I was introduced to this by a farmer friend in Iowa. We were there for a visit/funeral in NW IOwa. He had his farm, and taught agronomy at Iowa State in his past. He could quote you chapter and verse on micronutrients, which kinda sorta left me dizzy in that conversation as he was talking about the stuff in terms of PPM and other gradients, and it was hard to keep up with that conversation. When the conversation evolved into the one about Nutri cal and Nutri-grow, he really lit up and strongly recommended it. The testaments from large sccle farms are outstanding as well... specifically in reagerd to the lack of fungus and disease in the plants.
I hope to talk to Dr Bob Beyfus about these micronutrients and the fungal communities that he is so knowledgable about.
I doubt I'll use the NutriCal since it has almost as much Nitrogen as Calcium. No doubt that's a great thing for most agricultural crops, but I haven't read anything positive about N addition for ginseng. If we could find a liquid calcium supplement without N I'd be into it if its cost effective. Surely something like that exists, although honestly the granulated gypsum bags don't seem all that expensive to me.
By the way, I don't agree with Dr. Beyfus's argument that Ca additions can't help a very poor site because microbial communities take a long to develop. I just got done reading a paper (Nadeau, 2003) where the authors added lime to a site with Ph of 3.6 and Ca less than 500 lbs/ac. The additions improved ginseng growth for 8 years. If that's not a site with poor soil for ginseng I don't know what is. The microbial communities must have developed quickly. Anyway, made me think of what you were doing in your rhododendron site. I think you're on the right track.
Matt- just getting around to reading this. Thanks for your sentiments, and I would have discussed it with you at the expo ... [duh], if I'd read it before going. I'm not in agreement w/ Bob Beyfuss about that either.
The only Q in my mind is how often I'll need to apply. yearly? Quarterly? Hmmm....
I'll keep in touch with you per some of our discussions at the expo.
I plan on planting some seed in my piedmont area again, and I remember that was your interest as well.
If I understand correctly calcium does not increase microbial activity. Calcium enhances the ginseng plants ability to absorb nutrients and minerals through the cell walls making it more health as well as giving it a better chance to ward off disease. I didn't Google this statement I have just made to verify it, so I could be completely off base.
Not trying to clarify what Bob did or didn't say, but I think he means amendments can make a so so site OK but will not make a bad spot a good spot. Paraphrasing a bit but that's what I read into it on a previous post somewhere.
All I know is trial and error sure goes a long way with this mysterious and difficult plant to propagate. What works for one location does not always work for another. I know this for a fact in my planting endeavors.
I also probably shouldn't re-interpret the Beyfuss argument too much either, but its available directly from him in another thread, and I had a brief chance to discuss with him this weekend. I hope he'll correct me if I misspeak... Your paraphrase is the main argument he now makes (i.e. gypsum can improve a good site, but not make a bad spot a good spot). I'll defer to his knowledge on that part, and assume he's right. The part I disagree with is that microrhyzal communities are slow to develop and that without them, calcium additions are of limited use. To that I would cite 3 or 4 peer review studies where adding calcium and/or lime to really poor sites did in fact improve ginseng growth. The fact that calcium improved plant growth is indisputable (we're talking on the order of doubling root mass), so the only question to me is whether they improve the site enough to make it worth growing ginseng for profit. I asked Dr. Beyfuss about that this week, and his opinion is basically that it improves growth, but not enough to make it worthwhile. Hopefully, WhitJr will be able to tell us whether that was true for him in a few years. In at least one of the calcium addition studies conducted on poor sites, calcium improved growth dramatically, but plants still died in a few years.
Whitjr- you asked about how often to repeat calcium additions. You obviously do a lot of soil tests and those will of course will be your best guide. In one article I've read they added calcium every year for maybe 4 years and then stopped. Soil calcium levels dropped very quickly, but not all the way back to baseline. Based on that work, I plan to add calcium every year until my soil goes from 2000 ppa to 3000 ppa, and then as needed to keep it above say 2700. I'm anticipating adding every 2 years or so, but of course the soil tests will tell us what we need to do.
I am unsure of what Bob gives as reasons for 90% ginseng failure but I can tell you one in my opinion....Rodents. They will do unseen disastrous damage before your little seeds ever get out of the gate.
Just over the rise from this year's planting area, about 75 yards, I had poured out some corn earlier in the year to attract deer under my son's hunting spot. Just moments ago, \"im in the woods as I speak\" while we were raking back the debri and leaves I found a twenty some odd kernel store just barely under the ground. I have always found evidence of rodent predation on seed but I had no idea they would travel that far. 75 yards! We are removing all leaf litter and everything down to the dirt, loading it onto tarps and moving it completely out of the area and will let the area set for a week or so with bait traps before planting. This was the plan in the first place but I now will exterminate this whole hillside before any seed go down.
I'd say the 90% failure would be a combination, poor seed.soil,predators,poachers and disease.
If a person can grow his own seed from wild stock I think that would really help the survival rate over time. MORE THAN ANYTHING.