Ecological impact of soil amendments

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I always thought that what was local was best and cheaper. I swear by wood chips. Marton NJ 20 miles away gave me green sand and I purchased granite dust in the day. Other things brought in was various manures if I cleaned it up the coop or stall. Green manures are a given sort of like roots trying to help the soil. Dried blood and bone meal too. (Prions) I've also composted barber hair and sea weed along with fish and game innards.
Question ....are some amendments deleterious more than others?
Peat got me questioning thinking.
--
Bill S. Jersey USA zone 5 shade garden



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In places with high salt content in the soil already, soil amendments that are high in salts can be bad news.
    Una
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Una wrote:

I take it salt in soil is a sign of poor drainage and/or insufficient rainfall. When Rome finally took out Carthage they plowed salt into the soil. Carthage never came back from that and the place is still desert today, but the soil is no longer salty. Even in a desert there's been enough rain and drainage to leach it all away centuries ago.
One of the long term problems with pumping well water and other irrigation for crops is it tends to build minerals in the soil faster than natural drainage. The soil moves towards desert over a period of centuries. There are vast deserts in the world that were once lush agricultural lands. The desert of Iraq was one of the birthplaces of agriculture and there was a History Channel show this week on a Sahara site that was once a grain farming community.
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Una wrote:

In some places the salt is of geological origin: former seabeds. The groundwater in some parts of the world is so heavily laden with salts *from within the ground* that it is not drinkable and very few species of plants can survive either. It takes a *lot* of rainfall to remove so much salt.
One cause of desertification is centuries of extraction of organic matter, and soil nitrogen, by humans. Intense agriculture does that, where biomass is produced in one place and consumed somewhere else.
    Una
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Doug Freyburger wrote:

Not necessarily, it is a complex issue with more than one cause, see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soil_salination
When Rome finally took out Carthage they plowed salt into

Yes rainfall will tend to remove salt just as it leaches all soluble salts over time. It isn't clear to me if the proverbial application of salt by Rome resulted in the desert, I suspect there is more to it than that.

That can happen but it is not the only way that soil damage can be caused. Irrigation water can raise the water table so that salty water that was safely buried comes up to interfere with plant growth
The soil moves towards desert over a period of

I wouldn't assume that all that was all due to salinity, over grazing and other mismanagement contributed. It is much easier to damage soil and allow deserts to encroach than the reverse.
See:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desertification
I seem to recall that there have been some climate change effects in the fertile crescent too (over millenia not the last century) but I cannot find the reference to it.
David
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I thought that the forests of north Africa met the same fate as the forests of Britain (cut to make ships), however I don't seem to find a supporting cite for that opinion.

I think you'll find that the raising of the salt level in the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers via irrigation is the accepted mechanism for the collapse of agriculture there.

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- Billy
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In article

I was told that much wood was cut to make charcoal. The charcoal was then used in smelting iron. When I was about five I once saw a pile of wood smoldering just north of Philadelphia. It was 50 yards high by about 300 round.
http://www.historyofredding.com/HRforest.htm
--
Bill S. Jersey USA zone 5 shade garden

Daniel Moynihan and Dennis Kucinich in 2012 !
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Charcoal seems to be the current reason for loss of forest in northern Africa now, as well as in Haiti.
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- Billy
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Bill who putters wrote:

I think the problem has several parts.
1) What is suitable for domestic composting? I have composted corpses too but you have to bury them deep or some kindly neighbour will unearth them for you. My heaps are large and away from houses.
2) What is acceptable to the residents? In this district chicken litter is applied to the fields in quantity (but usually only once a year or less) which is clearly not possible in a city for several reasons. Some farmers were using sewerage sludge often and not following the rules about turning it in straight away. They were castigated and required to cease.
3) What can be harmful in itself to the environment? Some minerals eg gypsum can contain heavy metals and so long term application is not good. Some sewerage sludge can also contain things like heavy metals. Inappropriate application of soluble fertiliser near waterways pollutes them considerably. Blooms of algae and water plants can be a huge environmental headache.
4) What is a reasonable price in cash? I don't know about the sustainability of harvesting peat moss, I don't use it because it is very expensive here and there are plenty of alternatives, probably because it has to travel a long way. That in itself may render it unsustainbale here in the long run.
5) What is not sustainable in the long term? Fill in your own blanks here, probably anything with a fixed supply and a growing rate of use, petroleum and phosphate rock are obvious. Anything that has to be carried a long distance is doubtful. Anything that is a byproduct is attractive provided it passes the other tests.
In summary use what is local as much as possible and THINK before you apply it every time.
David
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I only use Alaskan fish emulsion due to the mercury issue. I wear a mask when using blood or bone meal and dried manures because of disease issues.
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Another approach is to only use "organic" fish emulsion. Besides Mercury, fish may contain Selenium, DDT, PCBs, Dioxins, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which are used widely as flame retardants. All bad stuff.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fish_oil#Toxic_pollutants_in_supplements A March 2010 lawsuit filed by a California environmental group claims that eight popular brands of fish oil supplements contained excessive levels of PCBs, including CVS/pharmacy, Nature Made, Rite Aid, GNC, Solgar, Twinlab, Now Health, Omega Protein and Pharmavite.
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Selenium is bad? I thought that was a needed mineral for the body.

Whew... Glad you did not mention the Fisol brand. I take the one that has 70% strength, deep ocean fish and no mercury listed on the bottle and expensive about $35/bottle. Doctor Prescribed it for my Mom who has AMD, Age-related macular degeneration, so if it is good for my mom, its good for me?????
--
Enjoy Life... Nad R (Garden in zone 5a Michigan)

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Dan L wrote:

Selenium is a trace element required by some plants and animals, it is also used in dandruff shampoo. It isn't very toxic. Mercury, PCBs and Dioxin are another matter.
The principle is sound though that you need to to read the fine print regarding minor components of soil amendments, especially regarding long-lived and cumulative toxins.
David
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My bad. Selenium is a toxic pollutant for fish and water fowl.

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I'd think it would depend on what they are. I'll only use "organic" fish emulsion now. Part of the problem is the vast amount of plastic from shopping bags to six-pack holders that is in the oceans now. A distressing attribute of plastic is its ability to attract and concentrate PCB, PBDE, dioxins, and DDT. The plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller bits, which are taken up by aquatic life, and hence to the top predators (us). Municipal sludge is out as was seen in the fiasco of Michelle Obama trying to plant an organic garden where sludge had been sprayed on the White House lawn (heavy metals). Fresh manure or house hold sewage is acceptable, as long as it is kept off the the parts of the plant to be eaten for at least 4 months.
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It's a question most gardeners I know grapple with Bill. I live in the country and the garden on this farm has been made on the side of a stoney slope. Farmers don't put their houses on good soil, they put it on the shitty stuff because income comes from the good soil.
The unimproved soil was appalling - dunno how to describe it but it's the colour of the poo a calf with the scours produces - yellow, unhealthy looking stuff - it's full of small rocks quartz and shale/mudstone.
Everything I need for the garden except animal poop has to be brought in, but to get some of the animal poop eg, the chook poop, I need food for the chooks to be brought in. I have to hunt the plops the cattle leave all over the paddocks.
I recycle and return to the soil as much as I can but all rose prunings go to the tip and in spring when I'm overwhelmed with giant weeds, some of those go to the tip too as I can't get to them before they get seed heads and I can never make and turn a hot compost. My compost tends to be more weed piles that rot over time. I'm better at tumble compost bins. Dead chhoks get buried in the bottom of these weed piles.
I've found straw bales work as a good soil improver for me and also sawdust. The sort of quatities of peat that you Nth Americans write about using has never, ever been possible here in Oz. The most we could even buy would be a small pack that could be used to line hanging baskets with so we've never had the chance to use it to add to beds to 'lighten' the soil. In fact I can't even imagine why you'd use it to 'lighten' the soil. I add sand and rotted stuff from the bottom of my weed piles or rotted hay bales to break up my clayey soil. That and turning in old dead stuff dropped on the surface from weeding.
Interesting question. I'll have to think about it some more.
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Why can't you make a hot compost pile? Sounds like you have a farm. If you have a tractor with a front loader, you can easily turn a large hot compost open pile.

Why add sand? I thought sand + clay = concrete. I believe organic material alone will help modify the soil.
--
Enjoy Life... Nad R (Garden in zone 5a Michigan)

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Sand + clay will lead to harder soil. Sand + clay + organic material (rye, buckwheat) will lead to more workable soil. Organic material must be renewed to maintain soil fertility.
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Hmmm... Will you need more organic material with the sand?
Are you saying sand+organic is better than organic alone as a soil amendment?
So I can improve more soil by adding sand and stretching out my organic material?
--
Enjoy Life... Nad R (Garden in zone 5a Michigan)

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More than what?

Yes.
The best garden soil is 30% - 40% sand, 30% - 40% silt, and 20% - 30% clay. Amend as necessary to approach these numbers. The above should constitute 90% - 95% of the soil. The other 10% - 5% should be organic material.
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- Billy
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