Wednesday night was the last night of this irrigation cycle with day shift wrapping up the final field Thursday afternoon, so it was an early start on Friday to go chipping. Volunteer cotton from last season was coming up in one of the refugee crops and needed to be removed, the only way to remove it is to chip it out so we had to walk up and down the rows and chip out the volunteer cotton and weeds with a hoe. Its not the best job to do but it needs to be done.
Luckily for me I got asked to change the points (the bits that go through the dirt) on a plough halfway through the morning, I always find it amazing that dirt can wear down metal as quickly as they do so its all ways some thing that need to be watched. While the plough was in the shed we gave it a full check over finding a couple of loose tines and a sheared pin, soon it was all fixed and ready to go back to the field.
The last couple of days have brought rain to the area, its not really what you want to have just after irrigation as it can water log the cotton but it can’t be controlled so you just have to look on the brighter side as it’ll help save a bit of water by putting of the next irrigation for a few extra days. More rain is still predicted for tonight and the next few days and should make it very wet and slippery but again it will help to save water and we may even get a bit of run off.
The key to a good crop is good nutrition, just like we need to eat food so does the crop the only difference being it gets its food from the soil. A crops nutritional requirements can range significantly depending on the soil and its composition, but there’s one nutrient a cotton crop always needs to make it as good as it can possibly be and its nitrogen.
Nitrogen has the chemical symbol N, is number seven on the periodic table and makes up 78% of the earth’s atmosphere, but what does this have to do with cotton? Nitrogen is also essential to building the amino acids that make up protein, making nitrogen essential to all life on earth.
So how do we get it into the fields you may ask, some of you may have noticed large tanks in my previous posts well these large tanks aren’t for holding water there for holding nitrogen liquid fertiliser (not liquid nitrogen), this fertiliser can range anywhere from 4% to 42% nitrogen. The nitrogen is then added to the channels in regulated amounts and enters the field when it is irrigated (one of the reasons why water from farms can not be added back into water ways), the nitrogen then enters the ground and is absorbed by the roots of the plants, the plant then uses it to make protein and grow.
Other ways of adding nitrogen to the field is through the aerial application of urea just before rain so it is watered down into the soil and won’t burn the plant. Another method is gassing the field, this usually occurs before planting or in the early stages of plant growth and involves adding liquid nitrogen (yes this time I do mean the really cold stuff) directly into the soil were it turn to gas and remains for the plants to use. A natural way of adding nitrogen is through crop rotation of legumes such as the refuge crop pigeon peas (see last post “Taking Refuge”), legumes naturally create there own nitrogen through a bacteria that lives on there roots, the nitrogen then remains in the soil after the plant is gone.
I hope this answers more questions about modern farming and if you have any more questions please comment.
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