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Soil tests - by the seasons.

An interesting aspect of "Fertility Pastures and Cover Crops" (1955), paperback, 202 pages, by Newman Turner (available for $22.00 postpaid from Rateavers, 9049 Covina St., San Diego, CA 92126) is a test he conducted by doing soil tests each month for a year in three types of fields. In the first, only organic fertilizer (such as manure) was used, in the second both organic and commercial fertilizers were used and in the third only commercial fertilizers were used. Some test results were:

 Total Average Average
 Nitrogen Phosphate Potash
Organic only:
 January 500 10 6
 June 580 81 44
 July 500 38 26
 November 450 27 8

 January 210 6 4
 June 330 50 20
 July 400 42 28
 November 240 20 11

Commercial only:
 January 150 11 4
 June 200 26 10
 July 240 26 14
 November 170 13 9

(Humus levels in these fields averaged eight percent, seven percent and six percent, respectively.)

From this he drew several conclusions:

- All fields were low in available phosphate and potash during winter;

- There is a tendency for the figures to rise steadily as the season advances, to a peak in June and July, subsequently falling;

- The peak is highest in those fields which have a high organic matter and total nitrogen content;

- The drop is greatest under arable crops, which make a quick demand, and least under pastures, which have steady growth and at the same time are continually grazed off; and

- The release of plant nutrients to other factors bears little, if any, relationship to fertilizer application, except the smallest release of these important plant nutrients occurs on those fields which have regular fertilizer treatment and no livestock present (to deposit their manure and urine).

His overall conclusions were: 1.) soil tests in late winter, when typically done, bear little relationship to actual soil conditions during mid-year, and 2.) the rises were due to the release of bound minerals by the action of soil bacteria and/or fungi and these are most active where the content of organic material is high and are not deterred by applications of commercial fertilizers.

Since soil tests are expensive, perhaps the biggest lesson here is that samples should be taken about the first of July the previous year.
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Author:Scharabok, Ken
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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