how to get P and K out of my soil

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Paul Wheaton, Mar 9, 2005.

  1. Paul Wheaton

    Paul Wheaton Well-Known Member

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    I've been having a hard time getting stuff to grow. Especially from seed. After about 15 to 20 experiments, only spring field peas took. (I tried about six kinds of clover, two kinds of vetch, peas in the fall, buckwheat, corn, beans ...) Usually, it gets about an inch tall and just sits there.

    A few days ago I saw a presentation on bamboo. The presenter was a consultant all over the world on planting all sorts of stuff. He showed us a slide of a site in Oregon where he planted a variety of things including bamboo and said that nothing would grow. It would just sit there. He said he had a soil test done and saw that the P levels were toxic. So he planted an alder tree next to each planting. The alder took off, sucked up heaps of P and then all the other plants took off.

    I have super high levels of both P and K.

    Is alder my only choice? Any suggestions on other things that might do the same thing?
     
  2. patarini

    patarini Well-Known Member

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    Send me that soil -- i will plant it get the fertilizer out and send it back to ya! But really, have you checked the nitrogen level? what kind of soil is it? compacted? clay? rock? loam? loose? sand? What altitude? I would ask your local ag agent -- seems hard to believe you have too much fertilizer so nothing grows but who knows!
     

  3. milkstoolcowboy

    milkstoolcowboy Farmer

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    What type of soil test did you have done (Bray, Olsen, Mehlich)? How many samples (locations) did you test and what depth did they take the samples?

    What results did you get back specifically on the ppm of P, K, Zn and nitrates/nitrogen?

    What's your rainfall like on average.
     
  4. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    Paul, I have been a professional soil scientist for almost 30 years and I have NEVER heard of P or K being toxic to crops, even at very high soil levels. K is a salt, so high soil levels could cause salt damage, but you would determine whether K was a salt problem by reviewing the soil test results for “soluble salts,” not potassium level.

    Without knowing more, I might suggest that your soil may have an acidity problem. You mentioned that you weren’t having success with several legumes. Legumes need a near neutral pH for nodulation to be effective…..or perhaps your soil is not inoculated with N-fixing bacteria at all?

    You could also have a micronutrient deficiency or toxicity problem. Stunted crop growth is a symptom of several micronutrient deficiency or toxicity problems.

    Suggest that you provide us with more soil test results that you may have…and recommend that you have your soil analyzed for soluble salts, sulfate, calcium and micronutrients.
     
  5. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Cabin beat me to it - I suspect your soil has a ph problem. Too low makes it hard to grow anything. However if you do have very high fert levels, you might have way too high a ph..... Lime will correct too low a ph, it is difficult to deal with too high a ph.

    What are your soil test results? That is the missing piece here.

    Never heard of P & K being too high to prevent crop growth. Something else is at work here - soil ph, salt, etc.

    Alfalfa would be great to 'use up' p & k, to answer your question. Makes it's own N if you have inoculated seeds, and will mine out the P & K pretty well.

    --->Paul
     
  6. Blu3duk

    Blu3duk Well-Known Member

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    microbial tea may be your answer. take compost and soak it in water for a few days...maybe a week, the compost can be old horse manure, chicken manure, grass clippings or combination thereof..... even if from another place it will have can have a positive effect on your growth.....

    spray it on using a atv sprayer [see you can have a good reason to buy one if the spouse asks] ok borrow the neighbors unit or rent one at a-z rental for a day every few weeks.

    It works best to spray just before a rain storm so the microbes soak into the ground, but spraying in the wee morning hours can achieve similar results as the plants absorb with the morning dews what they need frm the tea..... you can make it in a 55 gallon drum and use an old burlap sack, or even a plastice feed sack to place the compost in, the length of time will vary i spect on the type of compost used, the amount placed in the sack, and just how long you are wiling to wait to test it out.

    A fella down to Walla Walla/Dayton Washington area is doing this on his ground, my dad stopped to buy some fruit/veggies from a fruit stand on his way to the VA hospital one day last year and struck up a conversation with the fella, he went out and looked at the place and told me there was a definate difference where the spray was done from where the fella said he had not got to it yet [he was in a test stage hisself] on 120 acres, he had done about a third, was seling organic eggs [800 pullets] and organic beeves so shouldnt be hard to find down that way f you take a trip or know someone else in that area.... I dont have any other information on him currently.

    Hope this might help

    William
     
  7. Paul Wheaton

    Paul Wheaton Well-Known Member

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    This soil is made of decomposed granite. It loks gravelly on the surface and powdery when dry underneath.

    We're at about 2500 feet here.

    When sampling, I would usually mix three or more samples. Usually five. Scrape off the first inch and then take a tablespoon or two. Mix in a ziplock.

    I had five tests run. So I took about 25 samples.

    I think that we get about 20 inches of rain per year.

    North Pasture results: P (weak bray) 53ppm, P (strong bray) 95ppm. K 243ppm. Zn 1.9ppm. Nitrate 5ppm.

    Some of the other tests showed P as high as 200ppm and K as high as 2087ppm.

    Cabin,

    I tried to pick legumes that claimed to be tolerant of acidic soil. My pH is 6.1, 5.8, 6.5 and 5.9 with a buffer index of 6.8, 6.8, 7.0 and 6.8.

    All planted legumes were innoculated with fresh innoculant (no year old stuff).

    Looking through the report for low micronutrients: sulfur 17, 9, 8 and 12ppm; copper 0.7, 0.5, 0.8 and 1.0ppm; boron 0.6, 0.3, 0.6, 0.5ppm.

    Manganese and Iron are both very high.

    There is an abandoned uranium mine about 100 yards east of my property. Could lots of uranium in the area be a problem?

    Saluble salts: 0.2, 0.1, 0.1 and 0.1 mmhos/cm

    Calcium: 963, 888, 823, 1069ppm.

    blu3duk: I paid $800 for microbials a few years ago. I applied it in strips here and there so I could see the difference. I never saw a difference. All sprayed during a gentle rain.
     
  8. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    Well, I suspect that the high level of K is competing with other essential cations like calcium and magnesium causing an imbalance. The K is coming from the granite....granite is naturally high in K. Granite fines (or granite meal), a by-product of granite quarries, is often sold as an "organic" source of potassium fertilizer. Your soils available calcium is bordeline low which further compounds this cation imbalance. An application of aglime would increase the Ca content of the soil...helping to balance the cations....as well as raise soil pH.

    The only other thing that stood out was nitrate.....very low. Of course, N isn't necessary for legumes....but it sure helps "jump start" a new seeding...giving the innoculant time to kick in. And the N is certainly necessary for corn or other grain crops.
     
  9. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    Paul
    I have been following this thread with interest but I remain a bit confused. I buy DAP (diammonia phosphate) 18-46-0 for my fescue pastures and it does wonders. My PH is in the same range as you posted. I think maybe you must be missing some trace elements. Are there any farmers in your immediate area that are growing impressive crops? Remember, to be the best farmer in the area all you have to do is to plant the same crop and plow 3 days earlier. :D
     
  10. Paul Wheaton

    Paul Wheaton Well-Known Member

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    I'll try to enhance some experiments with adding a little lime and adding a little N when planting legumes.

    Any other advice?
     
  11. amwitched

    amwitched Well-Known Member

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    Compost, Compost and more Compost!!!

    If you choose to use the Compost tea, make sure it is the aerated fresh tea. That has the most microbial activity.

    You can use a fish aquarium pump in a 5 gallon bucket to aerate the mixture. Be sure that your water is chemical free or it will hamper your efforts. Rain water is the best.

    Some of the "compost tea" that is sold in the bottle actually has orange oil as an ingredient. Orange oil is used to kill ants, etc. So it would also kill any microbes.

    I live in Texas where we have alot of limestone. I have found that adding additional topsoil and compost has really loosened up and nourished my soil.
     
  12. Paul Wheaton

    Paul Wheaton Well-Known Member

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    compost for 80 acres seems like a lot ...
     
  13. caballoviejo

    caballoviejo Well-Known Member

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    Are Paul's soils descriptive of high magnesium dry serpentine soils?
     
  14. Paul Wheaton

    Paul Wheaton Well-Known Member

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    Results from my subsoil test:

    Phosphorous (weak bray): 28ppm
    Phosphorous (strong bray): 41ppm
    Potassium: 82ppm

    It would seem that mixing some subsoil with topsoil could improve things.
     
  15. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    Paul, are any of your immediate neighbor farmers growing impressive crops?
     
  16. KRH

    KRH Resident Wino

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    I have to agree with Cabin Fever. Just last week in the IPM "intigrated pest managment" class I am taking though Michigan State University (At least untill our illustrious Gov.Granholm makes another round of educational budget cuts.) we disscused the fact that extremely high levels of K can bind other nutiants and keep them from becoming avalible to the plant.
     
  17. Paul Wheaton

    Paul Wheaton Well-Known Member

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    Nothing impressive.

    Actually, this is apple country. There are lots of apple orchards. I am planting a bunch of apple trees this year.

    There are a few alfalfa fields in the flatlands. A neighbor tries grains some years, but they're mediocre at best.