Tuesday, May 6, 2008


I saw something interesting today in the wheat field.

The wheat has grown by now to a height of about 8 inches, and the whole field is green. But within this sea of green, two narrow strips of darker emerald span the entire length of the field.

Farmer Jeremy was there with me, and he explained what had happened:

The entire field was sprayed some time ago with synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. During the process of doing laps back and forth across the field in a tractor, however, it worked out that two strips ended up getting a double dose of nitrogen. The result was these two extra-green lanes of wheat that appear unmistakably healthier than the rest of the crop.

If you've been reading the blog these past several weeks, you know I've written several times about the benefits and drawbacks of nitrogen fertilizer. But this is my first real look at the power of the stuff. My first-glace conclusion: Yeah, it works, and apparently doubling the amount you use works even better.


Anonymous said...

Don't make the mistake of thinking that just because nitrogen makes something taller or greener or fatter or bigger or lusher it is necessarily doing a good thing. One of the principle reasons that conventionally produced produce is less nutritious than it was seventy five years ago is nutrient dilution due in part to an increase in cell size and water retention caused by the excessive use of highly water soluble synthetic nitrogen.

Anonymous said...

Considering what stonybrook farmer says about the nutrition value of crops grown with synthetic fertilizer, it would be a good argument for buying organic. Perhaps if there were reliable nutrition and cost comparisons more available for consumers to compare say, apples to apples, more people would would realize more of the value of buying organic.

(Just looking at the field of greens, it sure appeared to me that the darker wheat would be more nutritious.)