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[Soil test] Help me understand this test and how to fix my messy soil  RSS feed

 
Posts: 5
Location: Spain
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Hey there! Newbie inside, coming from Spain.

So I have inherited this land, was purchased by my grandpa about 30 years ago and never got cultivated for all this time. Time to farm! I plan to stablish an almond/pistachio orchard with lots of companion plants and crimson clover to keep bees and other beneficial insects happy. At plain sight its a sandy soil, low organic matter, a place where short grass and plants are naturally present. It has a well and water is only at 5-6 meters deep, even in drought months.


I made a test and am confused about teh results. Here we go:

pH: 8.0
Organic matter: 1.05%
Clay: 3.5%
Lime: 28.4%
Sand: 68.1%
Nitrogen: 930ppm (N)
C:N ratio: 6.7
Phosphorus: 21ppm (P2OS)
Potassium: 111ppm (K2O)
Calcium: 2400ppm (CaO)
Magnesium: 27 ppm (MgO) ----> (Ca/Mg Ratio = 8.7)
Sodium: 20ppm (Na2O)
Total carbonates: under 1%
Active limestone: under 1%
Sulphates: 55ppm
Iron: 5.8ppm
Manganese: 3.4ppm
Copper: under 0.5ppm
Zinc: under 0.5ppm
Electrical conductivity: 74 μS/cm


I guess the obvious move is to incorporate organic matter (worm castings for the win!) but what really confuses me is the high pH while having high sulphates, all guides tell to add sulphats to lower pH, won't I mess things up with so much Sulfur? or am I missing something. Also, if I add ferrous sulphate afterwards, is it going to leech or stay in soil? A friend of mine says I should test for aluminium, barium and arsenic just in case my land is contaminated, wtf?

Finally if you find any of the numbers so out of scale, please tell me

Thank you a lot in advance ^^
 
gardener
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Location: Middle Tennessee
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I'm familiar with CEC (cation exchange capacity) in soil tests and don't know how to interpret EC, but having said that I'll do my best to help. Your soil has so much sand and such little clay, I can say that the CEC, if it was tested and a value determined, is going to be very low. That's ok, it can be improved by adding organic matter, which at 1.05% is low. Bring your organic matter up 5-10%. Adding biochar will improve your CEC. CEC, by the way, is a soils storage capacity to hold onto the nutrients needed to grow crops and have microbial life flourish. Cations such as calcium, potassium, copper and zinc are positively charged and CEC is usually related to the soils clay particles. I've never read about an Anion exchange capacity in a soil, but Anions such as phosphorous, sulfur, boron and nitrogen cling to humus, which is organic matter. Adding organic matter to your soil will slowly build humus which will improve your soils ability to hold onto those anions. Adding organic matter, such as compost, will greatly help this soil.

pH ought to come down, aim for 6.5.
Your phosphorous is way low. That needs to improve.
Calcium appears sufficient, but with a pH of 8.0 and not knowing the type of test performed (Mehlich III for example) the calcium number could be inaccurate due to the high pH.
magnesium could come up.
Copper and Zinc are way low. Avoid going over 7ppm copper and 14ppm zinc.

Was Boron on the test? That's important to know. It should be 2-4ppm.

Hope this helps! If you have any more questions, I'll do my best to try and answer them.



 
Daniel Larusso
Posts: 5
Location: Spain
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Hello James, seems my soil needs lots of care

an EC of 74 is very low according to several guidelines it should be between 200 and 1200. Heard about biochar in the past, in a documentary about the so called Terra Preta, interesting stuff!

Calcium was extracted with NH4Ac if that clarifies anything. (same for Magnesium).

No boron on the test, I can ask for it if it's very relevant.
 
pollinator
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Daniel,

This could be very productive soil! Congrats! It would be nice to know the soil type, topography and climate zone, otherwise you will get general recommendations. I don't know what the "lime" is in your %, in the US that is calcium carbonate, but your carbonate is <1%, so it must be a calcium complexed with something other than that. Also, maybe someone can correct me, but that nitrogen level means someone is blasting fertilizers on this place, and maybe potassium as well. I am used to <100 ppm nitrogen.

First, I would caution you that soil tests should be read in context of the soil life. If you start out with Bryant Redhawk's Soil Primer you will be WAY ahead.

If the plants are thriving, who cares what the soil sample says.

You have, as people have pointed out, very low clay component. If you have a water table that high, there is clay or dense bedrock in a lower soil horizon. So there may be places that have nearly exposed clay you could place water features, that may be discoverable with topographical information. Unfortunately this means the surface infiltration will be rapid, and deeper-rooted plants will be important. Tree and shrub crops would be my aim. If the water table is that high, they should be able to reach it readily, no irrigation necessary.

Your plants will dictate the mineral requirement. Trees and shrubs can go down deep and bring up minerals that are not shown on you soil sample. If you can take a soil sample under trees that drop leaves it can show what minerals they can obtain (at least that is what I do). You can use that to remineralize cheaply. I don't think there is good information on dynamic accumulators in the ground story, but clearly trees can do some of your work.  If there is minimal zinc/copper/zinc in those areas, you may consider adding those, but only while plants are actually growing, otherwise it will leach rapidly. An imbalance of the triad iron/copper/zinc will present as deficiencies in you plants, for you will be . Boron is a must on a test. I would be surprised if you are not deficient as it leaches readily.

The most interesting one to me is the sodium. While most people are worried about salinization, that is very low, and totally out of balance with the potassium. 

So at baseline you have lots of available calcium, lots of K, and low phosphate and zinc/iron and likely boron.  Are you seeing chlorosis in the leaves of plants, or are they dark green? What plants are growing?

With those tests in mind, I would target a couple things:

First, you need something to sop up that nitrogen, and now. Weeds are really good at it. Let them go bonkers. There are probably some there? Keep the nitrogen cycling. Integrate that stuff into the soil with herbivores as much as possible, otherwise chop and drop/crimp/mow but never let it be bare during the vulnerable season (for you likely summer). Keep as much vegetation on during that period. This will improve your soil pretty quickly. I would only amend a little at a time, and only when stuff is actively growing. I amend only spring and fall here, since winter and summer are both vulnerable seasons depending on the year. Iron can be added in pelletized form of sulfate, which takes years to degrade. You may be able to obtain local rock dust which is rich in iron. If there is a quarry for anything other than limestone nearly the dust can be very cheap, pretty mush for the delivery, and you may be able to amend more than one thing at a time.

Second, if you have the space (you have not informed us of your acreage), plan on some water storage and your main building/road plan. Look at Sepp Holzers Extremadura project for inspiration. You may have rapid infiltration but with surface water features you will increase humidity and decrease transpiration losses, decrease soil temperature and lengthen your growing season. Yay!

Only after would I think about adding species. Crimson clover would be a total waste as an annual - you have way too much nitrogen. Annual grass seed is cheap and will sop up that N, and is the biomass champ (at least where I am). If you can grow daikon, that will create areas of organic matter deep into the soil and may be helpful. It can reseed as well if you let it.

Deep rooted plants can also help. I would consider alfalfa unless it is too warm as a recurring nitrogen source, but you would need to mow or have animals do it for you. Nitrogenous shrubs and trees can also assist, especially as an interplanting with almonds (since you will need lots of pollinators). You can find sources of flowering trees for the whole growing season if you do some research. Some people in that area may be able to give more specific perennial plant recommendations.


 
Daniel Larusso
Posts: 5
Location: Spain
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Tj, thanks for your elaborated post. I will try to answer your questions my best.

Acreage is 3.6 hectares (9 acres)

Climate is continental/oceanic (North of Spain) with prolonged summers and winters and short springs/falls. Temperatures range from -5ºC to 45ºC (23F to 113F) Year rainfall is around 330mm (13 inches). I plan to use my well including a drip irrigation system, it is what's usually recommended for intensive almond orchards. I wish to create successful organic orchard trying to maximize nut production without damaging the environment, improving it in fact. I love bumblebees, they are rarely seen but lets create a nice home for 'em

Plants that do grow here: muscari, poppy, lonicera, there are several elms and yeah they show chlorosis (yellow leaves). There is a giant, ancient almond tree and it apparently does better. There are some serious spots with some kind of moss, it is beautiful to be honest.

I do not know what type of lime/calcium complex I have, but yea it is high. According to my laboratory calcium is low and magnesium is high, but I think that's because Spanish soils are usually too abundant in calcium for whichever reason, and they conclude that this is "normal".

No one is dumping nitrogen or any fertilizer there. Lab says Total Nitrogen is 0.093% this equals to 930ppm if I am not wrong. An intensive almond orchard devour N and K so that's why I liked the idea of crimson clover for N fixation, at least when trees would be 3-4 years old. Maybe that's unnecesary for the first 3 years. Or never if you think my soil is not good for it. I am not even sure if this clover resists these hard summers. Alfalfa as you pointed out, this is a very common species cultivated here by farmers, maybe a wiser choice from a "go local" point of view.

According to you: should I add exogenous zinc/boron/copper or adding and promoting organic matter should do the job.?

Most problematic plague here are aphids, they use ants and collaborate each other to destroy our beloved plants. We will need some companion plants where ladybugs and soldier beetles could thrive. You only see them once in a while, you know monocultives are destroying the biodiversity

 
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Daniel Larusso wrote: A friend of mine says I should test for aluminium, barium and arsenic just in case my land is contaminated, wtf?



I suspect your friend has seen chemtrails being pumped into the skies which, from what I read, likely contain those elements. We have been continuously seeing chemtrails being made intensely where we live almost on a daily basis since February of this year, with a day or two off in between. We are in the US, but my son went to Germany for a couple of weeks over the summer, and found them to be there just as much. I doubt Spain is being spared the chemtrail activity; it seems to be going on pretty much everywhere. 
 
pollinator
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It is hard to determine because from what I can tell, your high PH level, and low organic matter is throwing everything out of balance. Doing anything without getting your PH levels down is going to be a waste of time, your crop, no matter what it is, is just not going to uptake your nutrients...the nitrogen especially which is why it is high. If the land has been left fallow for years, you got what amounts to 30 years of chop and drop by nature and why your nitrogen is super high...

Now nitrogen is VERY volatile so you are seeing the high levels, BUT it is not doing much good because it is not being trapped in that sandy, high PH soil. Is is simply being lost and not availed to plant growth. If I was to venture a guess, and I might be wrong, the sward is sparse and short?

You really need sulfur to get your PH down, which will settle everything else out. You also need lots of organic matter, either in the form of mulch (which I hate) or manure. But 9 acres is a fair amount of land to revitalize. It sounds to me like grazing livestock would be the cheapest, best alternative at this point...with sulfur to get your PH down.
 
Tj Jefferson
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According to you: should I add exogenous zinc/boron/copper or adding and promoting organic matter should do the job.?



Those are elements, and short of alchemy they must be added to a system. There are two elements that can be plucked from the air- Nitrogen and Carbon. You can fix deficiencies in those with healthy soil. I get some free sulfur from coal plants but not very much, sulfur is now becoming depleted since there are fewer coal discharges (but less cesium too so thats pretty good). Some people believe in "dynamic accumulators" which are proposed to make elements more available at the surface. I use trees and deep rooted plants to try to do that. I don't know how successful I have been because the rock dust allows me to do it much faster and quite cheaply. But yes I amend some minerals. Those minerals will be found in compost but not likely at a level that will allow you to balance the iron/copper/zinc levels. I have red clay, containing iron, so I am amending a small amount of copper and lots of zinc. Unfortunately they are deficient in the rock dust, along with boron. Manures may have quite a bit of minerals (although they are mostly lost in the urine of larger animals), but bird droppings will be mineral rich since they don't make urine. The problem is they are rich in nitrogen which you don't need.

If you can compost some bird manure and use the nitrogen to break down your carbon, you will be left with a mineral rich compost.

A friend of mine says I should test for aluminium, barium and arsenic just in case my land is contaminated, wtf?


Sure, if you want to. I haven't because there is absolutely nothing I can do about it if it is there in quantity, but I have no reason to think it is (this would be industrial contamination). Not sure about aluminum. The whole earth is "contaminated" with it! It is a very common element. My rock dust is 10% aluminum, and pine needles/bark are loaded with it. Azomite is in the same ballpark. There are lots of things to worry about, I am more interested in obtaining soil health, letting the microherd present the plants with appropriate substrates, and letting the plants present me with appropriate substrates! And if you are storing rainwater in the soil, you have only to worry about the chemtrails but not the agricultural and industrial groundwater pollution. I'll risk it on the chemtrails.

 
Daniel Larusso
Posts: 5
Location: Spain
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Annie Collins wrote:I suspect your friend has seen chemtrails being pumped into the skies which, from what I read, likely contain those elements. We have been continuously seeing chemtrails being made intensely where we live almost on a daily basis since February of this year, with a day or two off in between. We are in the US, but my son went to Germany for a couple of weeks over the summer, and found them to be there just as much. I doubt Spain is being spared the chemtrail activity; it seems to be going on pretty much everywhere. 



Yeah we can see chemtrails in my country too. I am just sceptic about the idea but I guess I could test it just to be sure what is going on lol.

Travis Johnson wrote:It is hard to determine because from what I can tell, your high PH level, and low organic matter is throwing everything out of balance. Doing anything without getting your PH levels down is going to be a waste of time, your crop, no matter what it is, is just not going to uptake your nutrients...the nitrogen especially which is why it is high. If the land has been left fallow for years, you got what amounts to 30 years of chop and drop by nature and why your nitrogen is super high...

Now nitrogen is VERY volatile so you are seeing the high levels, BUT it is not doing much good because it is not being trapped in that sandy, high PH soil. Is is simply being lost and not availed to plant growth. If I was to venture a guess, and I might be wrong, the sward is sparse and short?

You really need sulfur to get your PH down, which will settle everything else out. You also need lots of organic matter, either in the form of mulch (which I hate) or manure. But 9 acres is a fair amount of land to revitalize. It sounds to me like grazing livestock would be the cheapest, best alternative at this point...with sulfur to get your PH down.



That's correct sir, sward is sparse and very short.


Tj Jefferson wrote:Those are elements, and short of alchemy they must be added to a system. There are two elements that can be plucked from the air- Nitrogen and Carbon. You can fix deficiencies in those with healthy soil. I get some free sulfur from coal plants but not very much, sulfur is now becoming depleted since there are fewer coal discharges (but less cesium too so thats pretty good). Some people believe in "dynamic accumulators" which are proposed to make elements more available at the surface. I use trees and deep rooted plants to try to do that. I don't know how successful I have been because the rock dust allows me to do it much faster and quite cheaply. But yes I amend some minerals. Those minerals will be found in compost but not likely at a level that will allow you to balance the iron/copper/zinc levels. I have red clay, containing iron, so I am amending a small amount of copper and lots of zinc. Unfortunately they are deficient in the rock dust, along with boron. Manures may have quite a bit of minerals (although they are mostly lost in the urine of larger animals), but bird droppings will be mineral rich since they don't make urine. The problem is they are rich in nitrogen which you don't need.

If you can compost some bird manure and use the nitrogen to break down your carbon, you will be left with a mineral rich compost.

Sure, if you want to. I haven't because there is absolutely nothing I can do about it if it is there in quantity, but I have no reason to think it is (this would be industrial contamination). Not sure about aluminum. The whole earth is "contaminated" with it! It is a very common element. My rock dust is 10% aluminum, and pine needles/bark are loaded with it. Azomite is in the same ballpark. There are lots of things to worry about, I am more interested in obtaining soil health, letting the microherd present the plants with appropriate substrates, and letting the plants present me with appropriate substrates! And if you are storing rainwater in the soil, you have only to worry about the chemtrails but not the agricultural and industrial groundwater pollution. I'll risk it on the chemtrails.



I am getting more and more curious about the chemtrails stuff. Lets analyze and see what happens O_O
 
gardener
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Your soil would benefit from having sea minerals added, either as sea water or non-demineralized sea salt. I would recommend starting with 200 kg per hectare and see how that does for your plants and soil microbiome.
That will give you a good idea of how to proceed.
The pH of 8.0 does need to be addressed but if you can use sea minerals you might find the pH drops from the ionic activity, as well as the minerals moving towards the right concentrations, better CEC and other good things.

Redhawk
 
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Location: Mad City, Wisconsin
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Daniel Larusso wrote:...



With all the talk of high PH ...
I would simply add LOTS of peat-moss (very low pH) and fresh cow manure (low pH) directly into the planting holes.
Keep adding those supplements directly.
It is not practical to try to alter the pH of entire area.
Instead, do targeted amends of the low pH organics directly around plantings.
 
pollinator
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With the sea salt 200kg/ha + 20 gram/ square meter, how many litres of sea water would that be?
With the chemtrails, then you know that there is barium and aluminium in the soil so what could you do about it?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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4 liters of sea water is said to weigh 4kg, when I make mine from sea-90 sea salt 4L =3.75kg.

certain mycelium can clean up both barium and aluminum along with cobalt and other heavy metals. Try to grow some wine caps and oysters in the suspect ground.

Redhawk
 
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