly as I have gone through the 195 page report.

eFields Strip-Till Fertilizer Placement Study
   study located at Molly Caren Ag Center, London, OH
Treatments: Harvest Grain Moisture % Yield    (bu/acre)
Broadcast-NoTill 17.3 214.0
Broadcast-ST 13.6 210.0
Shallow(0-3″) 16.9 218.0
Medium(3-6″) 17.0 216.0
Deep (6-9″) 17.0 216.0
   Rate of P2O5 was 150lb/ac in all plots
Amt of precip during season 24.1 in.

Changes may not seem all that huge but efficiency of the P products do show that there can be an advantage to placement.  There are other locations across the U.S. that depict the placement can and is greater than this year at OSU.  Watch for those results with your own eyes.

We at Orthman Mfg are very pleased to be working with Ohio State University’s Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering to bring this and other studies to you.  Check out the report and/or visit with the Extension offices that are having these meetings right here quick.

Mike Petersen, Lead Agronomist-Orthman Manufacturing, Inc.

Aiding and Abetting Organic Carbon Storage with Strip-Till

Early February 2019

Frequently you are hearing and reading about Soil Health and Cover Cropping Systems are the big part of how farmers will improve sustainability, yield and crop production.  Now folks, the two of those titles are not synonymous – that is they are not equal to one another.  They are different yet the two can work together.  Where am I going?  Strip tillage has been found to aid in better macroaggregate development. As macroaggregates function within the soils it is been studied that is the environment where Nitrogen (N) has the greatest amount of turnover and availability to the plant root system (Long-term effects of nitrogen fertilization on aggregation and localization of carbon, nitrogen and microbial activities in soil; YidongWang et al., Science of the Total Environment 624 (2018) 1131–1139,  Elsevier Publications).

What did I just say? As with what we at Orthman Manufacturing like to promote – strip till, when farmers employ, we can aid the process of organic carbon substances accumulate and develop durable macroaggregates (those particles of soil >2mm in size).  These aggregates can withstand rainfall impact better with these organic compounds coating, lying on the surfaces of the macroaggregates.  Fungi interlacing on the aggregates and between other aggregates, glue-like polysaccharides, proteins, fatty acids that come from mycorrhizal growth, certain bacteria dying and releasing substrates that can aid adhering and bonding of soil particles together.  The roots grow along, around and through the macroaggregates accessing accessible nutrients in a readily available form to feed the growing plants.  Image result for mycorrhizal fungi examples

Image #1:  In this image one can see the webbing around an alive root. Looks like cotton in a fashion.  This is a web of mycorrhizae hyphae surrounding the root of an oat plant.

Both the root and the fungal hyphae leak substances similar to what we could call “organic glues” onto the face of the soil ped and macroaggregates. Loaded with carbonaceous materials there is also other ions attached such as N, P, K, S, Mn, Zn, Fe, B etc not held tightly by the electrical bonds within the carbon products – thusly available to the roots.  These glues not only release good nutrients but they hold soils together which can also hold onto water, allow it to pass through easier and allow soils be oxygenated.  All of that promotes healthy soils, hold and release water, maintain soils from any severe mechanical breakdown of soil structure and allow soils to be more healthy.

With strip till we are one time and done prior to planting.  Greatly minimizing soil turnover, sliding, slipping, crushing, tearing and exploding soils with the strip till approach; we allow the process of soil biology work. With conventional full-width tillage there can be 3 to 7 operations in the upper segment of the soil profile before a seed is placed or nutrients are placed before the proceeding crop grows.  Each harsh tillage operation or trip to crush the soil down to the smallest size deteriorates the soil aggregates.  Yes microaggregates are part of the soil medium, they can accumulate nutrients yet they are released very slowly.

Scientists in my profession, soil science, are understanding better with electron microscopes how larger soil aggregates are big-time contributors to the ‘health’ of the soil.  Much of the discussion of soil health

Image #2:  Tight web of fungal hyphae holding soil particles and spores. Dark specks are soil aggregates, yellowish round spheres are fungal spores. Transluscent left-to-right strand is a root. Courtesy: Cornell Univ., T.E. Pawlowska

has only to do with biological factors, those being how do we get more living roots to grow for longer periods of time in the 365 day season.  Yes this is important.  I wanted you to see the value of the soil physical realm and what these microscopic filaments do to enhance soil aggregates and their ability to remain stable.

With Strip-Till we gain larger, more robust root systems in the till zone which contributes to more prolific mycorrhizal growth and associations.  It all ties together for the improvement of your soils to produce and remain viable long into the future.

by:  Michael Petersen, Orthman Soil Scientist

 

 

 

Mike Petersen’s Considering of Pre-Plant Fertilizing

This gallery contains 2 photos.

 

Here it is waiting between storms of the 2019 Winter (January) in many parts of the country and some of you may have the itch to do something with the look out the window saying, “No way man”.  Would like to cover a few thoughts of what we at Orthman consider as wise steps in nutrient management with the Orthman 1tRIPr once the weather changes to springtime.

Thought #1
Many of the spring row crops we plant do not use much nitrogen in the first 40 days of growth after emergence so why do we think applying a slug of nitrogen either in the fall or the spring and expect it to be there come June and July?

Thought #2
Even with nitrogen inhibitors we can see fair amounts [10 to 35%] of N moving or lost when applied in the fall.  Does that come into your accounting page for N management in your area?

Applying liquid N-P-K package in early spring

Thought #3
Those of you who farm in the more arid western States, even with dry fertilizers being lower in initial outlay of cash do you really understand the loss potentials in nitrogen and sulfur when they are in your dry blends?

Now I am not trying to gig you in the ribs with this blog, but to give you some time to think on these three questions and then I will respond with our responses in a couple of days.  In the time between when you see this on Precision Tillage.com and a follow up blog with ideas/answers/comments on my part – write me with your thoughts.

mpetersen@orthman.com

Scientists determine why long term N-fertilization aids in biological activity of soils

Here it is winter, January 2019 in the Northern Hemisphere, soil microbes are either asleep or dormant in most soils below the 41 degree Fahrenheit point.  I want to scratch at your brains to consider some of the biological importance of aerobes and anaerobes; whether they are cyanobacteria, fungi, nitrogen consumers, phosphate or potassium decomposers, or sulfur digesting workers in high residue environments.

When high carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N) grown crops [corn and small grains with ratios of 45:1 up to 80:1] are in long term crop rotations with conservation tillage practices, we in Agriculture see Total N fraction (TN) of the soil generally improve up with proper N fertilization.  All that is to say as you add forms of nitrogen into each years cropping system; both the fungal biomass and microbial biomass increase proportionately up.  Some may say with a resounding duh.  Well stay with me for a moment.  In long term studies some over-the-pond researchers concluded a 23 year study of small grain rotations, they studied to determine which enzymes and/or organic reagents derived from the microscopic  world tell you how Total Nitrogen  and  stable macroaggregates (those >2mm in size) can continue to climb in percent of the sand-silt-clay-SOM fraction.  All of these stable aggregates relate to improved soil health.

<<< Image of actinomycetes in a large colony

When this happens your soils are more healthy, less erosive to water and wind erosion and will have more sites to hold nutrients.   From that 23 year study the scientists found the fungal and fungi-like populations such as Actinobacteria made up of in the order of abundance in soils, the common genera of actinomycetes are: Streptomycetes (nearly 70%), Nocardia and Micromonospora with Actinomycetes, Actinoplanes, Micromonospora and Streptosporangium being 15%.  All of these one celled creatures are involved in the breakdown of cellulose, chitin, lignin, fats, lipids, and some proteins from the remaining crop residues and roots.  Some of who I just mentioned are anaerobic and do better in more moist No-Till environments compared to aerobic conditions where more tillage is involved.  These organic compounds [N-acetyl-β-D-glucosaminidase, β-glucosidase, Phosphatase and Sulfatase] are some of the major components released by fungal populations and Actinobacteria to breakdown the cellulosic materials and tough lignin materials.  All four of those compounds are released from higher populations of the fungi and Actinobacteria to aid in storage of N and stabilizing of carbon on the macroaggregates.

Wow that was a mouthful of large graduate school level microbiologic words that mean what?  These one celled microbes with flagella or whip-like tails  [Actinobacteria] facilitate movement in the soil solution and to move around on root surfaces. They are very good at breaking down complex cellulosic matter and making the N as an plant available component of those soil organic carbon materials, readily available to the existing crop/plant or subsequent plants.  However they are mostly anaerobic or facultative anaerobic based, [live in low oxygen soil environments] which is not a good season long environment for roots and root respiration.  These bacteria that act similar to fungi are important but some of them are pathogenic too.  They can cause root rots, be precursors to fungal pathogens, pink root issues, dampening off and a host of other things.  Soils that may be overly compacted, shallow water table, ponded, slow to very slow internal drainage in the first 24 inches, all can turn bad in a short period and create untold problems due to the wrong microbial families that take over.  However, Actinobacteria are important in the soil ecology to break down carbon based materials into valuable components for plant and soil life.

What does this have to do with Precision Tillage, Strip-Tillage and you?  For you that ever had to deal with wet soil conditions this spring, summer and fall – I wanted you to be aware of such conditions can exist and who is lurking under the corn leaves, stalks, and cobs.  Strip-Tillage may fit into your 2019 management program.  For you that have compaction due to harvest traffic that created ruts, smeared soils and holes where you took four hours to get the grain cart out of the field; soil conditions that squeezed oxygen out of the soil – issues I spoke of are happening and strip-tillage has a place.  Now this is not all bad ladies and gents.    Soils need to have a mix of all the aerobes, facultative anaerobes, anaerobes to enrich the spectrum of making nutrients available.  Too many of the anaerobic miniature critters and we can see way too many negatives.

I will go into some more of the good miniature creatures in a subsequent blog article.  Thanks for reading.

References I used and may serve your further reading:

Functional Predictions of Microbial Communities in Soil as Affected by Long-term Tillage Practices
Janani Hariharan, Aditi Sengupta, Parwinder Grewal, and Warren A. Dick*, Agricultural &
Environmental Letters, Research Letter published via ResearchGate on-line

Long-term effects of nitrogen fertilization on aggregation and localization of carbon, nitrogen and microbial activities in soil; YidongWang a,b, Zhong-LiangWang a,b,⁎, Qingzhong Zhang c, NingHud, ZhongfangLi d, Yilai Lou c,⁎⁎, Yong Li a,b, Dongmei Xue a,b, Yi Chene, ChunyanWue, Chris B. Zou a,f, Yakov Kuzyakov a,g; Science of the Total Environment Journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/scitotenv

Growth of saprotrophic fungi and bacteria in soil, Johannes Rousk1,2 & Erland Baath 1, Microbiology Ecology

Mike Petersen

Orthman Sponsored Field Research Gives Valuable Pointers

Recently some news came out of Ohio and the cooperative work that Orthman Manufacturing is directly involved with Ohio State University researchers.  The three foundational pillars that we at Orthman deem as vital to success with a Strip-Tillage Systems approach are being met with the on-going research efforts Dr. Fulton at Ohio State University and his assistants and staff have been doing.

I am including an article from the Ohio Country Journal published the last few days of December 2018, click on the link and scroll down below the picture of the awards picture to see what Mr. Trey Colley III shared at a conference with the OSU findings and ideas for Eastern Corn Belt growers.  Now many of you may not be in that part of the United States, the principles stay even for any of the rest of you and Trey’s words ring true.   https://www.ocj.com/2018/12/ohio-no-till-conference-highlights-equipment-innovation/

It is our hope that as growers move towards less tillage to help with the hypoxia issues of the Mighty Miss and the algal blooms of Lake Erie which are being found to be happening quite profoundly due to agricultural inputs along with other inputs.  Placing P&K in the soil and not on the soil surface is being found to be extremely effective to reduce phosphorus sediments moving and also nitrogen detachment into water courses.  We who strip-till across this nation are accomplishing best management practices to greatly reduce the runoff and soluble P from going into streams, rivers and lakes.

Take about 4 minutes to read what Trey Colley had to say.  It may be right what fits your management program where you live and farm.

Mike Petersen, Lead Agronomist for Orthman

Winter officially arrived. What is the condition of your fields?

Mike Petersen here post our Christmas celebration to send you a bit deeper onto the Precision Tillage website to read an article I wrote about alleviation of soil compaction.  Maybe I was a little too much on the Christmas grasshopper cream pie yesterday but please take a look at the article “…from the soilsview…”  to offer you all some words to consider how your fields shape up for the spring season.

The compaction issue has driven me to look more and more into what limits production, crop health, soils health and water.  Many of you are well aware of what compaction does and I will not start that conversation here.  Please take a look the above mentioned article and read and consider my diagram I made some weeks back when we at Orthman were discussing the next iteration of the 1tRIPr tool.  Yes we are thinking through what is good with the 1tRIPr, what is it you growers consider makes the 1tRIPr standout or needs to be better at.

I have been at this endeavor of looking at Strip-Till since 1986 and back with Orthman now to more fully understand all the capabilities of this machine for you – the farmer.  I am going into my 9th year with Orthman Manufacturing, Inc and I do realize this tool can make you the grower of Ag commodities better at farming.  We know some believe “tilling” the soil in any fashion beyond the planter is overdoing it.  In today’s world of bigger machinery, harvesting on the go to get the harvest done before the Image:Exposing the soil profile on a 1tRIPr

weather closes in and delays everything or stops it all – we induce a compacted zone anywhere from 0.2cm to 1 inches thick in one pass.  This past harvest season many growers east of the Missouri River in the United States it turned wet and ohhh boy!

Why from the soilsview we see vertical disruption of compaction important.

The two images: Heavy residue and me digging to expose the compaction alleviation effects of the 1tRIPr were done in the fall before all field conditions went south. 

As a soil scientist and investigator of “the dirt”, I have studied, poked, prodded, dug shallow to down deep to really get the view of why we see vertical tillage with a shank tool do the job to disrupt and remediate soil compaction.  Let me help you get your head wrapped around what must happen to alleviate soil compaction in the upper 11 inches of the soils on your farms.

First, we drive over the soils in a horizontal fashion, whether tractor, trucks, heavily loaded grain carts, big combines, tractor and disk tools (even those VT machines) that can and do insert compaction unless it is bone dry.  Common occurrences for some of you, we bring out the disk or field finisher to dry out the soil – a smear, sliding action with a vibrating down pressure that breaks down soils to smaller units and squeezes the soil making a lateral thin zone of soil particles like pages of paper stacked on top of one another.  Heavy carts or truck such as during silage harvest, push big forces of pressure downward to where that energy is dissipated squeezing pores and oxygen out making the density of the soil at that depth (let’s say it is 9 inches below the soil surface), at that depth roots encounter resistance to moving downward or water slows to a near stop to move down.  Root growth for many of our row crops are impeded when they encounter 140 psi of resistance and greater.  Early in the life of a corn plant for instance, the seedling root  system does not have much strength, power to extend away from the seed. When it encounters dense soils at the 4 inch depth and that zone of resistance is 2 inches thick – wow that baby plant is in for a work out.  The plant has a finite amount of energy apportioned to its growth potential at the root tips to grow downward by the pull of gravity.  When stopped or slowed to a crawl, the plant cannot not adequately sustain its need for water and nutrients such as phosphorus, zinc, manganese and iron (all needed in the first 15-20 days after emergence). Immediately energy levels drop and the plant resorts to falling off its potential.

 
Big_shankwork_1tRIPr_4PTcom

Figure 1. This graphic depicts the action of the Orthman 1tRIPr implement. Soil compaction is pervasive in many, many fields in the U.S. and causes yield losses, retards downward water penetration, soil surface runoff issues. The “red bolts” that extend upward and out from the shank away from the tillzone crack the soils minimizing ‘potted soil effects’.

So a tool that works to fracture, shatter and have a up and out at near 45 degrees of zig-zag ripple effect (towards the soil surface) into adjoining area of soil space on either side of the shank. It does not explode the soil and cause it to heave and roll out soil material, that will not really help change compacted soils. Whoa, do not go to “I need to get a subsoiling ripper tool to tear, rip, snort, explode soils from stem to stern”, that is not what I am advocating. We want you to be controlled and do this in a specific zone for the new coming to be planted crop.  That is exactly what the Orthman tool is designed to do.

The 1tRIPr is set to go right under the bottom of the compacted layer(s) then pulled at 4 to 5.5mph to lift, fracture and ripple the zone in a tapered U shaped zone.  The open end of the U is right where a grower will follow with his/her planter.  We do not want to cause a sidewall smear alongside the shank or at the underneath side of the point.  We ask folks to check their soil moisture content at the depth the tool needs to be run.  Best moisture conditions are when you can just ball the soil in your hand, toss up 8-12 inches and catch it and it breaks, it is time to go to work.  That is 35-50% moisture depleted of field capacity.  When too wet the job you are wanting to accomplish will not be quite as effective.

 Third session with 18 growers associated with local Pioneer Seed Corn folks in East Central Nebraska

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mike here to give you a quick lowdown on what Orthman is doing to be “in the lead” to offer training, suggestions, time to learn in regards to Precision Tillage and placing fertilizers for the crop season of 2019.  During the week of December 11-13th, in three different locations in east Central Nebraska, we stood up and discussed and answered questions on numerous subjects regarding Strip-Till System Thinking. Those were; where is the premium place to put P&K? Why there? What other products are smart moves to put in the ground with the Strip-Till approach prior to planting?  Is it okay to place a good portion of the Nitrogen up front? Why not?  How about micros?  The ideas of later applied N, S, K late in the season and what those products can and do accomplish later in the season.  And so on…

We at Orthman Manufacturing are not satisfied with lets do “farming” like we did in the 80’s and 90’s, we are striving to be better for you and with you in this adventure of growing row crops.

I would hope you are thinking more about nutrient management more and more these days.  If these kinds of sessions that you and neighbors are asking about and would like something proactive beyond its all about N; give me a call or you regional sales managers for Orthman as noted on our CONTACT tab on this website.

Cooperative Research with Ohio State University

Take a look in the Articles section of this webpage to read a first report that we have obtained from Ohio State University under the direction of Dr. John Fulton.  It is the first of a multi-part series we at Orthman are pleased to bring to you for reading and updates of how Strip-Till functions in the Eastern Corn Belt.

by:  Mike Petersen, Lead Agronomist, Orthman Manufacturing, Inc.