County Ag Report: Organic matter and soil health

Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 9:36 AM EDT
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) - If you “carrot” all about soil health, “lettuce” fill you in. In this week’s county ag report, Rhian Lowndes visited a compost experiment to learn why soil health is the foundation for good produce.

If you’ve visited the Presque isle farmers market, you may have seen compost buckets. Those are to help Randy Martin turn this fallowed plot into a produce haven

“There’s 4 treatments 1, 3, 6, 9 tons per acre applied to different crops,” said Martin.

Each row has a different amount of compost, with a control plot using just chemical fertilizer. Randy’s idea? To show that naturally nourishing your soil is the best way to help your plants thrive

“Organic matter in the soil is very important soil health and soil health and organic matter are tied together,” he said.

Lisa Daugherty owns a compost business in Alaska. She’s visiting family in the county, but stopped by the farm to learn more

“Instead of feeding the plant what it needs, we feed the soil what it needs and from there nutrients will become available to plants,” Daugherty said.

“We are starting harvesting lettuce today,” Martin explained as the team got to work on the beds.

And that lettuce will go to catholic charities to stock their food pantry. Some of the other produce will be served at Friday’s field day to show the fruits of their labor. But their work is far from over

“I think one thing about compost is things don’t happen overnight,” said Daugherty. “So if you’re working on building the soil’s biology, if you’re starting with a soil that’s pretty dead and doesn’t have organic matter it’s going to take a while for that shift to happen and once you do build up the microbial life in your soil then you can really see the difference that compost makes.”

“The potatoes here are really small and they’re blossoming but that’s to be expected with what they have for nutrients and what the soil can give to them,” said Martin. “Next year they’ll be a little better, better the next year and better the year after that.”

Martin says it’s a longer wait but a better, long-lasting pay off.

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