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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Diversity and this year plans for cover

This year I want to go for live soil armor. And that means cover crops in orchard and poli-culture on pasture.
But I need to stop erosion first. And that is wood chips, cause they were free and they did not go to land field.
Also someone else needed land reclamation research topic and plot to show. Mine already has a lot of work put in and free materials brought on the land.

So, no till cover crops. Where does that come from? From weeds and virgin plot near by. It does grow tall weeds and some native grasses. Mine grows clump grass and soil between the clumps erodes.
I should have taken picture of the pasture when we did see it first in August several years ago, and if I dig archives maybe I'll find one. It was mowed clump grass to under 2 inches flush.
Massive cracks in dirt, very hot. Even bindweed (and that's darn tough) did not grow there...

I do not want to till pasture, do not have equipment and not about to buy that or rent that. very expensive. Now no till cover crops however regenerate soils, and that;s what I want.
you say Brazil, will not work. Turns out that it can be applied year around...

My own clump grass is green under that wood chips I placed... So I have at least some perennials in there growing. If I maintain living organisms my dirt will become soil in several years and I'll have regenerated pasture.
Here is one of the links ... Regarding making soil produce organic matter.

It seems that cover crops meant to be seeded as multi-species combination. I wonder is that's why my attempt to seed yellow, red and white clover did not go well... the time was right according to CSU extension office...
For ears we were told that cover crops supposed to be planted as mono culture because poli-culture plants will compete for moisture... But here is the rub... when I look at virgin pasture I see that nature does not work that way, the plants are mixed and somehow they all are ok...
There are patches of mono culture that are considered to be invasive, that I guess is a separate case...
For a distressed soil whatever cover is a good cover.

I my case if I want to make desert bloom I need to get to it a bit differently. The question is what kind of mix should work. On my salt grass spot I have a mix of weeds. They grow and turn brown fast, they burn in sun. I wonder if I could grow live cover crops longer... I do have my clump grass go to seed just fine. The trouble is it seeds but I do not see it germinating as is much. At leas I do not see visibly thicker pasture year over year yet.
The hope is to fill in the the bare dirt between the clumps.

At this point it is mulched, so if I do not get to the right diversified cover crop mix this year I still have the armor and the cover over the dirt ans start making soils there employing worms and fungi.

With cover crops one is after the biomass. Some of the research states that diversified cover crop mix can triple the bio mass. Something like that in our case if huge because we do not have whole lot of organic material. If dirt makes that we use every bit.
Where does fungi play the role there? It turns out that in poli-culture fungi makes 'bridges' between different species, so they benefit of one another...
From that point of view mix of brassacas, legumes and grasses would be good...

It seems that my dirt manages to grow well cool season cover, after the summer heat waves is where I have troubles with the living cover, soil temperature gets too high. Second autumn planting would be for us August, the thing is we are in dead heat at that time above  85+F and that does create a problen for anything to germinate, because not covered dirt heats up too much.
With wood chips I'm going after cooling the soil and when plants establish more covering with wood chips. On my scale that would be a lot of work without automation.
So I'm looking for some more efficient way to get where I want.
Preferably the cheaper way as well.

The end goal would be blooming meadow with longer growing season so my beneficial fungi gets to work longer.
In the garden it is possible, on pasture it is challenging due to the mid scale.

I have perennial clump grass and in covered by wood chips soil I do have some of it green.
The roots are living. And these are good for beneficial fungi.
Longer I have living roots, longer the system functions.
Nature is trying to put living thing in dirt for as long as possible.
I see cover crop as biological primer that enhances the life and the function of the soils.

Some of the cover crop mixes that can work here are
hairy vetch

Also diverse cover crop will maximize solar energy collection (because leaves shaped differently and they are all over the place). More photosynthesis means more liquid carbon pumped into the soil.

Liquid carbon pathway:
photosynthesis->translocation to the roots->transfer to soil->consumed by microbes
Soil carbon is the driver for the nutritional status of the plants and soil moisture holding capacity.
That last factor alone often is the most limiting factor to soil production. For a farmer that counts  as profits.

If my pasture blooms it attracts pollinators, and those are good for me.
Pests exist, but also other bugs that eat these pests.
If I attack bugs that eat the pests I do not have to cut a check to someone for pesticide, all I need to do is provide a home for that bug that eats the pest.

Folk have pests problem because there is lack of homes for predatory bugs. As soon as I made homes for praying mantises I have drastic decrease in grasshoppers population, and 30-20 chickens add to the damage quite a bit. These velasoraptors are on day light patrol non stop.
When these can not get to bugs the start digging rock for every unfortunate worm or bug there is hiding.
These bit of birds along with rabbits are my little bit of life stock integrated on the pasture.

Diversity of the plant covers ends up in water conservation.
It is not about how much water one can get from the sky.
It is about
      how much water one can infiltrate into the soil
      and about how much water one can hold in that soil
Water is stored via organic matter. End of story.

Often we create our own drought.
It is not how much water one can get. It's how much water one ca hold and do not evaporate... cause no one has enough water to water entire state... I sure do not and I want to water my land, not some other X miles away if it forms a cloud and falls down there somewhere. I need my water here.
Here is how much different types of soils can hold
For each 1% increase in soil organic matter, soil can store an additional 20,000 gallons of water.”
That’s an impressive statistic! According to the USGS, the average person uses 80 to 100 gallons of water per day in the US.  This means the extra water stored from increasing organic matter just 1% would last most of us up to 9 months for all the water we use in our daily activities.

Key point is made clear in the final figure of Hudson’s paper: soil textures (the amounts of sand, silt, and clay that make up a soil) have a huge impact on the change in water holding capacity of a soil with increased organic matter.  Because of the big differences in the surface area of soil particles, large particles like sand grains really can’t hold a candle to the really small soil particles like silt and clay in terms of holding on to water. And this affects how increases in organic matter can change water-holding capacity, too. Boost organic matter 1% in a sandy soil, for instance, and water holding capacity increases. But that same increase in a silty loam soil will store even more water.

We are on solid clay. I can see a lot of benefit from life forms in soil...

1 comment:

  1. You can also add winter wheat to your cover crop mix. Free wheat can be gleaned at the edges of pastures after harvest. I now have three garden beds of amazing soil that I have built up like you are. I still mulch year round with fall leaves and grass clippings from around the town I live in in NW OK.