Ecology Action
submit search

August 2007: Agricultural Notes

Newsletter Home


•  A thought-provoking article, “States of Carbon, States of Nitrogen: Reconsidering an Essential Ratio” by Robert Gerard, appeared in the June 2006 issue of Acres U.S.A. The author questions whether the touted carbon/nitrogen ratio and the amount of nitrogen we have become accustomed to feeding our plants actually give the best overall result. Among the points he presents are:

  • Tilth and porous soil may be more of a factor in nitrogen availability than quantities of carbon.
  • Although many studies show the benefits of a leguminous cover crop, a significant number of studies have shown an equal or better response following a cover crop of non-leguminous, high-carbon crops such as wheat and rye.
  • Although it has been thought that the nitrogen in manure is what gives plants a “kick,” manure is basically a carbon-based material that includes one-quarter to one-half of its weight in microbes. In this way, adding manure to a field is more of an inoculation than fertilization.
  • Speaking with many farmers, the author has found they focus on adding carbon rather than nitrogen. They feel that carbonaceous material maintains a high amount of microbes, including those that fix nitrogen. Although the yields are about 20 percent less than nitrogen-enriched crops, the plants are higher-quality, less liable to be attacked by pests or disease and stand up better in storage and shipping.
  • The author points out that a substantial percentage of the world’s energy goes into the manufacture of nitrogen fertilizer. Overuse of nitrogen has polluted the environment and created huge dead zones at the mouth of major rivers. It is also one of the principal gases responsible for climate change. Although not as common as carbon dioxide, it is capable of storing 200 times more of the sun’s heat.

•  The Spring 2007 issue of Tilth Producers Quarterly has an article written by Larkin Stentz, a colleague of Ecology Action. The article is “Tips for Greenhouse Growers in Windy Areas” and has many photos showing how Larkin has constructed his greenhouse in Long Beach, Washington, to withstand winds that can reach over 80 mph.

•  Agroforestry News, Vol. 15 #2, February 2007, has a detailed section on Using Wood for Fuel. Included are the science of burning wood, notes on specific woods for burning, drying wood, heating systems: log or woodchip?, log heating systems, and woodchip heating systems. This is a British publication whose website is

•  An article, “Mustard Can Drive Away Pests” by Pam Sherwood in the Spring 2007 issue of PAN North America (Pesticide Action Network, 49 Powell Street #500, San Francisco CA 94102,, describes how mustard is being planted between wheat and potato plants in the northwest US. When plowed into the soil it acts as a natural fumigant. Potatoes grown in Washington and Idaho account for half of the US crop, and a toxic pesticide has normally been used.

•  The March/April 2007 issue of Organic NZ has an article “Radical Radish – The quickest cure?” by Pam Blowers which gives some background information on this vegetable then focuses on the black radish and daikon and their health benefits.

•  “How to choose a grain mill” by Jo Belanger appeared in the March/April 2007 issue of Countryside magazine. This article points out what a prospective buyer should think about when buying a mill. It also mentions that many of its advertisers sell grain mills, so this could be a good place for serious buyers to start a search.

•  In the Letters to the Editor of a recent Acres U.S.A magazine, a reader expresses confusion about using rock phosphate. She states: “The mining of phosphate rock is extremely destructive in that enormous amounts of pollutants are generated as by-products, including literal mountains of radioactive gypsum that are sickening people living in the vicinity of these phosphate mines.” The answer was: “A preferred form of ‘mined’ phosphates is soft-rock phosphates, which does not show toxic effects on plants or aninals.”



Ecology Action has been a small 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization since 1971.

©2006 Ecology Action.

Memberships/Contributions | Site Map