Good Fruit Grower

April 15

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U ntil now, a major piece of the soil quality puzzle has been missing. For decades, traditional soil tests analyzed nutrients, soil pH, and organic matter, leaving out soil biology. But two new tests give growers objective tools to track the impact of their management changes and measure if practices like compost, manure, growing a cover crop, or adding a soil biostimulant are making a difference. Managing soil health has always been diffi cult, says Oregon State University's Dr. Don Horneck. In the past, laboratories measured physical and chemical components of soil; there wasn't a way to measure soil biology, the third component of soil health, said Horneck, an agronomist at OSU's Hermiston research station. New tests give growers a chance to learn about available nutrients and decide if management practices improve soil health. The Soil Health Nutrient Tool, also called the Haney test, was developed by Rick Haney, a scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's research laboratory in Temple, Texas, and Woods End Laboratories of Maine. The Haney test is being adopted by no-till and cover-crop farmers in the Midwest, many of whom have cut their fertilizer in half as a result. The Haney test uses nonproprietary methods to extract soil samples with water, measuring organic car- bon and nitrogen—food that's available to soil microbes. It also measures the soil's carbon-to-nitrogen balance, microbial active carbon, water-soluble carbon, and the carbon dioxide rate, an indicator of microbial activity. The test gives an overall soil health score ranging from 1 to 50. The collaboration between the USDA and Woods End lab on the Haney test led to development of a quick and easy test kit to measure soil carbon dioxide respiration. Woods End has patented the Solvita Soil Test, which can be purchased by commercial labs or growers for fi eld testing. The second test, developed by Cornell University, goes a step further than the Haney test by using the soil sample to grow a plant in a greenhouse and score how the plant grew, what diseases were present, and such. Thirty-nine soil characteristics are evaluated on a score- card. The Cornell test takes four to six weeks because it involves growing a plant. Though Horneck prefers the Cornell test because it is more comprehensive, both tools provide what was previ- ously lacking—a way to measure overall soil health, soil food, soil activity, and the balance of the two. He believes the tests could be valuable in assessing a potential site. The Cornell test is conducted at Cornell University; at least three laboratories perform the Haney test— Woods End, Brookside Laboratories in Ohio, and Ward Laboratories in Nebraska. Organic matter In the past, soil organic matter was used to measure soil health, Horneck said during the annual meeting of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers held in Kennewick, Washington. "Organic matter is magical stuff in the soil and crosses all three properties of soil: chemical, biological, and physical." 20 APRIL 15, 2014 GOOD FRUIT GROWER SOILS & Weed Control Orchard Proven, University Tested 610 Central Avenue Billings, MT 59102 (406) 248-5856 1-800-735-5323 Bee-Scent research data obtained from Dr. Dan Mayer, Washington State University For more information, call 1-800-735-5323 or visit Bee-Scent's natural, non-toxic pheromone ingredient induces the foraging behavior in honey bees, increasing the number of bee-to-blossom visits at each tree. The result is a higher percentage of blossom set and increased fruit yields. • Increase Fruit Set on Pears, Cherries and Braeburn Apples! • Increase Size Potential of Gala Apples by Increasing the Seed Complement! • Conforms to National Organic Program Standards • WSDA Organic Certifi ed New tests measure soil health New measuring tools allow growers to track the impact of management changes. by Melissa Hansen "Think of compost as a soil amendment; manure as a soil fertilizer." —Dr. Don Horneck

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