[NAFEX] Re Jacquelyn's Orchard Question

Jim Fruth jfruth at uslink.net
Sun Oct 3 09:18:23 EDT 2004

   Orchards, and gardens, fields, etc., need more than 10-10-10 to maintain
production.  A waning harvest over years sounds like either a boron
deficiency (and/or some other micronutrient deficiency) or your pH has been
dropping and you need lime.
   What you really need is a soil analysis!
   I strongly recommend that you get your soil tested by a private
laboratory instead of via an extension agency; here's why:  When I first
started farming, I recognized a micronutrient deficiency in a field and sent
a soil sample to the county extension agency.  When my analysis came back, I
learned that all they tested was N, P, K, pH and Ca (calcium).  So I sent in
another sample specifically asking for a micronutrient analysis.
   When the report came back, they had tested the micronutrient levels but
gave no recommendations.  So I got on the phone, called the University and
asked, "Why?"  The person who answered identified himself as a graduate
student and said ".............they think the average person is too stupid
to know anything about micro-nutrients."  I don't know how all university
programs do it but I've had an identical set of problems in more than one
   Back when I was a horticultural consultant to Kimberly-Clark Corporation
I hired a soils laboratory, K Ag Laboratory, Oshkosh, Wisconsin,
akkhwaja at aol.com , to do my testing work.
   Remember back when the only time we saw cranberry anything was sauce in
cans and fresh at Thanksgiving time?  Well, K Ag was responsible for
changing that - now we see cranberry juice, cranberry raisins, etc,. etc, on
grocer's shelves.  What the manager of K Ag and I learned is that some
university soils testing programs receive a kick-back from lime companies
when they recommend lime - if the soil needs calcium and the pH is right (or
even if it is already too high) they recommend lime (lime raises pH) where
they should recommend gypsum.  Gypsum supplies calcium without raising pH.
Gypsum is so seldom recommended that many fertilizer dealers don't have a
supplier for it.
   Anyway, 'in my book', K Ag is highly recommended.  I receive a complete
analysis for only $15 more than my university testing program charges.  You
may be fortunate to have a university testing program in your state or
province that does a good/complete job or you may know of another private
soils testing laboratory who would do you right.  Whoever you use,
definitely get your soil tested!!!!
   Just spreading 10-10-10 on your field or orchard may sound like a cheap
fix but, all too often, it can be just so much money wasted.  When speaking
of fertilizer, we must consider the 'Law of Minimum"; or, in other words, if
a micronutrient is deficient in the soil, no amount of N,P,K can help soil
fertility until the deficiency is solved.  I have my soils tested EVERY year
and get a bountiful crop EVERY year.  The crop I harvest more than pays for
the soil tests.
   The same will work for you.

Jim Fruth
Pequot Lakes, MN 

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