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Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Posted by hoorayfororganic 6b Massachusetts (My Page) on
Mon, Mar 24, 08 at 13:01

We were talking about mycorrhiza and then she talked about ploughing in green manure - cover crops. I asked her about no till practices, and, wouldn't tilling destroy the myco networks?

She said although that can happen, tilling in green manure helps it decompose faster, and that the destruction to the fungal works is outweighed by the benefit of green manure.

She said no till practices are relatively new, and are mainly used for erosion control.

So I wonder, if there aren't any erosion concerns where someone is, would it be better to till in green manure, say once a year, as opposed to not tilling it in at all? According to my professor, yes. What do you think?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

I suspect it does increase soil fertility faster and better than not, other inputs being equal.

It can be "tilled" in, or simply turned over with a spade (or a plow, if one is a farmer rather than a gardener). Or uprooted and put in the compost bin to be returned to the soil later. I do both, depending, or sometimes I merely pull and leave it on the surface as mulch.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

There are differnt degrees of tilling between a deep mouldboard and a light discing. For turf grasses and perenial crops and trees ground disturbance is very disturbing. FOr crops grown as transplanted anuals(tomatoes for example) ground disturbance is somewhat neccesary to some extent to ensure contact with the new tomato roots and the soil.
I think the use of a green manure as a covercrop and then shredding/tilling it in to no more than 4-6" would provide maximum benefit to such crops. I can think of a concpet of minimal tillage that only diturbs planting rows while the spaces between remain undistubed allowing sensitive soil organisms refuge and a place to propogate from.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

There's an organic cotton farm in west Texas that uses no till method. The only water they get is the rainfall and every few months, they spray molasses at the rate of 2oz per 1000 oz. They beat conventional cotton farm when it comes to profits every year.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Green manure tilled in provides nitrogen but not so much organic matter when tilled in at say 6 to 10 inches high. When tilled in near maturity or later, it provided much more organic matter, but little nitrogen. Fairly shallow plowing or tilling provides more og in the upper level of soil which is desirable for most field crops and gardens.

The early green manuring done in Germany over a hundred years ago gave very good results, but it has been either diappointing or mediocure elsewhere because of N robbing temporary or just the extra hassle of sowing in all the extra residue. Deep rooted legumes and robust grasses plowed under after a 3 or 4 year ley have produced excellent results. However, most grain farmers might nit be able to afford row crops being out of the rotation that long.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

If this was a good idea, Mother Nature would have animals or insects doing it by the millions. She doesn't. She has no plowing animals either. She has hogs but not nearly as many as She has cattle, zebra, antelope, horses, goats, sheep, and other grazing or browsing animals.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

I learned about no till back in the 1970's and that was from a much older source. No till is not a relatively new practice and is not used mainly for erosion control. Your professor was not given enough information about no till to know enough to talk about it. Edward Faulkner's "Plowman's Folly" was published in 1943 and is often looked upon as the book about no till agriculture.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Mother nature also doesn't cultivate crops intensively enough to deplete organic matter and nutrients on a regular basis, in most places, however, dchall.. ;)


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 25, 08 at 10:36

"Never before has farming been so full of faddists making loud claims and crying simple cures."

"assesses them all with a skeptical eye."

My kinda guy!

Lloyd

Here is a link that might be useful: Sense about Soil - TIME


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Naturally Dr. Kellog is an apologist for big ag practices. Some of his comments are utter nonsense: who, I wonder, plants corn in "fields of Bermuda grass"? and where? south florida? Others are correct but not especially relevant to big ag abuses - sure, poverty stricken people can't afford to take good care of the land, but neither can big corporations apparently.

Most of it is completely meaningless. Right, sometimes plowing causes too much erosion but not always. A little erosion is ok - anybody with their eyes open can see that in practice.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

kimmsr mentioned Plowman's Folly. J. I. Rodale tried out that in the early '40s and found that Faulkner's book did not tell all the story in his 3 or 4 years of limited experiments. I would have posted J. I.'s report, but it is not available now on Small Farms Library. Sure, no-till has its benefits, but not everybody and every situation in this world fits the mold.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 25, 08 at 13:32

"Naturally Dr. Kellog is an apologist for big ag practices.

Sorry, I didn't get that from the article. I had not heard of this guy until today and I wouldn't know him if he came up and bit me in the leg. (which could be tough as he is dead). Just doing some quick googling on him and so far he seems to be quite well respected but there are hundreds of articles and I haven't read them all. I don't get the "naturally", is he like a past CEO of the John Deere company?

Lloyd


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

That article, writen by Dr. Charles Kellogg, was published in 1948 and has been shown to be no where near true since by his colleagues at the USDA. However, Faulkners ideas have been substantiated since given the large number of farms practicing no-till farming.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Mother nature also doesn't cultivate crops intensively enough to deplete organic matter and nutrients on a regular basis, in most places, however, dchall.. ;)

I disagree. There is intense natural crop growth in the rainforests, prairies, and just about everywhere where we have not moved in ourselves. The natural crops supported tens of millions of animals ranging in size from hamsters to dinosaurs. You are assuming that crop growth must deplete organic matter. The way it is done in nature does not deplete it. I am convinced that plowing depletes it.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

A hamster is huge compared to the typical animal living in soil.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 29, 08 at 0:13

"has been shown to be no where near true since by his colleagues at the USDA."

Got any links to support this? I'd like to read them.

Lloyd


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Just about everything that has been published since 1948 by the USDA, Soil Conservation Service, Natural Resources Consrvation Service, and all the Ag schools refutes what Dr. Kellogg wrote. I've not found much of anything that supports his theories.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Lloyd,

If you want some good reading check out the Ploughman's Folly by Edward H. Faulkner linked below.

Cheers,
Kyle

Here is a link that might be useful: Ploughman's Folly


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

For me to summarize Falkner's book is to say that green manure stirred into the top 3 inches of topsoil provided a better crop [usually] than deep plowing [it]into the soil. Faulkner had to disc/harrow a bit more than I like [thinking of compaction].

J. I. Rodale found that all the surface residue was almost impossible to plant into with machinery. Faulkner used little machinery in planting....more like a gardener than a farmer. The no-till farmers here are not green manuring nor cover cropping nor adding composts...so that is not exactly arriving either. It does help some against erosion...if you have green waterways which many do not have.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 29, 08 at 15:52

Thanks Kyle, I have read that book, very informative and thought provoking.

I find it curious that the Kellogg guy is dismissed out of hand by some on these forums. When I ask for links or explanations all I seem to get is further rhetoric. I am not defending him, I'm just wondering why a person who...

"wrote the first edition of the Soil Survey Manual in 1939, which was subsequently adopted by soil survey organizations throughout the world. Kellogg was a world authority in soil classification and its use. He advised international organizations and national research and agricultural agencies in this and other countries, helping to organize research and promote improved farming systems for efficient production, soil conservation, and high standards of rural living. While traveling to other countries to learn farming methods and to assist in agricultural development programs, Kellogg wrote field notes and took photographs of his soil surveys and of other experiences of the trips. At the time of his retirement in 1971, Kellogg was the Deputy Administrator of the Soil Conservation Service."

would have been so refuted by a department he was so clearly involved in while he was still in it. I'm just saying.....

As far as no till agriculture goes, some of the producers around here practise some limited till but if you ask them why, it always comes back to expenses, it is very expensive to till a field with the cost of equipment and fuel these days. And when the alfalfa fields are broken up for grain crops, they always use a discer.

Me thinks the "Never before has farming been so full of faddists making loud claims and crying simple cures." comment has never been truer.

Lloyd


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

I've been reading a lot about cover crops lately, since it's something I want to try in my own garden this year, and the description of planting a cover crop, knocking it down by either rolling or mowing, lightly tilling/chisel plowing, and then planting is what I have seen being recommended for people wanting to work sustainably. I usually till relatively lightly - to 3" max - anyhow, and I have found it quite beneficial to till in turf that way and let it rot a couple weeks before tilling very lightly and then planting in that.

OTOH, I have also read that the jury is out in terms of whether it is possible to get all the fertilizer and nutrients you need by just growing cover crops. The 3-4 year rotation is what I have read about too. I sure don't have enough land to do that.

What I am going to try is using a living mulch of legumes (white clover). It doesn't make a lot of biomass, but I might be able to follow it with something that does in the fall. I am going to try it and see, because to me it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to import fertilizer and biomass from off your land if you don't have to. I'm not going to have livestock at any point, so I need to find other solutions, and I think the cover crop/living mulch thing might be a big step in that direction. If anyone else tries it, I hope you will post about it.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

>Mother nature also doesn't cultivate crops intensively enough to deplete organic matter and nutrients on a regular basis, in most places, however, dchall.. ;)

I've observed that Ma Nature does a great job of gardening in an all-natural way. I can not argue with her methods, her yields are astounding and she is actually building soil as opposed to modern agricultural methods that is causing us to lose top soil at an alarming rate.

Should I ever desire a diet similar to that of the local moose or deer, then all my gardeing techniques will emulate her. But since she does such a piss-poor job at growing eggplants and tomatoes, I will use a method such as the Bio-Intensive or the French Intensive methods which includes tilling in such a way as to minimize the disturbance of the soil layers while also building our topsoil. As for the mycorrhiza, they're on their own.

Wayne


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Keep in mind that one's rise to the top of any organization may have nothing to do with a person's competance, and this is especially true in a government organization. If someone espouses and promotes the ideas and agenda of the departments policy makers, political appointees usually from the industry being regulated, you will rise to the top. Anyone who might think the problems you are hearing about with the FAA today are limited to the FAA is wrong.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

I dont think MN ever intended to feed 6.60 billion people on this earth. To maintain the current population we dont have the option to convert all farming to 100% organic/no till farming. Where do you see MN producing over 200 bu of corn per acre or several tons of tomatoes per acre? Its nice to set back and talk in idealistic terms but in many cases its just not praticable.


John


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 4, 08 at 12:46

Kimm, you crack me up. That is your explanation? Because the FAA has problems, this Kellogg guy must have been incompetent?

To use your "logic", how are we to be certain that the folks you claim have denounced this Kellogg guy, aren't the incompetent ones who have risen to the top by espousing others beliefs? What about all the other USDA claims you make and espouse on the forums, how do you know they aren't just some belief of a lackey who has risen to the top? ROTFLMAO

Though I have to admit, that because of some of your more ludicrous claims, I am learning more, having to look things up for myself rather than rely on your opinions.

Lloyd


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Then, Lloyd, I am doing what a good teacher does, making you do research so you can learn.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 6, 08 at 0:02

LOL

Well, you wouldn't be my example of a good teacher (never mind a "teacher") but what the heck, to each his own.

Lloyd


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

C'mon, let's disagree without being insulting. There's no one right way to do these things. I've found the people copntributing to this forum to be open minded and interested in growing food while doing right by their land. Approaches and opinions differ, we'll have to accept that.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Approaches and opinions differ, but dogmatic insistence spreads ignorance.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

  • Posted by lythir Bay Area, CA (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 28, 08 at 16:57

There is a lot of information about no-till out there. NewFarm has a lot of information on it, specifically. I have heard it used for farms large and small, and gardens too. (See Ruth Stout)

It's only my experience, but it seems to be working pretty well for me much of the time, but I don't have as much experience as others out there.

Here is a link that might be useful: No-Till information


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

eggandart49, you seem to be confusing "insulting" and "exposing". Kimmsr has shown (to me, at least) to be an egotist that is here to stroke an ego with posts that sound intelligent enough to earn praise whether there is logic or experience involved or not. Notice that when kimmsr was pressed to cite a source for outrageous claims, he/she still tried to turn it into an ego boost by claiming that made him/her a good teacher. I don't know about you, but I'm not here to stroke anyone's ego and I find it to be a disservice to fellow gardeners to stay quite when I know for a fact an individual is spouting more crap than an elephant with the runs. kimmsr plays the political game of trying to sound more rational than those he/she ticks off with false info and that, unfortunately, does make some naive people lean toward kimmsr as a credible source. The fact is, if people that come here are here for reasons other than helping or learning from other gardeners, then it pollutes the entire site as a resource and discredits gardenweb.com.

Lythir, thanks for that link. Good info.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Lloyd (friendly erosion)or(Another agricultural"cult"popular with city gardeners is "organic farming". Was this article written in the dark ages? Loyd this article was written for (dupe) people who don't study. Kellog is obviously a corporate quack! Anyone with knowlege in soil science would see Kellog's aticle for what it is (manure). I highly recommend malcolm beck's website to get some sort of insight on soil fertility. I hate to be blunt, but I fear people might mistake you for someone who has any uderstanding of what this gardenig forum is about!


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Missed this one...

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Thu, Nov 20, 08 at 16:54

"I hate to be blunt"

Personally I enjoy it, bluntness is underated.

"Was this article written in the dark ages?

From the arcticle; June 7, 1948. From Wikipedia; Dark ages, using my spidey senses, I would guess not.

"Kellog is obviously a corporate quack!"

Well he is actually dead but if you have any proof or evidence of this statement I would be happy to go through it.

"Anyone with knowlege in soil science"

"wrote the first edition of the Soil Survey Manual in 1939, which was subsequently adopted by soil survey organizations throughout the world. Kellogg was a world authority in soil classification and its use. He advised international organizations and national research and agricultural agencies in this and other countries, helping to organize research and promote improved farming systems for efficient production, soil conservation, and high standards of rural living. While traveling to other countries to learn farming methods and to assist in agricultural development programs, Kellogg wrote field notes and took photographs of his soil surveys and of other experiences of the trips. At the time of his retirement in 1971, Kellogg was the Deputy Administrator of the Soil Conservation Service."

Not my field, but seems to me, he might have known something about soil science.

"might mistake you for someone who has any uderstanding of what this gardenig (sic) forum is about"

Would it be for the discussion of organic gardening? (Organic gardening is most easily defined as a philosophy that stresses the use of naturally occurring substances and friendly predators and avoiding man-made chemical fertilizers and pesticides.)

Lloyd


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

I always advocate and have practiced no-till gardening for many, many years, BUT I don't recommend it unless you are starting on already fertile soil that has good organic matter content. Going to no-till over good soil will maintain the tilth and nutrient content, and then increase it some every year. It also balances pH. Starting a no-till garden on poor soil is a bad idea, because it will take many years to build up the soil.

Ron
The Garden Guy
http://www.thegardenguy.org


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Ron,
You may have a good point there. I suppose it would be difficult to get much depth of organic matter quickly from just no-till. The lasgana method is ok for rather small plantings that are micro managed, but hardly practicle for large gardens.

One reason Mother Nature does so well with her no till is that all material and waste is returned to the soil. This is very different from profitable gardening and farming that remove lots of nutrients each year. So while watching nature is instructive, it doesn't show us all about intensive crop growing.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Personally I found The Ploughman's Folly to be very interesting and made a good case for shallow tilling. I find 'no till' to be used to broadly. I think that the term 'no till' should be defined as just that 'no till' and that another term is needed for those who 'shallow till' as I and others here do. Through my own trials and errors I have found my best results to date which mimic the Folly.
In case some would argue that shallow tilling is not viable on a large scale such as farming, I have met a farmer who does apply shallow tilling on his farm. I met this gentleman at an energy fest here in Pa. He was a guest speaker and a darn good one at that, entertaining and knowledgeable. He was making the case for cover cropping and shallow tilling. His tiller of choice is a Rotovator. He had video of neighbors farm land showing heavy erosion caused by plowing and this years flooding. His land did not suffer from the rain. He has a well managed web site and is listed below. I would suggest downloading and reading Gary's Letters as a lot can be learned. Some of you may even be aware of the organization. Check it out. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Here is a link that might be useful: Midwestern Bio Ag


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

In my area most of the farming is done by large acreage farmers with often small returns per acre. This trend is widespread today. Yes, there are some organic niche farms but most farms don't have the time to plant cover crops and then properly incorporate them when thousands of acres are beckoning to be planted or harvested in a fairly short period of time.
This spring was another one of those years where the planters were idle for 3 weeks of May. 03 was another one.

I am not closing these comments with advice as I have none I guess.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

I've observed that Ma Nature does a great job of gardening in an all-natural way. I can not argue with her methods, her yields are astounding and she is actually building soil as opposed to modern agricultural methods that is causing us to lose top soil at an alarming rate. Should I ever desire a diet similar to that of the local moose or deer, then all my gardeing techniques will emulate her.

You don't have to eat like a moose. Let them eat the weeds and you eat the moose.

But since she does such a piss-poor job at growing eggplants and tomatoes, I will use a method such as the Bio-Intensive or the French Intensive methods which includes tilling in such a way as to minimize the disturbance of the soil layers while also building our topsoil.

Do moose eat tomatoes? Just kidding. I'm not sure what those methods are but we just dig a hole and plant the tomatoes in the ground. They seem to do okay. Sounds similar to what you do.

As for the mycorrhiza, they're on their own.

This gets back to the original issue. Developing huge colonies of mycorrhizae is what no-till is all about. When you pull up the plants and/or till, you destroy those colonies.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Here most farmers have went to minimum till with a few going no till. Especially on the irrigated corn and dry land wheat and milo. The advantages are either method conserves moisture. This year we had a severe drought. Most all of the dryland milo was cut on ground with the minimum or no till. I know irrigated farmers that used to moldboard every year who haven't in 5-6 years or more. When this started everyone said the yields would drop big time. Hasn't happened. Some are raising 250 bushel corn with minimum till. In my garden I gradually went minimum till with cover crops not this year very little turning of the ground. Basically the Ruth Stout method. i sent off soil samples today. Interested to see what they show. Jay


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As far as soil sample testing goes, tests tend to show mostly available levels of chemicals I believe. The more organic your practice they might not look as good as they will be during the growing season as nutrients are made available for the plant by the soil web processes.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

hooray: I would certainly prefer not to till if I didn't have to. That said I do bury green manures, with a garden fork not a roto-tiller. There is a perfectly sound no-till method, however. In the spring, you mow down the green stuff and leave it as a mulch. Then cut holes in the stubble for transplants. I suppose you would cut a drill with a spade or pointed hoe for sowing seeds. Regards, Peter.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Wayne (adirondackgardener) had an important comment. Mother nature, I prefer to say God's design, but lets us just say nature does a wonderful job. Let's think about that a little.
Nature really does do a fantastic job. Something grows just about everywhere. Now notice that part of that mix is that different things grow in different places. Each place has different soil, different slope, different weather, different life from microbes to large animals, and so different plants grow there... naturally.
So, there is no reason to think that one formula for green cover crop will work the same way in every place with every crop.
So, if we step back and look at what nature does in THAT spot, you can learn from that and determine what will work in cultivate practices.
I have a very sandy soil that is almost white in color to start with. I never till.
[unless I have bermuda grass (nope, I don't plant corn in bermuda grass for cryin' out loud). For bermuda I use a physical barrier like cardboard with mulch over that, and once it's down to almost nothing I pull by hand and hula hoe. But I digress from the topic]
So I never till. Because I never till I have magnificent soil horizons, the wonderful natural layers that develop in a richly fertile soil. O, A, B and C horizons are all textbook beautiful and have rich color. Plowing or disking or harrowing or any such tilling practice destroys those layers. Now of course you can still grow things in soil that has had its structure destroyed, but it often requires an ongoing practice of more tilling and use of herbicide and chemical fertilizer that are expensive and come with a price for the pocket book, taste of the food, and the environment.
but again I digress. I have these wonderful natural soil layers and my soil is wonderfully productive, sustainable, environmentally friendly, that grows great tasting, healthy food. wow.
the particulars of WHAT will grow ... not everything. I can't grow cherries. I've tried, ok? 128 degree days are kind of hard on cherries and 75 degree winters don't give them the chill they need. But those same temp's grow some wow-wonderful date palms with the best dates in the world. So I grow dates, not cherries because that is what nature allows here. And I don't till the soil.
so ... oh yea, green manure crops. Wasn't that the question? Well, I start new ground with a cover crop. once things get going I allow some cover to grow some of the time, but it's not a "manure" crop because I don't till it in. I use it as mulch on the surface. I let nature guide me, allowing native plants [I'm so sorry that you think they are weeds, they are not] and the sparse amount of rain we get does most if not all the watering for the green not-manure crop that I then use as mulch. Learn from what grows around you and work with it. Don't fight it with the brute force of constant tilling and chemicals. Encourage nature with a little cultivation.
Cultivate good life.
That can be taken so many good ways.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

I want to caution excessive enthusiasm for Nature's Way of Non-Farming. The closest analogy for us is recolonization of highly disturbed sites with weedy species of plants and opportunistic fauna and flora overall. Weedy species are successful because either high tolerance to poor soil conditions or high success in reproduction. Some weed seed can survive decades awaiting the right combination of light and moisture.

Food production is NOT a natural process. Even our seeds are human constructs requiring human assistance for successful grow outs. From my POV arguments over till, low-till or no-till are discussions around the same basic truth: agriculture requires disturbance.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Maybe I'm just excessively enthusiastic about natural agriculture. I completely agree that agriculture requires disturbance but I think food production is very natural. Nature does disturb the environment when She non-farms. When hooves press seed into the soil by walking slowly, stampeding away from predators, or just messing around, the soil gets disturbed. Those surface seeds germinate and grow into the next crop without being plowed. When dung beetles bury their eggs below the ground, the soil gets disturbed. Those holes collect rainwater that grow the plants and feed filtered water to rivers and aquifers. When you have a healthy population of grazing and browsing animals as well as the insects that support them, you have natural agriculture going on.

Nature doesn't have weeds.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

just read through this one---conclusion: we agree to disagree on the topic!


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Oxymoron: Natural Agriculture

Of course Nature doesn't have weeds. It doesn't have species either.

What is a definition?


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,My professor......

"Nature doesn't have weeds."

dchall...perhaps you can explain that one to me....see link.

Most of us don't necessarily have grazers though some do. Lands in hearty legumes and grasses do thrive with alternating food crops if given some other inputs.

One market grower in California uses wide unbordered beds and adds heavy mulches of grass clippings plus some decomposed residues and this works for him.

If one's crop was 4 acres of sweet corn, other measures would be necessary!!!! You couldn't just pull back the much and drop seeds into 4 acres likely.

Here is a link that might be useful: weeds


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Wayne_5, your link describes the meaning of my statement perfectly. I bookmarked it! Thanks.

There is a natural place for all plants. Just because we don't take advantage of each plant is not Nature's fault. We have a plant here we call butterfly weed. It happens to attract butterflies to some extent but it's ugly otherwise. The reason it is planted here is that it attracts aphids like no other plant in the garden. If you plant a butterfly weed and leave it alone, you will likely not have any aphids on your other plants for two reasons a) the aphids prefer the butterfly plant, and b) the high population of aphids will attract larger than average populations of praying mantis, ladybugs, and other aphid predators to your garden.

marshalz10 said:
Oxymoron: Natural Agriculture
Good point. What I am thinking of is just Nature doing what it does without interference. Agriculture is our attempt to do it better by concentrating animals and crops into small areas that we can control rather than letting them roam or grow over millions of acres. However we are learning that leaf cutter and other species of ants perform a farming function. They bring leaves into their mounds and allow various microbes to decompose the leaves. Then the ants eat the microbes. Is that farming?


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

Hunting and gathering and subsequent fermentation/fungal infection!

Many species of mobile and even mostly localized organisms take advantage of seasonal and/or dispersed food, sheltering, nesting/brooding resources. Instead Humans mine our environment for building shelter (housing), mapping and assaying resource, and food production through farming that is at the head of many economic activities to feed, cloth and entertain ever expanding populations.

Watch squirrels, woodpeckers and jays, among many species, that collect and store. For much of our prehistory, humans hunted and gathered in nomadic bands or perhaps settled in coastal locations of abundant marine or lacustrine resources.

For a long time, humans must have practiced horticulture by favoring some plants over others, preserving the desired and limited competition. They likely learned early the value of reseeding and techniques of asexual reproduction. Modern agriculture is only a couple of centuries old, grain-based agriculture maybe 100 centures. There is no turning back now to "nature agriculture." Mostly we have lost evidence of such cultures submerged under post-Ice age oceans. Fifteen to 20 thousand years ago sea levels were hundreds of feet lower than now.

Another matter...

The total biomass of plant and other macro-organisms that live at and above the surface is less than the total biomass of micro and macro organisms that establishing communities in the upper meter or more of the soil. As far as I'm concerned, the living overburden is in a predatory to symbiotic relationship to the larger subterranean biomass. The energy efficiency of the total system depends largely on photosynthesis of higher order plants but some photosynthesis does occur within the microbiotic component.

Of course, this is a water world and most its biomass is marine, including phytoplankton. We are land creatures for the most part and tend to forget our water world.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

That offers a lot to think about.


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RE: Talked to my professor about tilling and green manure

I will stay out of the debate ,when animals graze they also poop therfore improving soil in the end. I plant green manure crops along with winter greens then disk or tiller then in along with compost that includes rabbit and chicken manure leaves grass clipings cardboard paper and worms and any other things that happen in.Maybe not totally organic but natural as i can stay ,don't spray poisons ,if the bugs won't eat it neather would I.


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