Press Bulletin No. 52.
The Loss of Nitrogen on the Farm.
[By E. R. FLINT.]
Of all the fertilizing ingredients that the farmer has to
buy, nitrogen is the most expensive, yet in spite of this
fact a large amount of this valuable plant food goes to
waste on all farms, some of which at least could be pre-
served and returned to the land, and that, in the most
favorable forms of applying nitrogen on our sandy soils.
The three general sources of nitrogen, namely: Chemic-
als, a nitrate of soda and sulphate of ammonia; organic
'itrogen, as dried blood, fish scrap, animal excreta, etc.
ilnd the nitrogen of the air, obtained indirectly through
the agen i iFTi~-egiu-minoT"isplants; vary in value in the
readiness with which the crop to which they are applied.
can make use of them, but there is also considerable vari-
D~ec. 1, 1904.
action in- value with the same material in different soils
and under varying conditions. For instance, nitrate of
soda, one of the most valuable sources .of.ni.trogen, as .
is one of the most available and concentrated forms,
which should be applied in small amounts through the
growing season, as the plant requires it, may not only lose
its effect and value, but may prove injurious if applied in
large amounts on soils easily leached or washed out, or at
a time when the crop is about to fruit. This form of
nitrogen.should only be used, therefore, with a thorough
understanding of its action and the proper method of
application. When so used, it may be the best and most
convenient source of nitrogen, in many ways.
In the second form, as organic refuse, both animal and
vegetable, while the nitrogen is not so immediately avail-
able-in fact, because of this-we have a much safer
material in inexperienced hands, and we have the addi-
tional advantage in many cases of a greatly improved
mechanical condition resulting in the soil. This form of
nitrogen is produced to a greater or less extent on all
farms, and yet, in spite of its value, either through
neglect or carelessness, is allowed to go largely to waste.
The climatic conditions of Florida are such that it is
not, as a rule, possible to preserve the manure produced
by the animals on the farm to the extent that it is in
more northern sections, where it is necessary to confine'
the live stock in stables, especially during the winter,
which gives the northern farmer such a valuable asset in
the manure pile in the spring. Except from city stables,
this source of fertilizing material must be limited. To
som-ne extent, however, the farmer ca'n prevuit tiis l)s
an d provide himself with a certain amount of material,
the value of which is so highly appreciated by those who
practice intensive farming, that it has a4 good market
By_ inclosing the animals in a small lot, with an open-
roofed shed in one corner to protect the contents from
rain, under which all the surface litter should be raked
occasion lly, the foundation for a good compost heap can
be readily. mado, into which can be thrown all the refuse.
matter from the farm, is weeds, litter, trash, bones,
3!., . Il, h en manure, vault cleaning, etc., and which
nucd not, and should not, be offensive if an occasional
layer of lime, gypsum or old plaster is spread upon it.
Additional and supplementary fertilizing material can be
added to advantage, as acid phosphate and kaiit
(nitrates should not he added to it), thus making a com-
plete fertilizer, and one that is worth much more than the
actual fertilizing ingredients, in the greatly improved me-
chanical condition imparted to the soil.
Such a compost heap should be forked over a few times
before applying it to the land, when it will be found that
the coarser litter has undergone more or less decomposi-
tion. This material can be applied in liberal amounts
without danger, and the results will be such as to make
the owner wish he had more of it.
The liquid manure-which is especially rich in nitro-
gen-in- a valuable I itand-vaii~li e form--is. perhaps, more
difficult to preserve under these conditions, but- a liberal
covering of litter over the lot would absorb much of it.
Liquid manutre rapffdTy decomnposers and mucn crof the,
itrog'eo is thereby lost, but this can be prevented some-
what by the applic'Otinf of lime to the ',mp*wt heap.
The liquid house slops should be poured ver the pile
every day, adding much to its value and aiding the decom-
position of the coarser material.
Fermentation goes on in such a compost heap through
the action of bacteria, breaking up the organic matter.
The manure becomes disintegrated and of uniform char-
acter throughout, allowing an easier and more unifornc
distribution in the field and a more intimate mixing with.
the soil; the eoaors'e litter is decomposed and its plant.
food is made more available; compounds are formed from
the organic matter that more readily produce humus
within the soil; the availability of the nitrogen of the
solid portion of the manure is increased; the phosphates
are made more assimilable; there is less weight of manure
to haul to the field, and aud a large number of weed seeds
are killed. When it is carried to the field it should be
spread at once, and not left in piles to leach out.
Barnyard manure is one of the most efficient means at
the disposal of the farmer to permanently improve his
soil. Probably no other fertilizer possesses this power to
so great a degree.
It has been calculated that the value of the manure of
a well-fed horse or cow, per 1,000 Ibs. weight, per year, is
about $25. The loss of this -which is either so common
as to breed indifference or so silent and hidden as to
escape notice-is one of the leakages of the farm that
would well repay going to some trouble and expense to
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