By Chris Bennett and Sara Brown
What A Day: Sitting Deeres
This farmer was trying to get a jump on spring tillage—but the wet ground made a game of leap frog a lot more fun.
If you’ve had one of those days—or captured someone else’s—we’d love to share it with our readers. Email high-resolution images to email@example.com or mail prints to What A Day!, Farm Journal, P.O. Box 958, Mexico, MO 65265. Photos for publication will be selected on a first-come basis.
Digging Up Seed Bottles and Weed Ghosts
When William James Beal, the father of hybrid corn, buried 20 bottles filled with seed and soil on the Michigan State University (MSU) campus in 1879, he started agriculture’s longest-running experiment. Attempting to determine how long weed seeds remain viable in soil, each bottle was scheduled to be dug up at a set year in the future.
Each 3"x7" bottle contains 50 seeds from 23 weed species. So far, Mullein has proven the most robust weed seed in the trial, germinating after every retrieval. Five bottles remain, with the final bottle to be removed in 2100.
Beal died in 1924, but the experiment has continued by MSU researchers. “When you see the glint of a glass bottle filled with seeds and sand buried in 1879, the feeling is exhilarating,” says Frank Telewski, MSU plant biologist, assigned to the project. “It’s truly digging into agricultural history.”
Farmers have a deep appreciation for the soil under their boots. Here are some fun facts to support the importance of healthy soil:
1 million- Organisms are in 1 gram of healthy soil
5 lb.- Average amount of nitrogen added by rainfall per acre per year
20 times- Amount of weight soil organic matter retains in water
7,000- Species of earthworms
23,000- Kinds of soil in the U.S.
1" to 2 yards- Range in length of earthworms
6"- Amount of soil earthworms can turn in 10 to 20 years