Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 30 of 54

Thread: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

  1. #1
    Tom H
    Guest

    Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    It seems to me that everyones is saything that if you have a OM level of X% your soil will suddleny allow you to do things you havent before? It will be life changing.

    Well not wanting to upset anyone but i'm not sure... I have OM levels ranging from 4-9% on very heavy clay based soils mainly Denchworth and Fladbury series, the Fladbury is the trickyest with high Mg, it cracks like you have never seen before but as soon as it gets wet the cracks close and the soil will puddle up given any chance. It always has

    Nearly all my soil is in very good order, we haven't ploughed really since the 60's. I'm in a 12m CTF system so compaction isn't a problem. We dabble with DD on a rotation. We have also watched or OM levels rise through the years.

    I think what I'm trying to say is, comimg from someone who has good OM levels, more worms than you could ask for, it's is not a "silver bullet" We, generally for the soil types have good drainage but I have puddles of water at the moment like everyone else. I feel too much is maybe bigged up about soil OM?

    I have very heavy sticky clay soil, it is what it is and feel that OM hasn't and will not cure that?

  2. #2
    The ruminant
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Interesting observations Tom H. I suppose the first questions that spring to my mind are:
    What is your normal cultivation method?
    You say you dabble in d/d on a rotational basis, is this one year in 3, 4, 5, etc??
    How high is your water table?
    What condition are your drains in? (Edit: just re-read, you say you generally have good drainage)

    If there's water ponding, it's because it's not getting away. It's either not infiltrating your soils or it can infiltrate but it's got nowhere to go so stays where it is. I think you can mess up soil structure in spite of high OM levels - and yours sound excellent, for these soil types - which will reduce infiltration.

    Do a slake & infiltration test (link here) with a dried clod from a problem area and a similar dried clod from a margin / hedge bank / undisturbed area etc close by (and of the same soil type). See if there's any difference.

  3. #3
    Tom H
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Quote Originally Posted by The ruminant View Post
    Interesting observations Tom H. I suppose the first questions that spring to my mind are:
    What is your normal cultivation method?
    You say you dabble in d/d on a rotational basis, is this one year in 3, 4, 5, etc??
    How high is your water table?
    What condition are your drains in? (Edit: just re-read, you say you generally have good drainage)

    If there's water ponding, it's because it's not getting away. It's either not infiltrating your soils or it can infiltrate but it's got nowhere to go so stays where it is. I think you can mess up soil structure in spite of high OM levels - and yours sound excellent, for these soil types - which will reduce infiltration.


    Do a slake & infiltration test (link here) with a dried clod from a problem area and a similar dried clod from a margin / hedge bank / undisturbed area etc close by (and of the same soil type). See if there's any difference.
    Have done the infiltration test before and we are fine. The ponding to be fair is more water table based. We, on some land have been every other year with one pass seeding either a Horsch duett/solo or LD subsoil at 6 inches max

    Any cults are a disc tine tillage train. (6m) with the legs either doing nothing or at the depth needed.

    I just feel that this is nearly as good as it will get..... that's just my soil type. The Fladbury doesn't like anything too low disturbance or it just runs together.

  4. #4
    Clive
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Not sure soil OM is what you want, its humus that you want and OM is a means to that end I guess ??

    if you OM is high and not becoming humus maybe it's a problem rather than the cure ?

    dd is a bit pointless from what I have seen so far if you are doing it rotationaly other than to save operation cost in that year

    on our soil types here the higher the OM the easier they work and seem to structure but maybe this is just our soil type

  5. #5
    Tom H
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Humus is not an issue Clive, we have had varios bods over the years look and test it. I see your point, I have rotationly DD as when to suit the conditions or blackgrass (OSR) its getting it reliable. This is one soil that is deemed to be in good order. I'm not argueing that DD will not work, more that by ticking all the boxes its still not the silver bullet. you can maybe worry about it too much. Maybe I should look at it another way what would my soil be like with lower OM...shocking!

  6. #6
    Feldspar
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Very interesting post Tom. OK you say the land drains well at the moment but what was the historical trend as OM levels rose? Did workability / drainage / friability etc. track the OM increase?

    Equally do you notice that there are characteristics that vary in line with OM levels across your land as it currently stands?

    What I mean to say is, do you see any effects of varying OM levels or is your point just that it's not that big an effect?

  7. #7
    Clive
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom H View Post
    Maybe I should look at it another way what would my soil be like with lower OM...shocking!
    so maybe OM is the silver bullet ?

  8. #8
    Willscale
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Yes strictly speaking I agree. For example peat can be very high OM and acidic but just because it is high OM doesn't mean its ideal crop medium, its clearly not without other additions.

    A soil with a higher OM would need different external amendments to a soil with low OM obviously. I often say if you point yourself in the direction of building soil OM then its a good rule to follow, and simply put I still think it is because generally the things that contribute to building OM generally favour other factors. Soil Health is a better way to look at it though really, same as plant health, human health, financial health, animal health etc.


    But who told you it would be life changing, that you'll be able to do things you hadn't done before and that it was the silver bullet? Are you sure you've heard people say this?

  9. #9
    Willscale
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Thinking about it some more - how long has it been in arable with no livestock?

  10. #10
    Fran Loake
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom H View Post
    It seems to me that everyones is saything that if you have a OM level of X% your soil will suddleny allow you to do things you havent before? It will be life changing.

    Well not wanting to upset anyone but i'm not sure... I have OM levels ranging from 4-9% on very heavy clay based soils mainly Denchworth and Fladbury series, the Fladbury is the trickyest with high Mg, it cracks like you have never seen before but as soon as it gets wet the cracks close and the soil will puddle up given any chance. It always has

    Nearly all my soil is in very good order, we haven't ploughed really since the 60's. I'm in a 12m CTF system so compaction isn't a problem. We dabble with DD on a rotation. We have also watched or OM levels rise through the years.

    I think what I'm trying to say is, comimg from someone who has good OM levels, more worms than you could ask for, it's is not a "silver bullet" We, generally for the soil types have good drainage but I have puddles of water at the moment like everyone else. I feel too much is maybe bigged up about soil OM?

    I have very heavy sticky clay soil, it is what it is and feel that OM hasn't and will not cure that?
    That's an interesting post. Hopefully similar to one that I will be able to post in a few years time...

    I don't recall ever receiving a figure for organic matter content in any soil samples I've had analysed. Have you received that data from a kinsey lab equivalent?

    Fran

  11. #11
    Tom H
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Quote Originally Posted by Feldspar View Post
    Very interesting post Tom. OK you say the land drains well at the moment but what was the historical trend as OM levels rose? Did workability / drainage / friability etc. track the OM increase?

    Equally do you notice that there are characteristics that vary in line with OM levels across your land as it currently stands?

    What I mean to say is, do you see any effects of varying OM levels or is your point just that it's not that big an effect?
    I'm only a youth so I couldn't really say, as my father has been very much on the money with OM and soil health before me but the land doesn't seem to him or myself be changing in much of a way with higher OM.

  12. #12
    Tom H
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Quote Originally Posted by Clive View Post
    so maybe OM is the silver bullet ?

    Maybe! but It wasn't much worse years ago.

  13. #13
    Tom H
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Quote Originally Posted by Willscale View Post
    Yes strictly speaking I agree. For example peat can be very high OM and acidic but just because it is high OM doesn't mean its ideal crop medium, its clearly not without other additions.

    A soil with a higher OM would need different external amendments to a soil with low OM obviously. I often say if you point yourself in the direction of building soil OM then its a good rule to follow, and simply put I still think it is because generally the things that contribute to building OM generally favour other factors. Soil Health is a better way to look at it though really, same as plant health, human health, financial health, animal health etc.


    But who told you it would be life changing, that you'll be able to do things you hadn't done before and that it was the silver bullet? Are you sure you've heard people say this?
    You are right Will and I will not stop trying to improve my soils just because I feel like this. I know its right to have more in the soil, it seems obvious.

    I have heard alot of people say it as have you I'm sure I have been back full time for 12 years from the age of 16 I have been to meeting after meeting about soil health etc and the one thing you allways take away from them is you need a good level of OM in your soil for it to be happy,and to gain its full potential yes you need alot more than OM but this then will allow you to open the door to more workable soil, better moisture control, increased soil repair and traffiability. Its been ramed down my throat for years!

    When you read about it and go to meetings its made out that it is a silver bullet and I'm sorry it isn't on my soil type? Am I doing something wrong?

  14. #14
    Tom H
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Quote Originally Posted by Willscale View Post
    Thinking about it some more - how long has it been in arable with no livestock?

    Mixture depending on the farm. The home farm would of had a grass in thr rotation up to the 80's I will have to check. some contract farms would of had some for of livestock only 7 years ago.

  15. #15
    Tom H
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fran Loake View Post
    That's an interesting post. Hopefully similar to one that I will be able to post in a few years time...

    I don't recall ever receiving a figure for organic matter content in any soil samples I've had analysed. Have you received that data from a kinsey lab equivalent?

    Fran

    Fran we have been doing them on every field every 4-5 years, when we do our normal N:P:K tests, its just another thing we pay for.

  16. #16
    fred
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    I think we are getting mixed up here , high organic matter won't cause ponding , , poor structure causes ponding.

    I cant see what the problem is ,is it effecting your yields , every farm is wet and at field capacity, so likely to see wet spots , poor drains , compaction etc,

    If yields are poor it could be a nutrient imbalance , locking up one or more elements, a local pig farmer had this problem and was short of K even though he was on K releasing clays.

  17. #17
    Mayo
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    I am not sure you guys are right to make humus the panacea you claim it is.

    If that was true, those on peat soils would never have any problems, given they can routinely have more than 20 prevent om.

    Only they don't. Humic acids lockup various nutrients and cause terrible problems. This is well documented.

    The reason direct drilling seems to be a magic bullet is that the soil naturally structures over time and is left undisturbed.

    But this can soon be blown out of the water by very heavy rainfall and heavy traffic. Organic matter is soft. It has high density for its weight. It can be squeezed. It retains anions happily. It contains air spaces. This is why organic matter and humus, it's ultimate product, seems to be good.

    But it's not immune to oxidisation or compaction. How can it be?

  18. #18
    yellow belly
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    more OM would help with all heavy clay based soils

    i have fields with the same basic soil but much higher OM content (ploughed out of long term grass (80 plus years ) in the last 20 years

    they are easier to work but stand water just as much as fields next door which have been long term cropped ploughed up 1940s

    this year it has just rained too often for heavy land arable operation
    it needs a week to dry out after heavy rain the fields with rescent long term grass may be dryer but only by half a day

    with hind sight we should have been drilling wheat in early september straight behind the combine

    i beleive the big problem on much heavy land is that the dryer years up to march 2012 did not allow moledraining to be done properly
    then the constant rain in 2012 has caused the old moles to disintegrate also the worms have been forced to stay near the top for so long due to the constant wet

  19. #19
    Tom H
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Quote Originally Posted by fred View Post
    I think we are getting mixed up here , high organic matter won't cause ponding , , poor structure causes ponding.

    I cant see what the problem is ,is it effecting your yields , every farm is wet and at field capacity, so likely to see wet spots , poor drains , compaction etc,

    If yields are poor it could be a nutrient imbalance , locking up one or more elements, a local pig farmer had this problem and was short of K even though he was on K releasing clays.
    Wrong end of the stick Fred I'm not say that it's causing ponding or drop in yields, not at all, nor am I going just by this season. My yields, wheat wise anyway are stagnant like everyone else's. I'm very happy with my structure it's in good nick, maybe organic matter is the main driver for this, generally I would say we don't have a imbalance ( I do have a block of fields that may, but that secondary)
    I don't feel better off having it.

  20. #20
    fred
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    I re read you post and see what you are getting at, probably not happy but surely you would rather have the om than not , and how do you know that it isnt having a positive effect,

  21. #21
    lordbonville
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    I get what you're saying.

    You have many of the things we all believe will make us immune to the issues of modern arable farming and weather patterns, i.e. structure, rotational DD, reduced tillage all the time and good humous/OM levels.

    Despite all this, you still have problems similar to everyone else.

    Can I pick up on your comments about high Mg clays? I have similar soils without pH problems, some low lying and some quite well drained (in a normal year).
    My silver bullet of choice this year is correcting the Mg levels with calcium, whether in the form of gypsum or some calcium based lime product. Have you done similar and if so, has it helped?
    I am also trying to reduce ploughing in the rotation, although the plough does help with removing summer traffic compaction from bale and muck operations which inevitably cause rutting in a wet summer. Any fields that were too wet at harvest still have water in the tracks and will do till next summer:cry:

    The other issue I am becoming aware of is that some drains are not working. We have repaired quite a few main drains in the last week or two that are probably responsible for some of the ponding.

    Our biggest mistake this autumn was to try and press on when we shouldn't have done. This resulted in obvious soil damage and will treat me to an expensive lesson in patience. We have fields that were worked and drilled that are now a wet sponge with nothing growing; and other fields where we waited till it dried a little which are growing something resembling a crop.

  22. #22
    JD_Kid
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Thinking about it some more - how long has it been in arable with no livestock?


    i don't buy in to that at all and i'm a livestock farmer

    the Mg in soils will be leading to ponding look at lowering that

    as for OM being the silver bullet ummmmm i'd say it's one bullet in the box along with plows , subsoilers , DD's , sprayers , longer and diffrent rotations , i'd add live stock if thats the main source of income if cropping they do more dammage than good

  23. #23
    doorknob
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom H View Post
    It seems to me that everyones is saything that if you have a OM level of X% your soil will suddleny allow you to do things you havent before? It will be life changing.

    Well not wanting to upset anyone but i'm not sure... I have OM levels ranging from 4-9% on very heavy clay based soils mainly Denchworth and Fladbury series, the Fladbury is the trickyest with high Mg, it cracks like you have never seen before but as soon as it gets wet the cracks close and the soil will puddle up given any chance. It always has

    Nearly all my soil is in very good order, we haven't ploughed really since the 60's. I'm in a 12m CTF system so compaction isn't a problem. We dabble with DD on a rotation. We have also watched or OM levels rise through the years.

    I think what I'm trying to say is, comimg from someone who has good OM levels, more worms than you could ask for, it's is not a "silver bullet" We, generally for the soil types have good drainage but I have puddles of water at the moment like everyone else. I feel too much is maybe bigged up about soil OM?

    I have very heavy sticky clay soil, it is what it is and feel that OM hasn't and will not cure that?
    From my interpretation of your observation, you are right, OM is no silver bullet. High/higher OM does not solve everything as it seems many would have us believe. Again, if I understand correctly, you are simply stating that perhaps there is far too much emphasis placed on soil OM, and far too much media coverage of it as the cure to all that ales the world without taking into consideration any of the other needs for healthy soils. ?

  24. #24
    Willscale
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Quote Originally Posted by JD_Kid View Post
    Thinking about it some more - how long has it been in arable with no livestock?


    i don't buy in to that at all and i'm a livestock farmer

    the Mg in soils will be leading to ponding look at lowering that

    as for OM being the silver bullet ummmmm i'd say it's one bullet in the box along with plows , subsoilers , DD's , sprayers , longer and diffrent rotations , i'd add live stock if thats the main source of income if cropping they do more dammage than good
    What don't you buy into? I just asked a question.

    That said I do think constant arable and monocropping does develop a bit of sterility for a soil which always benefits from variety. In space and time. A perennial root mass for 3 years vs three years of cultivated and oxidised cereals and rape roots?

  25. #25
    Krampeman
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Quote Originally Posted by fred View Post
    I think we are getting mixed up here , high organic matter won't cause ponding , , poor structure causes ponding.

    I cant see what the problem is ,is it effecting your yields , every farm is wet and at field capacity, so likely to see wet spots , poor drains , compaction etc,

    If yields are poor it could be a nutrient imbalance , locking up one or more elements, a local pig farmer had this problem and was short of K even though he was on K releasing clays.
    In 2012 soil structure has nothing to do with ponding. It's the volume of water that's fallen from the sky which has lifted the water table causing ponding. I don't care how good you think your soils are, if the water table rises it will flood, simple as that no matter what crop establishment system you use.

    I think what Tom is hinting at is that there is no one solution and you need to do what's required to grow a crop, which at the moment is worth close to 250/t (g1 wheat). We are all growing the same yields as we were 20 yrs ago using the same systems whether that be ploughing, min till or direct drilling. You can't change the soil structure in 100 yrs let alone 20 yrs so all we can do is feed the growing crop as best as we can.

    Establishment systems offer savings in establishment and nothing else. Yes using a power harrow does not help soil structure but it still returns average yields year on year, same as min till and dd.

  26. #26
    Clive
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    you can change soil structure in 30 seconds never mind 100 years

    unfortunately the change that takes seconds is not a good one !


    I have seen our soils change here over the last 15 years since I have been involved with the farm and we have been min tilling so I think relative short term change is possible however as Tom suggests that won't suddenly mean massive yields and easy working

    under mintill i think we have been disturbing far to much to see any change of structure improvements though, is mintill with heavy cultivation really that much better than a plough in this respect as both are pretty destructive of any natural structure

  27. #27
    Kentish_Andy
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Quote Originally Posted by Krampeman View Post
    You can't change the soil structure in 100 yrs let alone 20 yrs so all we can do is feed the growing crop as best as we can.
    .
    Er, did you really mean to say that? Simply not true

  28. #28
    The ruminant
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kentish_Andy View Post
    Er, did you really mean to say that? Simply not true
    I remember Lee stating this as fact - and being picked up on it - in the past. The prime example, for me, is the American prairies. In 30 or 40 years they went from being incredibly deep, incredibly rich and incredibly fertile to dust, much of which blew into the sea or across neighbouring states. Man and his plough irreversibly changed the structure of these soils in a very short space of time. Unfortunately, as already pointed out, the negative changes take seconds, the positive improvements take a lifetime.

  29. #29
    Krampeman
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kentish_Andy View Post
    Er, did you really mean to say that? Simply not true
    Yes meant every word. Go and take a soil sample out of a woodland area, then walk out into an adjacent field and take a sample. The difference is incredible with the wooded area being much better structure wise, quality wise etc.

    It will takes many many years to put the soil in the field back to how it is in the wood. I used '100' years flippantly just meaning you can't do it quickly and during the time it will take I would of thought you will need to turn a profit, so you have to make the change with a business head on, not a soil lovers head.

  30. #30
    shakerator
    Guest

    Re: Soil OM is maybe not the silver bullet?

    must be simply water supply v demand?

    i.e. ploughing can reduce supply by effectively 50-75mm

    min till by half this?

    no till relying on growing extra biomass to remove the water (more efficiently through root scavenging than steel?)

    cereals dont use enough water in an average year, like most annual crops (on heavy land)?

    only perenial crops are going to remove enough excess moisture to make the tillage unneccessary?

    but cant afford grass!

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •