[Market-farming] Tillage; clay-humus; bio-char

Steve Diver steved at ncat.org
Thu Feb 8 01:13:01 EST 2007

I'm copying excerpts below from a Sanet post I shared
in May 1999.

It shows that the "type" of tillage can influence the soil's
ability to turn freshly incorporated cover crop biomass
into stable humus.

The "humus value" test described below is distinctly different
from percent OM on a soil test.  It is an indication of the
degree that OM has been humified.  The higher the number
the greater the level of complexed OM and built-up soil humus.

You can do an on-farm humus value test with a kit, and
several commercial soil labs offer the humus value test for
its insight to the soil humic condition.

My paper on Luebke compost and humus management
provides further details on their soil testing methods and
how clay-amended compost can dramatically increase
organo-mineral complexes that are part of the SOM to
clay-humus spectrum.  

Controlled Microbial Composting and Humus Management

The other on-farm technology that is a dynamic method for
building organo-mineral complexes are various kinds of
charcoals and bio-chars, as described in literature
relating to terra preta / Amazonian black earth.

Steve Diver


Re: Imants spade plow->Humus Management
Thu, 4 Mar 1999 11:41:43 +0000

Soil management tidbits, a spader story:

Fyi, at the 1995 Acres USA conference there was an interesting
presentation by M.R. Foulks, who is the largest organic soybean
grower in Virginia. He discussed his organic production system, and
presented data on soil health improvements through the adaption of
innovative soil management practices. The Foulks had attended
some of the controlled microbial composting and humus management
practices taught in seminars in Pennsylvania by the Siegfried Luebke
family of Austria, hosted by George Liedig of Autrusa Compost.

The CMC Compost-Humus Mgm't System emphasizes specialized
compost turners, microbial inoculation, clay additions, frequent
turning, daily monitoring for temperature and CO2, compost fleece to
cover and protect the windrow, and qualitative testing for finished
compost. Promotion of clay-humus crumb formation and a
microbially-rich compost is a primary goal. Coupled with CMC
compost, emphasis is placed at the farm level on a whole series of
well-known organic agricultural practices that promote soil
health, soil humus, soil biology, soil tilth, soil fertility etc.
These include crop rotations, cover crops, green manures,
microbially-inoculated composts, sod rotations mixed with crop
rotations, grazing, urine, etc. "Humus management" encompasses
these soil-enhancing organic farming practices along with the deep
humus knowledge from the organic pioneeers: Efrenfried
Pfeiffer, Sir Albert Howard, Lady Eve Balfour, as well as the
microbial-humus scientists like Selman Waksman of Rutgers University
and the Russian scientiests Kononova and Krasilnikov, among others.

This is where the spader comes into the picture. In addition
to the cover cropping and compost applications, choice of tillage
implement can make a big difference in soil tilth and humus content.
The Luebkes found that spading implements are superior as a humus
management tool in vegetable production, especially in comaparison to
tillers etc. At the Acres conference, M.R. Foulks presented the
following data on humus values based on early adoption of
large-sized spading implements for agronomic crop production in
the U.S. The humus value is the sodium hydroxide colorimetric humus
value test.

[Humus Value numbers in Column 2 and 3]

Soil Depth...Chisel-Plow/Disc.....Spader

The data shows that tillage implement alone can affect
soil conditions that favor microbial populations and their
ability to humify soil organic matter from crop residues,
cover crops, and composts.


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