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Polyculture for Nutrient Needs  RSS feed

 
William James
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Could anyone comment whether this line of reasoning is worthwhile? Would aligning plants based on what the target plant supplies a lot of be a good strategy?

Blueberries are a good source of Manganese (Mn)
That suggests that it needs Mn from the soil.

Common dynamic accumulators of Mn are:
Chickweed, Flax, Garlic, Lambsquarters, Mustards (brassica spp), Plantain (platango), Rapeseed, Sunflower

Notes: Blueberry might be a bad example, as the Ph requirements are so different. Correct way to ascertain nutrient needs of a plant?

Hazelnut is also Manganese (Mn) dependent. (355% of daily requirement) -- Also Copper (Cu)

Common dynamic accumulators of Cu are:
Vetch, Yarrow, Nettles, Rapeseed, Sunflower, Mustards
 
Chris Kott
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To say for certain, I think you would need to do a scientific experiment (you know, controls, three test groups for each variable tested, that kind of thing) wherein the nutrient levels in the root zones of different plants are constantly monitored. I don't even know if this is possible right now, but if you could say for certain that at x time in a plant's life cycle, the root zone produces an excess of whatever nutrients in whatever amounts, then you could figure it out that way.

-CK
 
Ben Stallings
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Location: Emporia, KS
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I'd suggest an easier experiment: plant one hazelnut or one group of blueberries with a guild, and another without in a similar microclimate, and see which does better. An awful lot could depend on your soil fertility, of course; if your soil is already rich enough in those micronutrients, you won't see any difference for a few years.

In theory, though, it certainly sounds sensible to guild these plants as you have said, and it almost certainly can't hurt, so unless you're interested in proving the point for posterity, I'd say go ahead and do it just in case.
 
Chris Kott
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My practical approaches look a lot like what you describe, Ben. I did a side-by-side aboveground hugelbeet to in-ground no-till using a tomato guild as subject. The hugelbeet predictably both required more watering (first year, and above ground), and bore longer.

My scientific approach is the one that will give concrete answers in a shorter timeframe, though.

A blend of these approaches on a larger scale would involve a repeating pattern with several iterations in slightly different situations over a varied landscape.

I still maintain that if we could read specific nutrient levels and monitor their changes over time with every individual plant, we could better formulate our guilds and seed mixes, and even our planting schedules. We wouldn't need the monitoring long-term, just to get information on nutrient excesses produced by each plant and when. That way, we could not only plan out which plants would go best with which other plants, but figure out what the species to species ratio should be.

I feel this is pertinent, specifically because of the thread heading.

-CK
 
Paul Cereghino
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...experimental design... couldn't resist.
I suspect the response that you'd want to measure might be nutrient content in the accumulators biomass compared to different levels of nutrient in a controlled soil mix. The fertilization pathway of a dynamic accumulator would be through the detrital food web (either at senescence or during chop and drop)... But verifying accumulation in organic matter at low availability levels would give you the mechanism. Then assuming that your accumulator can then help keep the nutrient juggling in the soil system. The other big question might be the natural mineral composition of your native soil, which would determine your likely deficits, and where an accumulator might be be useful for maximizing circulation of a nutrient. I suspect that looking for a growth response in the target crop plant is too far removed and would require too much replication to remove all the system noise... If you are also getting mulch effects, and pulsed soil building through chopping, than the dynamic accumulation may be secondary. Also, you'd need you accumulator to be competitive in the local vegetation community, which will vary. We'd do well to just document surplus nutrient harvesting in key multipurpose chop and drop species.
 
William James
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I don't know. I'm not much for experimenting and making tests to see if things work. I'll just assume (with a grain of salt) that this technique works and go with it until I hear other news.
William
 
John Polk
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The idea certainly sounds like it has some merit...for experimentation.

I tend to think that it could actually have a reverse effect:
Dynamic accumulators are grossly over valued in my opinion.
Many people seem to believe that they magically produce nutrients.
They merely gather what is available already in the soil.
If the soil is deficient in a nutrient, then there is nothing to accumulate.

In the above example, we are talking about planting magnesium accumulators around a plant that requires magnesium.
If the 'parent' plant (say hazelnut) has roots from the surface down to 60 inches, and the 'accumulator' has roots from the surface to 24 inches, then the accumulator could actually be robbing the parent plant of needed magnesium in this zone.

Even if the 'accumulator' is mulched/composted in sito, there will be some loss of magnesium.
There is no "perpetual motion machine"...a small percentage of loss happens on each cycle.

If the site needed magnesium to begin with for healthy (hazelnut) growth, then using magnesium accumulators could actually be compounding the problem - removing the magnesium that the (hazelnut) needed.

IMHO dynamic accumulators are only useful if their roots go deeper than the plants you are trying to feed.



 
Chris Kott
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What are natural sources of magnesium for ammending deficient soils? Is there a mineral source?

-CK
 
Paul Cereghino
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John makes good points. Perhaps the most beneficial situation would be where is a big pool of Mg, but not much Mg in circulation in organic pools and low CEC (low organic soil).

Furthermore Mg loss in my climate is in winter leaching, and so dormant plants won't help you much there... you need cation capacity to hold all you loose Mg. So the 'accumulator effect' may be submerged in benefits of having root action and lots of decaying organic matter.

Dolomite Lime is the typical input, where people are also trying to maintain pH--mighty cheap, slow release, and long lasting. Its 1:1 Ca:Mg. I seem to recall that surplus Ca can also reduce Mg availability, and the whole Albrecht-Acres USA folks are always talking about balancing Cation loading. I have also seen Langbeinite referenced as a K-Mg-S source, but don't know much about it.
 
William James
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IMHO dynamic accumulators are only useful if their roots go deeper than the plants you are trying to feed.


Good point.
W
 
Guy De Pompignac
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John Polk wrote:The idea certainly sounds like it has some merit...for experimentation.

Dynamic accumulators are grossly over valued in my opinion.
Many people seem to believe that they magically produce nutrients.
They merely gather what is available already in the soil.
If the soil is deficient in a nutrient, then there is nothing to accumulate.

IMHO dynamic accumulators are only useful if their roots go deeper than the plants you are trying to feed.



I'm not totally agree with you. I think there is often confusion about what is a dynamic accumulator. A definition i like is that the concentration of the given nutrient is greater in some of the plant parts than in the surrounding soil.

Dynamic accumulators are different from fertility catching crop. Firsts one thrive in soils defincients in the given nutrient, whereas last ones thrive on soil full of this nutrient (like nettles).
Some plants accumulate nutrients by mining it in deep horizons of the soil, but other can make a nutrient available by changing its chimical structure.
 
Paulo Bessa
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How about phosphorus? Do we have a combination of herbs or weeds to provide phosphorus, like comfrey for potassium?
 
William James
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@Paulo

Just being picky here, don't mind me. 

Plants in and of themselves do not "supply" minerals. They take soil that has minerals like phosphorus and they convert that into plant material with then drops down and releases those minerals into the soil again (mineral cycling).

If your soil has a hard time offering its supply of minerals to  your plant, even a plant that supposedly is rich in whatever nutrient, in your soil it will have low quantities of that mineral -- at least it won't reach its true potential I don't think.

One strategy is to plant plants and know that some of the targeted mineral is cycling, which is good.
Another strategy is to make the soil life active so that it frees targeted nutrients in quantities to get more mineral cycling.

These strategies are not mutually exclusive.

William
 
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