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Fertilizers For Grapes

As regards fertilizers, the grape-grower has much to learn and in
learning he must approach the problem with humility of mind. For in
his experimenting, which is the best way to learn, he will no sooner
arrive at what seems to be a certain conclusion, than another season's
results or the yields in an adjoining vineyard will upset the findings
of past seasons and those obtained in other places. Unfortunately,
there is little real knowledge to be obtained on the subject, for
grape-growers have not yet broken away from time-worn dictums in
regard to fertilizers and still follow recommendations drawn from work
with truck and field crops. This is excused by the fact that there
have been almost no comprehensive experiments in the country with
fertilizers for grapes.

No fallacies die harder than the pronouncements of chemists a
generation ago that fertilizing consists in putting in the soil
approximately that which the plants take out; and that the chemical
composition of the crop affords the necessary guide to fertilizing.
These two theories are the basis of nearly every recommendation that
can be found for the use of fertilizers in growing crops. The facts
applied to the grape, however, are that the average tillable soil
contains a hundred or a thousand times more of the chemical
constituents of plants than the grape can possibly take from the soil;
and many experiments in supplying food to plants show that the
chemical composition of the plant is not a safe guide to their
fertilizer requirements. Later teachings in regard to the use of
fertilizers are: That the quantity of mineral food in a soil may be of
far less importance than the quantity of water, and that the
cultivator should make certain that there is sufficient moisture in
his land so that the mineral salts may be readily dissolved and so
become available as plant-food; that far too much importance has been
attached to putting chemicals in the soil and too little to the
physical condition of the soil, whereby the work of bacteria and the
solvent action of organic acids may make available plant-food that
without these agencies is unavailable.

These brief and simple statements introduce to grape-growers some of
the problems with which they must deal in fertilizing grapes, and show
what a complex problem of chemistry, physics and biology fertilizing
the soil is; how difficult experimental work in this field is; and how
cautious workers must be in interpreting results of either experiment
or experience. An account of an experiment in fertilizing a vineyard
may make even more plain the difficulties in carrying on experiments
in fertilizing fruits and the caution that must be observed in drawing

Next: An Experiment In Fertilizing Grapes

Previous: Irrigation

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