Ivan Ovsinsky 'A new system of agriculture' 1900

valerie_ru(Russia)March 4, 2009

IÂd like to present a book published in 1900 in Russia. The language is slightly obsolete even for russian readers so the translation may be even worse. But there are pictures, chemical formulas in the book that can help to understand main ideas. And I am also ready to help if someone will be interested. Why to read such an old books? Book is old, but the ideas in the book are still new. Just think about OvsinskyÂs claims that "you need no fertilizers at all if you handle the soil correctly" or "it is possible to grow plants without rains at all".

Here is a book:

Original book on Russian

Translation to English

(Click Refresh button in browser for further translation. ItÂs Google translator)

Some words about book and author. The book may be refered to as about no-till.

Ovsinsky serverd as state official on Far East near China and hence visited China many times. Being inquisitive he looked at chinese farming and probably there he got the idea to grow cereal crops by rows. Double density of seeds in row with the same width of empty space near. After returning back to european Russia he became estate steward and began to develope his system of farming with cereals based on rows idea and what is more important  he began the regular practice of no-till. He tilled no more than 2-inch during sowing and during tillage/opening between rows mainly after rains. He developed tools for his practice and implemented his system during 30 years with wonderful results. His yields were 100 centners per hectare whereas the yields of neighbours were just 10-20 centners per hectare. And at that Ovsinsky reduced inputs on tillage 2 times and refused all fertilizers refusing inputs again. Nobody believed him and even their eyes when they were on his fields: rye 3 meters hight! Ovsinsky published this book where he try to explain why his system was so successful and then ... disappeared in history. Nowadays some enthusiasts repeated his system and ... obtained the same result that is better and better from year to year.

The book has 2 main parts:

1. Individuality of plants

2. A new system of agricultere

For present-day reader it is better to begin reading at the chapter "A new system of agricultere"

Good reading and any questions are welcome!

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Thank you for offering to help us understand Ovinsky's book.

Tilling to 2 inches is called "conservation tillage" here in Texas. It is used in "no-till" operations to sweep the weeds out between the rows of crop.

What I found fascinating in Ovinsky's book was the idea that you want to have humus concentrated at the surface of the soil. This is the argument against deep plowing or tilling. Ovinsky claims that the humus absorbs any ammonia gas that might be in the atmosphere or being released from the soil. I can tell you that if my compost pile starts to stink, all I have to do to stop it is cover it with leaves. So I fully believe in the idea of humus (or compost) absorbing ammonia gas. But then Ovinsky talks about the humus absorbing humidity. This is key because when the air or soil temperature falls to the dew point, the humidity stored in the humus condenses and drips down into the soil. I presume the moisture is laden with ammonia and that, my friends, is free fertilizer out of thin air.

Just to reiterate what Valerie said about the translator, every time you hit the refresh button on your browser, a little more of the book is translated. It seems to stop translating near the end of the book. Maybe Google has a limit. The book is not very long - more of a booklet.

And a side note, Vuh-LARRY is close enough to the Russian pronunciation of his name. I still have to use that device to remind me not to call him VAL-uh-ree (the pronunciation of that girl's name here). He and I go back aways.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 12:15PM
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Vah-Lary sounds good for me, a little laughable as if in the Caucasus, but I like it.:)

As for ammonia Ovsinsky even gives estimations of amount of ammonia in the rainwater.
I can demonstrate an example of ammonia in rainwater. Here in Russia grass grows very badly immediately after the winter though the soil is overlogged with water after the snow melting. But immediately after the first spring rain grass become green and lush in 2-3 days.

Can you imagine how much ammonia fall down with jungle rains??? But this ammonia is washed out because nothing can capture it. Could it be the secret of Terra Preta soils that charcoal capture those ammonia?

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 1:46AM
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Just to heat up the topic.. (Are everybody healthy? Catch a cold? Kha-kha-khhh...? DonÂt be ill!!!:)

What I aways was surprising is that plants didnÂt learn how to catch a nitrogen from the air. From the evolution point of view it is a paradox. Listen, plants learned how to catch a quantum of light (very complex phisical task, it was given Nobel prize for that to a man after millions years the plants discovered it, electricity, chemistry and almost nuclear phisics) but didnÂt learned how to perform a much easier task  to capture an atom of N). And I was thinking  why? (And I think I am thinking:)

And I came to a conclusion that plants didnÂt learn how to catch N from atmosphere (like they capture CO2) just because there always were a plenty of nitrogen (N) under their foot. The drilling manÂs mind that drilling and drilling and drilling again (and drilling again!) came to a conclusion that it is because there are plenty of nitrogen fixixng bacterias in the soil, so plants rely on them.

Is it an answer to the evolution idea? I think  yes!

What Ovsinsky found, is that nitrogen fixing bacterias live only in upper layer of the soil. They love oxigen (O2), and donÂt love CO2 which inhibit their growth. When organic matter of the soil is decomposing, it produce CO2 (which inhibit nitrogen-fixing bacteria and they donÂt produce nitrogen for the plants). What to do in this situation??? (It is the question of the plants, because they need N). They ( plants) found an excellent idea: we (they were thinking as individuals) will remove CO2 by making deep holes in the soil, where CO2 will go down beeing heavier than air. And they done it!

Now CO2 beeing heavier then air go down to the soil, connect itself with the water producing carbon acid (CO2+H2O=CH2O3) which increase the solubility of minerals 30 times! Minerals after dissolution in water (with the help of carbon acid) go up in soil by capillarity force and the plants "eat" them. And again and again the process continues millions of years.

And now think, why plants have such a long deep roots? They are seeking water?Nnno-o!
They are making holes for next generations of them (plants) to withdrow CO2 from upper layers of the soil deeper in the soil to have minerals and nitrogen both.

This is the individullity of the plants!

(The End of the symphony)

The next symphony will be about water (H2O).
Water is where the plants, not plants where the water.
(Buy tickets at the local philahrmonia!)

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 11:12AM
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blutranes(z8 Mid Ga)

Dchall said:

" So I fully believe in the idea of humus (or compost) absorbing ammonia gas."

Are we talking about compost or humus as the top layer?

After thinking about this a few thoughts come to mind. Since Ovsinsky got his idea from the Chinese, it makes sense to see what else the Chinese practice. And too, since the Chinese use EM and BIM extracts, the addition of these techniques seems logical to me.

My thinking is to use Ovsinsky technique of planting (no need to till since the soil is amended with organic matter and very soft), use BIM to (foliar and soil drench) fertilize for maximum nutrition, and leaf mould to control weeds. The addition of charcoal in the soil should negate the drought conditions we are in here in the southern USA, and feed the roots in a long lasting manner. All this should offer bountiful harvest, call for limited management, and create healthy soil for generations to come.

Of course continued research and open-mined attitude will only add to this learning process. For now this appears to be the best of all techniques for my given situation; any thoughts are welcomed and appreciatedÂ


    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 9:39AM
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My thinking is to use Ovsinsky technique of planting (no need to till since the soil is amended with organic matter and very soft)

Ovsinsky technique is based on 2 ideas:
1) compost or humus or plantÂs residues on the surface of the soil
2) long tubes or holes in subsoil instead of deep tillage.

Long and deep holes in subsoil are formed naturally by rotten roots of previous year crops. If you donÂt have them you may try to make them with the drill. Take a borer 0.5 meter long and 0.5-1 cm width and drill holes in soil with the distance 2-3 inches between them on the depth 0.5 meter. Then cover with compost and plant the plants. Hope this wooks.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 7:09AM
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