NRCS grants include Oregon orchard soil nutrition study
Oregon orchardist Mike Omeg will test a soil and plant nutrition program developed by an Amish farmer with an eighth grade education who has become one of the country’s leading advocates of alternative farming methods.
Omeg, who grows cherries near The Dalles, will work with Oregon State University and Washington State University staff on a three-year grant provided by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. They’ll compare parts of the orchard managed with conventional, industry-standard methods to sections operated with what Omeg described as “intensive nutrient management” of the soil and trees.
The latter method includes applying a mix of mulch and compost to the soil and bi-weekly analysis of plant sap in cherry tree leaves. The sap analysis provides a timeline of the plant’s health and reportedly can give advance warning of pest and disease problems.
Omeg said the system is based on plant and soil biology.
“Instead of trying to balance calcium by applying more to the soil,” he said as an example, “what you try to do is stimulate the soil biology so that (it) makes more calcium available.”
Omeg said he and the university researchers are trying to determine if a nutrient- and soil-centered management approach will work on a commercial scale.