We haven’t spoken much about science on the farm, but we’ve had a number of projects going over the last few years. Last season, KCC Urban Farm ran a small experiment to see how adding minerals to our soil could boost plant nutrition. This year, we plan to expand upon that experiment, so stay tuned for internship opportunities!
Soil is made out of minerals (50%), air (23%), water (23%), and organic matter (4%). Because KCC Urban Farm is lucky enough to receive donations of compost from the Department of Sanitation, however, our soil has 30% organic matter! What does this mean for us? For growing our high quality vegetables, it means we have to test our soil for the nutrients plants need to grow.
Based on the soil test results, we can add mineral amendments based on what we’re missing.
We want to know if our mineral amendments are leading to healthier crops. In 2014, we ran a small experiment on our tomato plants: we amended only half of the plants for each variety of tomato. After a couple of weeks, we measured calcium and brix levels in new and old leaves for all of the tomato plants. We did the same thing a couple of months later. Calcium is important for plant growth – plant cells use it for structure. It’s also a good indicator of nutrient uptake. Brix is a measure of plant sugars – if brix is high, we know our plants have everything they need to thrive.