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Posts Tagged With: soil

What Happens in ALOT

Gets published on the Internet! ¬†Sorry guys! ¬†Usually the happenings at the meetings of this hand-picked, higher education class are for the privileged members only, but when you invite a blogger to talk about blogging, well, you have now become public information! ūüôā

ALOT¬†(pronounced with a long A, not like the phrase “a lot.”) stands for Agricultural Leaders of Tomorrow, and is a two-year class designed to introduce members to a wide variety of ag related topics, businesses, and ideas. ¬†Brian was selected for this latest class and has been across the state visiting an amazing variety of people and places, listening and learning about more topics than I ever dreamed our state could boast.

The group has met Presidents, CEOs, and leaders of some really amazing organizations, so I didn’t know if I should be honored or intimated when the coordinator of the program called Brian and wanted the group to visit Marshall Farms!

ALOT group visits Marshall Farms

The 25 members of the group visited Marshall Farms, providing some incentive to finish multiple projects on this shed!

Brian gave a talking-tour of the farm (since it was 27 degrees when we startedРwhat happened to spring?!), sharing lots of information about the technology we use.  Being in the shed meant we could get a good look at the sprayer and planter.

ALOT visits Marshall Farms

Since members hail from across the state Brian shared practices used in our area to deal with our specific soil and land types.

Then Dennis, Brian’s dad and “Grandpa” here on the blog, went into some detail about the soil conservation practices we follow. ¬†Dennis has been an early adaptor of conservation for the last 35 years he has been in business as a farmer and he is still trying new ideas. ¬†The most recent practice has been the addition of cover crops (read about that here), including some brand new cover crop mixtures we’ve just tried for the first time.

ALOT class visits Marshall Farms

If you’ve ever wondered what a farm “nerd” sounds like you should have heard the conversation between Dennis and the class as they discussed the chemical make-up of soil-LOL!

Then those poor class members had to listen to me tell about my experiences blogging and how I try to share agriculture with those interested in where their food comes from.

ALOT visits Marshall Farms

Trivia, I’ve been blogging at Daddy’s Tractor for two years, but before that I blogged at myfamilyfarm.blogspot.com.

The best part was the box of chocolates ALOT gives to each of their presenters. ¬†So as far as I’m concerned ALOT is welcomed back anytime! ¬†As long as you’re okay with being published on the Internet that is!!

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Categories: Technology | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

More to Fall than Harvest

Fall¬†is, of course, one of the busiest seasons on the farm.¬† But harvesting crops isn’t the only thing that keeps us busy as the temperatures drop.¬† Fall is also the time to prepare the fields for spring planting; tillage work, repairing terraces, and especially¬†building up the nutrients in the fields.

There's more to fall than harvest!  {DaddysTractor.com}

Plants naturally¬†soak up¬†the nutrients in the soil to help them grow, leaving fewer nutrients for next year’s crops.¬† Throughout history farmers have dealt with this in various ways.¬† The Egyptians had the Nile, which over flowed its banks, leaving new silt to plant in each season.¬† In the Bible farmers were given instruction to let the field sit empty once every seven years.¬† Today’s farmers have the resources and knowledge to replace nutrients like you see in the pictures¬†here.

There's more to fall than harvest!  {DaddysTractor.com}

This is Daddy, unloading lime with his dump truck.¬† Lime changes the pH of the soil, helping the plants maximize the fertilizer.¬† Not only does this create good crops, it also important for sustainability.¬† That’s a buzz word we hear a lot, but around here it means we improve the land so someday it will provide for our son’s family, and his son’s too.

There's more to fall than harvest!  {DaddysTractor.com}

After Daddy made his lime pile the local Co-op came out with a team to spread the lime across the fields.  First they brought out this small loader which was used to pick up the lime from the pile and dump it into the compartment on this conveyor belt.

There's more to fall than harvest!  {DaddysTractor.com}

Then the belt picks up the lime and dumps it into the bed of the spreader truck.

There's more to fall than harvest!  {DaddysTractor.com}

When the truck is full it heads to the field to spread the lime from a spinner at the back.

There's more to fall than harvest!  {DaddysTractor.com}

The lime is soft, like powder, and floats behind the truck.

There's more to fall than harvest!  {DaddysTractor.com}

Just one of the jobs keeping us busy this fall!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Farming Ugly! Farmers Taking Care of the Land

Farmers used to hitch up the horses and plow the ground for planting each spring.  Ground that had laid dormant all winter was turned over for that fresh-earth smell and dark brown fields that set off the bright green of new leaves and azure spring sky.  Its such a pretty picture!  This is the field in front of our house.  Not so pretty.  In fact, you could say that this is farming ugly!

Farm Ugly! How farmers are taking care of the land. {DaddysTractor.com}

“Farming ugly” is a phrase coined 25-30 years ago when agriculturalists discovered¬†no-till farming.¬† Instead of¬†breaking up the ground¬†into pretty fields farmers learned to¬†plant into the ground just as they had left it in the fall.¬† Corn is planted into bean stubble, beans are planted through¬†corn stalks.¬† This prevents soil erosion.

Farm Ugly!  How farmers are taking care of the land.  {DaddysTractor.com}

Here you see what might be confused for wheat or grass; its actually rye.¬† We planted rye on several fields this year to act as a cover crop.¬† Some homeowners might plant grass seed each fall to prevent weeds from growing in the empty spaces on their lawn.¬† This is the same idea.¬† Weeds can’t grow where the rye is and the roots hold the soil in place until the soybeans grow big enough to do that job themselves.¬† When its time to plant the tractor and drill just run right over the rye, smashing it and allowing the dead plants to decompose into rich top soil farmers prize.

Farm Ugly! How farmers are taking care of the land. {DaddysTractor.com}

The great thing about rye is it also has a natural toxicity that kills some new weeds that might like to find a home in our fields.  The bad thing is, this is really farming ugly!

Farm Ugly!  How farmers are taking care of the land.  {DaddysTractor.com}

 
These are the marks from the drill. The seeds are dropped in these trenches.

A few days ago I was perusing the Internet when I came across¬†a controversial food¬†article.¬†¬†Many of the¬†comments left to the writer were furious; not at the¬†author, not at the blog, but at farmers!¬† One in particular struck me because “Kevin” stated emphatically that big farmers don’t take care of the soil.¬† It made me wonder– did Kevin know a lot of¬†large-scale farmers?¬†¬† Did he watch them purposefully destroy the earth from his front porch or was he generalizing “Big” as “bad” with nothing but a “feeling” and some YouTube videos?

I bet you’d be surprised at how many BIG farmers really do care about the land.

After all, it belongs to us!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Farmers Taking Care of the Land

It’s true.¬† Farmers haven’t always done the best job taking care of the land.¬† Generally not on purpose, but because we didn’t always know what was the best way.¬† But we have learned SO MUCH in the last hundred, fifty, and even five years.¬† Modern farmers are getting better and better at taking care of the land everyday!

Farmers taking care of the land {daddystractor.com}

Terraces have been a big part of taking care of the land on our farm.  Here in northern Missouri the hills can be quite rolling, thunderstorms can be very severe, and ditches, gullies, and streams abound!  Terraces are rows of dirt made around the shape of a hill that stop the soil from being washed away.  In the above photo you can see the terrace lines through the snow.  They are made with a bulldozer, which carefully pushed the dirt into a pattern designed just for that field. It costs a lot to build new terraces, but they should last more than 20 years, making them a good investment for our future.

Farmers taking care of the land {daddystractor.com}

When the bulldozer is gone, however, the field is sometimes left in poor shape.¬† The heavy equipment crushes the dirt and leaves deep tracks.¬† Seeds can’t grow well¬†in the hard, uneven dirt, so something has to be done.¬† That’s when Daddy (and Anna!)¬†pull out this¬†strange contraption.¬† Its a field cultivator.¬† The¬†arrow shaped¬†pieces of metal in the front stir up the soil and the spikes in the back smooth it out, ready¬†for tiny seeds!

Farmers taking care of the land {daddystractor.com}

I took these pictures, however, because this is a sight you won’t see often on our farm.¬† A field cultivator leaves the soil nice and smooth, but it also leaves it loose and ready to wash away in the next thunderstorm.¬† Once the seeds begin to grow their roots will help hold the dirt in place, preventing washouts, but for a few months this ground is vulnerable.¬† We only use the field cultivator when it is truly necessary and then we only use it exactly where we need it.

Farmers taking care of the land {daddystractor.com}

Here you can see the tractor driving on the top of the dirt mound with the cultivator repairing the ground on both sides.  You can also see that Daddy and Anna are driving only on the terraces, not the whole field.

Spring (should it ever bother to arrive) is a time for lots of dirt work.¬† Follow us here on Daddy’s Tractor to see more of what farmers are learning about taking care of the land!

Categories: Science, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Super Simple Soil Experiment

If you didn’t see them last week, scroll down to Law of Supply and Demand Lesson Plan and check out the tires on the tractor, cart, and combine.

What do you think?  Pretty big, huh.  Well, today you will learn why farm equipment needs to have such large tires!

To begin, let’s try a super simple soil experiment.¬† You will need three things.

1.) Either some soil or sand

2.) Your finger

3.) Your hand

Like I said, super simple soil experiment.¬† Let’s start with the soil or sand.¬† All you need is a pile.¬† It can be in a pot, in the bag you bought it in, or in the sandbox, but you need a pile, not¬†just the ground in your backyard.

Soil Science experiment

Next you need your finger.  Got it?  Good.  Poke your finger down into the soil.

soil experiment

Did your finger go down into the soil?  Unless your dirt is really a rock, your finger likely went in all the way.  Now, spread your fingers wide and place your whole hand on the soil.  Push down again.

soil experiment

Unless your soil is more like oozy mud, your hand probably made little more than a print.¬† Compare the two “holes” you made.¬† Do they look like mine?

soil experiment

Your finger made a much deeper hole, didn’t it.¬† And this hole was not made by taking soil out of the pile, but by pushing it in.¬† Soil being pushed down is called “compaction.”¬† Compacted soil is hard.¬† It has little room for air, water, or roots to grow.¬† Compaction is bad!

Unfortunately, compaction is also a reality.  Farmers must drive tractors, combines, sprayers, and other equipment over the ground.  So they have to do something about it.  Historically farmers have solved this problem by plowing their fields.  Horses pulled the first steel plows through the ground hundreds of years ago.  The metal knife cut into the ground, breaking the soil into pieces.  This helped with compaction, but can you guess what it hurt?  Erosion.  When the dark brown dirt was turned over and the seed bed was smooth even a small rain could wash away the soil into ditches, streams, and rivers.  Big rains could wash away entire portions of a field.

So today many farmers use a method called “no-till”.¬† Instead of plowing the ground farmers plant seeds into dirt that was left just as it was after last year’s crop was harvested.¬† Roots from the old plant hold the soil together, preventing erosion, BUT the soil was again compacted.

Engineers, Scientists, and others worked with equipment companies like Case IH and John Deere to make new tires that would cause less compaction.  They used the same idea you just did with your finger and hand.  Old tractor tires were small and thin, sort of like your finger.  New tractor tires are wide and gigantic, sort of like your open hand!  New tires were made of rubber, instead of steel and farmers often let some air out of the tires to make them squash even more, the way a balloon will squeeze flat when it is almost out of air.  Some tractors and combines even run on tracks, like a bulldozer, which lessens compaction even more.

Farmers care about the earth and the soil on it because they understand how important healthy soil is to happy eating!  And who knows?  Maybe one day you will become a scientist and help create new technologies that will allow farmers to take even better care of our world!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Dig Dirt Soil Lesson

Not all dirt is created equal.  Soil contains sand, clay, air, and organic matter.  The amounts of each of these, however, is different in all kinds of dirt.  Great dirt has lots of air and organic matter; poor soil is full of sand or clay.  Most dirt is somewhere in the middle.

soil lesson

It is possible to tell a lot from the appearance of the dirt.  The closer to black your dirt is the more likely it is to be rich, nutritious soil!

For this soil lesson try investigating the dirt where you live.  Using a small trowel, dig a bit of dirt from your yard.  Get it from under a decorative stone or piece of furniture to avoid making holes in the lawn.  Place the sample in a plastic baggie.  Then look for other places to take a soil sample.  Ask a friend or neighbor, visit a park, maybe even call a family member in another state and ask them to mail you a baggie of dirt!

When you have several samples compare and contrast your soils.  Squeeze a pinch between your fingers.  Does it stick together?  Sticky soil is full of clay.  Does is fall apart?  Maybe it has a lot of sand.  What colors do you see?  Is it light, fluffy dirt like potting soil, or hard as a brick?  Make some notes in your science journal or create a diagram to show the results.

And here’s an interesting soil¬†idea.¬† Instead of collecting refrigerator magnets or post cards on your travels, pick up a bit of soil from your next vacation site!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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