Monday, September 27, 2010

WHY ORGANIC MATTER?

If the benefits of organic matter were better known, chemical fertilizer could be a thing of the past.  Here on the Rockin H Ranch we have been successful at increasing levels of organic matter as much as 1% per year or more for the last few seasons.   My soil analysis results provide evidence that NO purchased soil amendments are necessary.  What I am saying is that by increasing my soil organic matter levels I have been able to sequester not only carbon but also the soil nutrients required for quality plant production.  All reported levels of nutrients are above average including both major and micro elements.  Before initiating my Holistic System my levels of calcium where low enough that the soil samples results that came back from the lab were suggesting applications of lime.  Now there are no suggestions of any elements.

There is little debate whether or not as grass farmers we can sequester carbon through our forage programs.  At a six inch depth of soil, a 1% increase in soil organic matter would weigh about 20,000 pounds.  If soil organic matter is 58% carbon we would have sequestered about 1160 pounds of carbon.  On my 1000 acre ranch this would be about 1,160,000 lbs of carbon taken out of the atmosphere.  Although not all carbon dioxide, but this is a healthy thing for everyone who breaths air. 

Nothing on the planet can compare to this carbon sequestering  like forage plants.  Trees are very poor at building soil organic matter because they only drop leaves and the tree itself will use up most of this.  Forage plants grow their full height sometimes several times a year and can completely give it all up back to the soil during the year.  When livestock stomp this carbon material into the ground massive root systems develop when we use tall grass grazing techniques.  When the tops of these plants are taken by the animal this root system begins its process and is now organic material.  The spaces left where these roots are begin to hold rain water much better than before. And since organic matter can hold four times as much water as soil our capacity to avoid draughts during the dry summers has all but eliminated grass shortages during the hot summer months.  We now collect this rain water that once left my ranch.  If this practice was used world wide, I contemplate how much flooding and all the deaths and costs of such sloppy farming could eliminate. 

Organic matter helps break down pesticides very proficiently.  In other words, when you increase your organic matter levels the pesticides become less effective.  Of course they also can become obsolete and unnecessary under my system.  No wonder big chemical companies don't stress the importance of organic matter.  Which would lead one to ponder that maybe this is why chemical fertilzers are promoted at the University level instead of sound methods of improving organic matter in the soil.

1 comment:

  1. Cody and Dawnelle -- It was great to meet you and hear you speak at ACRES. It was enlightening, earth-changing, and dead on!! Now I'm reading your book and blog. I hope to get out there (I'm from Ohio) for some training in the not to distant future.
    Don't sell yourself short on the carbon numbers. Multiply your pounds per acre by ten = 11,600 lbs/A (58% of 20K). You are almost at 6 tons Carbon/A annual increase for the top 6". That's fantastic!! Also, let me know if you ever test your soil profile below 6". Do you know how many inches your topsoil deepens each year? Glenn

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