How Milk Improves Soil Health
Fish and Sea Minerals
Part 4 of 5
Liquid fish or fish fertilizer is another product that has been successfully applied to pastures. Teddy Gentry, the founder of South Poll cattle, has been using a fish product for years and is pleased with the results. It seems especially beneficial in fighting the effects of a drought. Gentry mixes the fish with liquid calcium and is thinking about adding sea minerals to his mixture.
Sea minerals might be the best way to improve poor or depleted soils. We all know that a large deer in Iowa will weigh 100 pounds more than a large deer from that part of Missouri south of the Missouri River. Many people ascribe the difference to the mineral level of the soils. It’s difficult – if not impossible – to produce high-quality grass on soil that is no properly mineralized. It took Herringshaw years to get his grass to the 22 brix level and he is convinced he would not have gotten there without the seal minerals. Herringshaw prefers Redmond salt, while Sturges uses Sea-90. Sturges applies his sea minerals as a spray, along with compost tea. Herringshaw makes both dry and spray applications. He estimates he has broadcast approximately 85 pounds of Redmond salt per acre since he started using that product. This is in addition to what he has sprayed on. For both Sturges and Herringshaw, a foliar application is one pound or less per acre.
Another individual that makes extensive use of sea minerals is Doug Gunnink of Gaylord, Minn. Gunnink produces high-brix grass for his grass-fed beef operation by the foliar application of liquid fish and sea minerals. He also tests his grass and adds those minerals that are in short supply in his pastures, whether boron, sulfur, copper or some other mineral.
Fish hydrolysate, Gunnink explained, is the entire fish ground up and then preserved with phosphoric or sulfuric acid. If the preservative is phosphoric acid, the phosphorus “bumps up the Brix,” he said, adding that “phosphorus gives grass power.” High-Brix grass produces more organic matter, which in turn holds more water, Gunnink explained, stating that a 1% increase in organic matter will hold an additional 53,000 gallons of water per acre. “Organic matter is the sponge that holds water for dry spells.” Organic matter also holds the nutrients that plants need.
This story is not meant to be a war on conventional fertilizers. The late Dr. Maynard Murray, the pioneer that first advocated the use of sea minerals, said there is a place for conventional N, P, and K. We do, however, need to come up with better ways to use them. Bill Totemeier, a friend in southeast Iowa that is a commercial hay producer, uses ammonium sulfate rather than ammonium nitrate because the former is much more earthworm-friendly. He applies fertilizer two or three times per year in smaller amounts rather than one large application in the spring. This reduces the shock to the microbes.
Houston-area rancher Tom McGrady spread ammonium sulfate on his ryegrass pasture in early March. In his area, ammonium nitrate is no longer available. That may be a good thing.