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Wisconsin bankers' farm bulletin
(1913-1919)

Weir, W. W.
Wisconsin bankers' farm bulletin. Bulletin no. 21: feeding the soil PDF (1.1 MB)



                     Feeding the Soil
    How Do Some Soils Become Exhausted? There are three ways in which a
soil may become "exhausted", viz.: (a) by removal of organic matter,
(b) by
the removal of plant-food elements, and (c) by -the loss of lime. On some
soils like peat, for example, the removal of potassium or phosphorus alone
through one or two croppings makes it unproductive. On most long-cropped
upland soils the low yields is the result of a combination of two or all
of the
above causes.
    Some of the early 50-bushel wheat lands are now 15-bushel oat lands.
Such soils cannot be renovated in a season by the mere addition of manure,
or a little phosphate. These soils work hard; they are lighter in color than
they used to be, they bake, and clover fails to grow well on them any longer.
Such soils need a tonic, they need "hospital" care; they need more
or less
feeding.
    How May Soils Be Improved? There are several ways in which the pro-
ducing power of soils may be increased; viz., by adding organic matter and
lime, by increasing the supply of plant-food elements, by improving the water
supply and tilth. This Is not a fixed improvement formula for every kind
of soil but it points out methods of attack. A wet marsh, needs no addition
of
organic matter, for that would be carrying coals to Newcastle. A poor sand
on
the other hand, always has good tilth, and good tilth in this case is not
an
indication of fertility.
    A long-cropped clay loam or a silt loam soil usually requires attention
in
every particular. What makes it lighter colored than it was twenty years
ago?
The humus has been largely used up. Why does it work harder and bake?
Here again the lack of humus, or organic matter is largely responsible. If
the soil is acid and refuses to grow good red clover, it doesn't contain
enough
lime. If the crop dries up during a short dry period, the water supply is
at
fault. If the crop is short and the yield is low, when other conditions are
favorable, starvation is the cause,-the soil hasn't sufficient available
nitrogen,
phosphorus and potassium.
     What Should be the First Considera-
 tion In Soil Improvement? The efforts
 in soil improvement and in maintaining
           - .                             135~-Ace fr
fertility in uplanU bUull 0-
around the addition and maintenance of
active organic matter; for increasing the
organic matter increases the amount of
humus; improves the tilth thereby mak-
ing it work up easier; it increases the
water-holding capacity, and makes avail-
able or soluble, plant-food elements that
have been locked up.
    If the soil is acid, liming should be
the first step. Lime, like oil to a mach-
ine, makes the wheels of fertility operate
better. Especially is this true when red
clover ih to be raised for the humus-pro-
ducing and nitrogen-gathering crop. Any
form of lime that Is finely divided and
gives the most carbonate of lime for tue  ROOTS PRODUCING HUMLUS IN A
money may be used. Two tons per acre                     SOIL.
is a fair average application. Apply on
plowed land in the fall, during winter  A productive upland soil to well
sup-
or in the spring. Mix thoroughly with  plied with organic matter and humus.
the soil before planting or seeding.
    Is Lime Alone Sufficient in Soll Improvement? Don't expect lime to do
everything. It won't, and can't. It simply paves the way for the clover,
or


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