PRESS BULLETIN 140
Florlda Agricullural Experiment Slallon
By J. M. Scott
What kind of fertilizer to purchase, and where to buy it, are ques-
tions that cause much worry. Yet this is not such a hard problem to solve,
if we will only make use of the large mass of waste material that annually
grows on the farms, and which is too frequently burned. True, we cannot
produce all the fertilizer on the farm; but every ton saved means just that
much less to buy. The farmers of no other State in the Union can so
easily grow a large amount of vegetable matter to use as a fertilizer, as can
be done in Florida.
Burning Destroys Ammonia
There is no more wasteful method of disposing of a crop of bean vines,
grass, or weeds, than by burning them. It is true that ashes are a ferti-
lizer. But quite often we sacrifice a large amount of ammonia for the sake
of obtaining-no, not obtaining, but merely seeing-a few pounds of ashes.
When velvet beans are grown and the vines left on the ground to be
plowed under during the following winter, they add ammonia to each acre
equal to an application of 1900 pounds of cottonseed meal; to say nothing
of the value of the humus added by the decay of these vines. If, on the
other hand, the vines are burned, as is the too common practice, we lose
a fertilizing value equal to 1900 pounds cottonseed meal. All of the humus
is also destroyed; and all we get in return is a few pounds of visible ashes.
But the fertilizing materials in the ashes (potash, and phosphoric acid)
are there all the time in the vegetable matter; and when this is not
burned, the crop can get them as the humus decays.
It is not necessary to grow a crop for fertilizer only. Nearly always
after we lay by a crop of corn, or after a vegetable crop is taken off, if no
other crop is planted, we get a good growth of crabgrass and beggarweed.
If this is not cut and cured for hay, it should be plowed under during De-
cember or January for fertilizing material.
Pound for pound, beggarweed and cowpeas are equal to velvet beans
as a fertilizer. Crabgrass, corn stalks, cotton stalks, and weeds, are not
so rich in ammonia as the leguminous crops just mentioned; but pound for
pound they add as much humus, and are well worth saving. Any vegetable
January 29, 1910
matter properly plovwed under has a beneficial effect, though not all to the
Waste of Humus by Burning
Humus is a dark colored powdery substance formed from decayed vege-
table matter; such as decayed corn-stalks, cotton-stalks, roots, grass, weeds,
and vines. When plants decay and become a part of the soil, the humus formed
Mvie'g. WI... VMlIls (TIMy 4r utecome a part o0 the Soni=, '
from them increases the water-holding capacity of the soil, makes a clay
soil loose and mellow, and turns a white sandy soil black. The humus itself
does not add any fertility to the soil, except what is found in the ammonia
and ash of the plant-remains; but it aids the crop in obtaining more fer-
tility from the soil. As we increase the percentage of humus in the soil, we
at the same time increase the water-holding capacity of the soil. All plant-
food must be in solution before it can be taken up and used by the plant.
Hence, humus increases the plant-food holding capacity of the soil.
To obtain the best results from plowing under vines, weeds, and grass,
four things are essential. (1) The plowing must be done during December
or January so as to allow time enough for the vegetable matter to decay
and become a part of the soil. (2) The ground must be in the proper condi-
tion for plowing; that is, neither too dry nor too wet. (3) A large plow
must be used, which will go deep enough to cover the weeds and vines. (4)
Sufficient draught power must be available to properly draw the large plow.
The plow for this work should not be less than 14 inches, and a 16-inch
plow is better. Better still is a 30-inch disc plow. If it is not possible to
secure a disc plow, it will-be found advantageous to go over the field with
a disc harrow before plowing. If the ground has a heavy coat of vines or
weeds, it will be found necessary, after going over the field once, to cross
it with the disc harrow. This will cut and break the trash up; so that,
with a rolling coulter on the plow, but little trouble will be experienced in
turning everything under.
State papers please copy