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Managing for Minerals - Inputs & Outputs

 
George Meljon
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Location: Southern Indiana zone 5b
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I don't know enough about mineral content in soils. But I do have a question related to them.

Minerals seem like a fixed quantity on planet earth. So, from a broad view, preserving & balancing them is difficult & important.

On a small scale farm, how difficult & important is it to keep, add, or maintain minerals?

Most importantly, how problematic is this when you are hauling produce off the site?

What minerals are generated/converted by animals?

 
John Elliott
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They can be very important and lack of a specific micronutrient can make or break a crop. Jared Diamond, in one of his books, talks about how minerals get distributed worldwide by volcanic eruptions bringing up new minerals from the Earth's crust. He goes on to point out that Australia has mineral poor soils. Why? Because they are not downwind from any volcanic eruptions that would deposit more ash on the continent. It is an old continent that has no new minerals coming up from below and all that makes it in the winds across the Pacific is rainfall.

You're right to observe that each truckload of produce that leaves the farm takes some of the soil minerals with them. Now if you are bringing in wood chips and manures and biomass (like dead animal carcasses, especially the bones) to build hugelkulturs, maybe you are compensating for some of this, but you don't really know until you do a complete chemical analysis. Not just of N,P, and K, but B, Ca, Co, Fe, Mg, Mn, Mo, and Zn. Some Agricultural Extension services provide these analyses for reasonable cost. When mineral deficiencies show up, it's pretty much too late for the current growing season and you have to figure out how you are going to apply the micronutrient so that it has time to get incorporated into the soil for the next year. Some soil minerals are not that labile, for instance B, and if you are trying to grow fruit trees in B-poor soil, you need to be making foliar applications at crucial times, like right before flowering.

If you add chelated minerals to the soil, you can build up your mineral stores and then they are available when plants need them, but still bound so that they are less likely to leach out. How to make your own chelated fertilizers? Here's a shameless plug for another post of mine on this topic.
 
George Meljon
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Location: Southern Indiana zone 5b
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John Elliott wrote:They can be very important and lack of a specific micronutrient can make or break a crop. Jared Diamond, in one of his books, talks about how minerals get distributed worldwide by volcanic eruptions bringing up new minerals from the Earth's crust. He goes on to point out that Australia has mineral poor soils. Why? Because they are not downwind from any volcanic eruptions that would deposit more ash on the continent. It is an old continent that has no new minerals coming up from below and all that makes it in the winds across the Pacific is rainfall.

You're right to observe that each truckload of produce that leaves the farm takes some of the soil minerals with them. Now if you are bringing in wood chips and manures and biomass (like dead animal carcasses, especially the bones) to build hugelkulturs, maybe you are compensating for some of this, but you don't really know until you do a complete chemical analysis. Not just of N,P, and K, but B, Ca, Co, Fe, Mg, Mn, Mo, and Zn. Some Agricultural Extension services provide these analyses for reasonable cost. When mineral deficiencies show up, it's pretty much too late for the current growing season and you have to figure out how you are going to apply the micronutrient so that it has time to get incorporated into the soil for the next year. Some soil minerals are not that labile, for instance B, and if you are trying to grow fruit trees in B-poor soil, you need to be making foliar applications at crucial times, like right before flowering.

If you add chelated minerals to the soil, you can build up your mineral stores and then they are available when plants need them, but still bound so that they are less likely to leach out. How to make your own chelated fertilizers? Here's a shameless plug for another post of mine on this topic.


Nailed it! Thank you.
 
Dale Hodgins
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John, if you're still here, a question. Would you agree that in a situation like mine on the coast with nice clean seaweed free for the gathering that using plenty of it should prevent many potential problems ?

Also, I'm on gravely, silty glacial till. When plenty of this is mixed with decaying plants, will those processes draw some needed minerals from the rocky material ?
 
John Elliott
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Dale Hodgins wrote:John, if you're still here, a question. Would you agree that in a situation like mine on the coast with nice clean seaweed free for the gathering that using plenty of it should prevent many potential problems ?

Also, I'm on gravely, silty glacial till. When plenty of this is mixed with decaying plants, will those processes draw some needed minerals from the rocky material ?


Dale, sleep peacefully, you have absolutely nothing to be worrying about. First, you have all those mountains where you are -- with active volcanoes even! Second, seaweed is free ocean minerals, all you have to do is rake it up, and three, glacial till is a free deposit of minerals left behind for you courtesy of the last Ice Age.
 
Dale Hodgins
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That's what I always figured but it was educated supposition. (: Based on my assumptions, I've been doing this. ---- My tenant owns heavy equipment and he drives my road daily. The little rocks are ground to powder as are large quantities of leaves that fall on the road. This mixture of leaves and stone dust is blown to two neat rows to either side of the road. I've been raking them up for addition to my hugelkultur mounds.
 
John Elliott
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Dale Hodgins wrote:That's what I always figured but it was educated supposition. (: Based on my assumptions, I've been doing this. ---- My tenant owns heavy equipment and he drives my road daily. The little rocks are ground to powder as are large quantities of leaves that fall on the road. This mixture of leaves and stone dust is blown to two neat rows to either side of the road. I've been raking them up for addition to my hugelkultur mounds.


About the only thing that could trip you up is if your pH gets out of balance. Lots of minerals get bound up at low and high pH values, so they are there in the soil, but the plant roots can't access them. Dry arid climates tend to increase pH, and rainy climates with all the humic acids tend to lower pH. In your climate, I would pay attention to the latter and whether you need to be adding lime occasionally.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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If you have a stone cutters yard nearby you could ask them for bags of rock dust - a biproduct of cutting and polishing stone for work benches, gravestones etc...

It is incredibly fine dust, usually from hard rocks like granite and really rich in trace minerals. The small size particles means the minerals dissolve much more readily than larger sand or gravel.

We have chalk beneath us here - sedimentary rock and not so rich in trace minerals. We did a one off supplement of our growing beds and ornamentals a few years back. We didn't soil test before and after, but i'm not aware of any mineral deficiencies in our plants growth now.

As far as i can see rock dust can't harm and could potentially be of great benefit, especially if the price is right (ie free from a local stonecutter)

Mike
 
Dale Hodgins
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I once inherited 2 grave stones left behind at a demolition. Called families by that name, googled it this way and that and contacted a few graveyards. None stolen, no records. Finally a lady who was salvaging plants agreed to put them in her garden.

John ---- I've been broadcasting dolomite lime on all beds.
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