Thanks, Year 2013, for the Extra Soil Organic Matter!

Ho ho ho Happy Holidays!  According to our 2013 soil test results, organic matter has increased again in most of our fields.  As I’ve mentioned in many previous posts, organic matter is extra important for our sandy soil.  With very little clay content, our soil can’t hold many nutrients, not enough to support plant health anyway.  So we’re depending on organic matter to do that job, plus hold water, improve soil texture, provide homes to soil life, etc.  Put simply, organic matter is the keystone to improving our worn-out soil.

Here’s the 2013 update to our chart.  It shows what we’ve planted in each field, plus any tillage, compost or lime applications.  The sparkline graphs at the bottom make it easier to show organic matter trends across the different fields.  They show where each field’s organic matter percentage started in 2010 and ended in 2013, relative to the other fields.

Organic Matter improvement from soil test result data. Click to enlarge.

Organic Matter improvement from soil test result data. Click to enlarge.

At this point, it’s hard to detect a pattern.  

We’ve left two fields in pasture grass (Scott West & Middle) and planted cover crops in the six other fields.  Back in 2010, after getting discouraged from looking at very dull and lackluster pasture grass, I chose to switch some fields to cover crops.  I thought cover crops, because of their huge biomass growth, would result in much bigger increases in organic matter.  So far, this has not come to pass.  All fields increased in organic matter at about the same rate.  Scott West had the biggest increase (87%), but it also started in the poorest position.  The two fields with the smallest increases (31% and 27%) started with relatively high organic matter in 2010.   Scott McCarthy is the field we always refer to as “our best field”.  Plants grow amazingly lush and healthy in this field.  It has the highest 2013 organic matter (3.5%).  Also, its phosphorus levels are four times higher than the other fields.  This field is located next to the old “main house”, so possibly a barn was located here in years past (animal feeds & manure are high in phosphorus).

In summary, there are way too many variables here!  Plus, imagine all the opportunities for sampling error while I was pulling soil samples in the fields.  More data points are needed.

We’re happy that all fields have more organic matter under our management.  We’d love for all fields to get to 4 or 5% organic matter, so they’re about 2% short right now.  With our climate and soil content, 4 to 5% would get our soil to that sought-after moist chocolate cake consistency so indicative of very healthy soil.  We’ll see what the 2014 soil test says.  Happy New Year!


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