During the first years of operation of the Model Farm, fertilization procedures will be based on accepted protocols for each individual crop. After the first several years, we will begin to testing various technologies and approaches that reduce chemical fertilizer additions and allow differential fertilizer applications, according to spatial variations in the field.
The crop rotation cycle at the Model Farm will encompass five crops: wheat (for grain or silage), vetch mixed with clover, maize for forage, sunflower for seeds, and chickpea. Accordingly, a fertilization program will be devised for each crop in each season:
Basic fertilization, applied before or during sowing: In the fall we will take soil samples to determine nutrient composition: potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen and, according to the results, we will decide which nutrient elements to add to the soil and in what quantity. Fertilizer application will be by use of a centrifugal spreader. Fertilization while sowing will be accomplished by using a dual applicator, composed of one seed cell and one solid fertilizer cell, or by a precision applicator to the center of the bed. The fertilizer applications will be carried out by use of a tractor with automatic driving and a GPS system, for uniform application with no overlappings.
In part of the experimental area, in accordance with the experimental design, semi-stabilized manure or compost, at 50 cubic meters per hectare, will be worked into the soil, a procedure which will significantly reduce the need for application of chemical fertilizers. In most of the land area of Newe Ya‘ar, there is no need to apply potassium fertilizer and, if the soil is enriched with organic matter every three to four years, there is not need to add phosphorus for these crops.
Supplemental fertilization, applied nitrogen during crop growth: Depending on the growth and in accordance with the environmental conditions that will develop during that season, we will make a decision as to how much nitrogen to add to each crop.For example, with wheat, we will sample leaves when the plants have 3-4 and, according to the laboratory results, decide how much nitrogen to add during the course of the growing season. With vetch, clover and chickpea, which are from the legume family and fix nitrogen, it is customary not to add a nitrogen supplement at all throughout growth. The same is true of sunflowers as they have deep tap roots and a good absorption capacity of available minerals. As for maize, there will be a significant addition of nitrogen throughout growth, until the onset of male flowering.
Reducing application of chemical fertilizers: One of the common problems with conventional agriculture is the tendency to overfertilize, based on the assumption that it is better to give more than to give less. The excess fertilizer is eventually washed away from the plot to drainage ditches and watercourses adjacent to the plot, thereby violating the ecological balance of the drainage systems, watercourses, and their surroundings.
Thus, with regard to crop fertilization, the purpose of the Model Farm is to reduce to an absolute minimum chemical fertilizer supplements. Our plan is to accomplish this goal in several ways:
- Performing analyses of soil and crop samples, to determine the exact quantity of fertilizer needed for application.
- Examining the base treatment with regard to addition of organic matter in several degrees of stabilization, from half-stabilized cow manure to compost.
- Differential fertilizer application in the field, according to analyses of spatial differentation and over the course of the growing season.
- Evaluation of new technologies for reduction of the use of chemical fertilizers, through testing in the field.
The Model Farm at Newe Ya‘ar provides the perfect, realistic infrastructure for examining methods and technologies that can reduce the need for application of chemical fertilizers, and which can serve as alternative practices, without compromising agricultural profitability, crop growth and quality.