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Showing posts from March, 2022

Why you should test your compost

As fertilizer and manure prices rise and supply chain shortages persist, you may find yourself buying compost or manure from a different source than usual this year. Or, perhaps you’re relying more heavily on compost or manure than you would have in the past if your go-to amendments are less available or more expensive. Typically we don’t talk about compost as a nutrient source, but rather as a soil conditioner. This may be a flawed assumption. In December of this year, I was putting together some conference materials related to compost use, and decided to sample six different local sources of compost out of curiosity. The results are listed in the table below. Compost* was labeled simply as “compost” but in reality contained poultry manure. EC = electrical conductivity (salts) Here are some takeaways from my quick study: Labels are confusing, and sometimes misleading One of the places I purchased compost from had two options: composted manure, or “compost”. I assumed that the “compost

Virus issues? Take a look at transplant production.

Author: Marissa Schuh , Integrated Pest Management Extension Educator, University of Minnesota Extension. Many commonly grown Minnesota vegetables can be infected by plant viruses.  With their limited means of prevention and no control options post-infection, these diseases can be devastating.  Solanaceous crops, especially peppers and tomatoes , can play host to over a dozen plant viruses.  These viruses stunt plants, distort leaves and fruit, and severely reduce yield. Virus damage as extensive as this often starts during transplant production, where entire trays can be exposed to plant viruses. Photo: Marissa Schuh, UMN Extension. If you’ve experienced severe losses to viruses in the past, it is worth taking a look at your plant sources.  Depending on the virus, the greenhouses where transplants are produced can serve as a key site of infection.  Many tomato and pepper viruses are vectored by tiny, heat-loving, quickly-reproducing insects like aphids and thrips.   An entire tray of

Help guide no-till vegetable research in the Midwest

Rue Genger and Claire Strader at UW-Madison are surveying vegetable growers on use of reduced tillage production methods as part of a larger research study into methods that increase resilience to extreme weather events. The survey will take about 10-15 minutes to complete. Your participation will help us develop better research and education programs for reduced tillage in vegetable production. Crimping rye for no-till vegetables. Photo: Rue Genger To start the survey, please scan the QR code below or click this link:  https://uwmadison.co1. eleWVfVQpM5ue9g   Please share this survey invitation widely.  Thank you!

Is your soil health improving? Metrics for assessing soil health over time

Author: Natalie Hoidal, UMN Extension educator, local foods and vegetable crops I’ve been participating in a climate resilience planning cohort with 12 farmers, led by Land Stewardship Project. One of the topics that has consistently come up is how we can measure our soil health over time. Evaluation is important, because it helps us narrow down what’s working, what’s not, and where we should be spending your time, energy, and money. Often we rely very heavily on organic matter as a proxy for health, when there may be equally valuable tools and metrics. The following article highlights different ways that you can measure your soil health over time, and evaluate the effectiveness of strategies like cover crops and reduced tillage. Soil test metrics One of the most common ways that vegetable growers assess their soil health over time is the % soil organic matter. This a useful metric because increasing soil organic matter improves your soil’s capacity to retain water and nutrients. Howev

Grafting and starter fertilizer: can it improve tomato yield and the environment?

Author: Shane Bugeja, Extension educator, Blue Earth and Le Sueur Counties Reviewed by Charlie Rohwer, Researcher, Southern Research and Outreach Center In Minnesota, many tomato producers use organically based fertilizers such as manure or compost to meet the nitrogen needs of their crops. Often, these inputs contain much more phosphorus (P) than the crop can use, which then accumulates belowground. If the P-rich soil moves into waterways, it poses a serious risk for the environment. Some 744 water bodies in Minnesota are considered impaired due to excessive nutrient content, which includes phosphorus. Adding unnecessary P fertilizer to tomatoes can be costly in 2022. As of this writing, artificial P fertilizers used by row crop farmers are at their highest price in many years. Depending on the farmer’s situation, a high price per pound P on the open market could lead to pricier raw and composted manure. Note that manure value calculators, including UMN Extension’s calculator , incl