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Vol. 9, No. 2







February 15, 1954

Soil Conditioners— A Progress Report
Following the release to the general public
of a soil conditioner in December 1951, there
has been a great deal of publicity given to
this material. Dozens of products have been
placed on the market, and many people have
used soil conditioners with a variety of

However, in normal cultivation of crops, this
desirable condition of the soil frequently dis­
appears early in the growing season.
The crusting over of soils following heavy
rains is one of the more frequent examples
of the breakdown in soil structure. This crust­
ing over prevents the emergence of seedlings
and, in many cases, sharply reduces the stand
of a newly planted crop. Chemical soil condi­
tioners enable soils to withstand the effects
of weathering and tillage machinery and still
remain in a desirable physical condition.

A summary of agricultural experiment sta­
tion results with respect to soil conditioners
is useful in appraising the value of these ma­
terials. Reporting in a recent issue of the
Crops & Soils magazine (published by the
American Society of Agronomy), soil scien­
tists point out that the synthetic soil condi­
tioners currently being marketed are of four A second important point noted by the sci­
is that the chemical soil conditioners
classes of chemical compounds: (1) poly- entists
whatever soil structure exists at the
vinylites, (2) cellulose gums, (3) lignin de­
In other words, if the soil
rivatives, and (4) silicates.
is crusted over at the time of applying the soil
conditioner, the conditioner will have no bene­
About 90 percent of the individual prod­ ficial
effect in attempting to break the crust.
ucts now on the market belong to the polyvinylite family. The amount of active in­
gredients in each varies considerably, with a This is a very important point because
recent study showing a range of 15 to 98 many people have come to believe that soil
conditioners will bring about the existence of
a desirable soil structure. However, tests have
Soil scientists generally are agreed that soil shown conclusively that the ground first must
conditioners do at least one thing — they in­ be worked into the proper state of tilth and
crease the stability of soil aggregates. Soil ag­ then the soil conditioner applied.
gregates are the lumps or granules of soil. In
Maintenance of the granular soil structure
order for plants to achieve maximum growth,
the soil must have a granular structure. This permits more rapid absorption of rainfall and
is one reason for working the soil prior to better aeration of the soil, both of which aid
planting. Plowing, harrowing, and cultivating plant growth. Tests have shown very definite
make the soil loose, friable, and granular. increases in yields from the use of soil condi-



tioners in situations where the problem of late for such planting, but with favorable
weather between now and spring, these crops
crusting or aeration existed.
will pay big dividends during the early spring
It is felt by many that the more satisfac­ months.
tory physical characteristics maintained in
Hubam or Madrid sweet clovers may be
the soil treated with the conditioner also tend
with good results in small-grain
to lower soil temperatures during excessively
or Johnson-grass fields in most northern areas
hot periods.
of the Southwest.
It is emphasized that soil conditioners do
not add any plant food to the soil. So far
Sudan grass can be planted in all areas
as is presently known, the chemicals included just as soon as the danger of frost is passed
in the conditioners have no beneficial effect and will make quick, highly palatable, and
upon plant growth itself. Their benefit comes nutritious pasture.
solely from their effect on the physical char­
acteristics of the soil. A more desirable physi­
cal condition of the soil may enable plants to More About Bluetongue in Sheep
make more effective use of plant nutrients
already present or added by means of chemi­ Eradication of common gnats may be the
cal fertilizers.
answer to the successful control of bluetongue — a virus disease attacking sheep in
Delay Spring Grazing
Scientists in South Africa have identified
It will be a strong temptation this spring night-flying
as carriers of the virus in
to put livestock on pastures just as soon as their country.midges
Scientists at the Texas Agricul­
grasses begin to show a little green.
tural Experiment Station near Sonora, Texas,
that these same insects are transmit­
Ted Trew, extension pasture specialist for believe
from animal to animal and
Texas A. 8s M. College, suggests that farmers from areadisease
in Texas.
and ranchers go slow with their spring graz­
ing program on Bermuda and dallis grass pas­ Bluetongue is now believed to have existed
tures. Mr. Trew points out that these grasses unrecognized
for at least two de­
went into the winter in a weakened condition cades. It was infirstTexas
in much of the Southwest as a result of in 1952 and was widespread inas1953,
drought and overgrazing and will be slow to time it was identified positively asat which
start this spring. Moreover, if they are not tongue.
given a rest period of 4 to 6 weeks after new
growth begins, the stands will be weakened
indicates that there is evidence
substantially and production later in the sea­ of Research
three strains of the disease in
son will be reduced.
Texas. Therefore, each strain must be iso­
Several suggestions are made for providing lated and a vaccine prepared to control that
additional grazing while perennial grasses are specific strain. Even though natural infec­
being given a rest. Small grains and winter tion or vaccination produces lifelong immun­
legumes that were planted last fall will fur­ ity to one particular strain, they will not
nish some grazing during the spring months necessarily give immunity to any other strain.
without reducing grain yields.
Dr. D. A. Price, veterinarian at the Sonora
Also, small grains and legumes may be station, says that one of the Texas strains has
planted now for spring grazing. It is rather been isolated, and tests are being conducted


to perfect a vaccine similar to the one used
very successfully in the control of bluetongue
in South Africa.


Poor Seed Is Expensive Seed

Certified seed costs more, but the added ex­
purity, higher germination, and
At the request of the Bureau of Animal better assures
according to L. C. Coffey, Ex­
Industry, the Bureau of Entomology and tension agronomist
of Texas A. & M. College.
Plant Quarantine has undertaken to classify
the carrier gnats in the Southwest. The sur­ Certified seed is the best seed available of
vey is being directed from Washington, with a particular variety. It comes from fields that
a biological study being conducted from a have been inspected during the growing sea­
laboratory at Kerrville, Texas.
son to insure purity. It has been handled
properly after harvest, cleaned, and tested for
purity and germination. In Texas, each sack
Plan Now for Mechanical
certified seed carries a blue tag issued by
the State Department of Agriculture.
Savings of $15 to $20 per bale of cotton
The supply of certified seed usually is in­
through the use of harvesting machines have sufficient to meet the needs of all farmers.
encouraged more and more growers to use Hence, it is advisable to purchase the seed
mechanical pickers and strippers, according several weeks in advance of the planting
to Fred C. Elliott, Extension cotton work spe­ season.
cialist of Texas A. & M. College. Mr. Elliott
estimates that nearly one-third of last year’s
Texas cotton was mechanically harvested.
Three yellow corn hybrids— Texas 26, 28,
Much of the success in the use of mechani­ and 30—gave outstanding results in tests con­
cal harvesters depends on a coordinated pro­ ducted in 1953 at widely scattered locations
gram of cotton production, beginning with over the State of Texas. Secure 1954 planting
the laying out of the rows and the selection seed early.
of the variety to plant. Improperly spaced
rows and use of varieties not adapted to
mechanical harvesting can make it impossible
to use such harvesters efficiently.

Farm Records— A Big Help

Mr. Elliott makes the following recommen­
dations for planting cotton to be harvested
A more complete record of their farming
operations in 1953 would have been a big help
to many farmers in figuring income tax re­
1. Plant storm-resistant varieties in 40- turns, states C, H. Bates, Extension farm man­
inch rows.
agement specialist with the Texas A. & M.
2. Plant to obtain a stand of from two to College.
six plants per foot of row.
Written farm records are essential for com­
income tax returns, says Mr. Bates,
3. Space plants evenly in the rows; do not
also can be the basis for improving
hill drop.
farm practices and cropping systems. A record
4. During late cultivations, set the cultiva­ of the year’s operations can be extremely
tor sweeps so that the space between the helpful in evaluating the weak spots and
rows will be lower than the ridges of dirt at strong points of the farm business, and now
the base of the plants.
is the time to start keeping a record for 1954.



A number of farm record books that make
record keeping easier are available from
county agricultural agents, implement dealers,
and others. The important thing is keeping
some kind of written record. It should include
an inventory of land, farm improvements,
machinery, equipment, livestock, crops, and
feed on hand; farm sales and expenses; farm
products used in the home; and a summary
of the year’s farming business.

weevils in 1954. As in every year, this insect
is a threat to cotton production, and with the
reduced acreage in 1954 it will be even more
important that farmers follow recommended
practices in the control of weevils and other
cotton insects.
Guides for the control of cotton insects in
1954 will be available in the next few weeks
from most agricultural experiment stations.

In early tests, two new tomato varieties, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Col­
Homestead and STEP 193, showed much lege Station:
promise for central Texas plantings.
Methods and Costs of Handling Texas
Citrus, 1946-51, Bulletin 771, by H. B.
Sorensen and C. K. Baker.
Record Number of Boll Weevils M ethods of Supplying Phosphorus to
Range Cattle in South Texas, Bulletin
773, by E. B. Reynolds and others.
Indications that an all-time record number
of boll weevils may have gone into hiberna­ American-Egyptian Cotton Variety Tests,
tion last fall have been found by the Cotton
El Paso Valley Experiment Station,
Insect Laboratory of the United States De­
1951-52, Progress Report 1609, by Lee
partment of Agriculture at Tallulah, Louisi­
S. Stith and others.
Cotton Variety Tests in the Lower Rio
Grande Valley, 1953, Progress Report
M. T. Young, acting director of the labora­
1618, by J, L. Hubbard and others.
tory, says that an examination of ground
trash in the fall of 1953 at various points in
Yield and Chemical Composition of Crops
northeast Louisiana showed an average of
Grown for Forage at Mt. Pleasant, 19505,239 boll weevils per acre in hibernation.
52, Progress Report 1626, by Mark
This is four times as many weevils as were
Buckingham and others.
found in the fall of 1952. The previous high
Apple Varieties in Northeast Texas, Prog­
count was in the fall of 1950.
ress Report 1627, by H. F. Morris.
Commenting on this report, Kirby L. CockAn Economic Analysis of Land Clearing
erham, entomologist for the Louisiana State
and Subsequent Crop Production in the
University Agricultural Extension Service,
Corpus Christi Area, Progress Report
points out that a large number of weevils in
1628, by Ralph H. Rogers and Joe R.
hibernation does not necessarily mean extra
heavy boll weevil infestation next spring, as
many of the weevils may not survive the win­
Copies of these bulletins may be obtained
ter. However, it is a warning of possible dan­ by request to the publishers.
ger, as a mild winter could result in the sur­
vival of a record number of weevils.
Cotton farmers will do well to be prepared
to take adequate measures to control boll

The Agricultural News Letter is prepared in
the Research Department under the direction
of Carl H. M oore, Agricultural Economist.