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AGRICULTURAL
NEWS LETTER
THE

FEDERAL

Vol. IV
R I G H T

RESERVE

BANK

OF

Dallas, Texas, March 15, 1949
U S E

OF

F E R T I L I Z E R S

The application of commercial fertilizers to
field crops is increasing rapidly in the South­
west. Totaling hundreds of thousands of tons
annually, these fertilizers range from com­
pressed gases to liquids and dry granular
products. They are applied to a wide range of
crops grown on an equally wide range of soils
and under varying climatic conditions. E x­
perience has shown that use of these fertilizers
may produce definitely harmful results or
may be highly beneficial, depending on such
factors as the composition of the fertilizer,
climatic conditions, differences in type and
condition of soils, and the placement of the
fertilizer with respect to the seed and plants.
This extreme variability in effectiveness, to­
gether with the increasing use of fertilizers,
emphasizes the need for better understanding
of their proper application.
While farmers generally agree that it is
profitable to use fertilizers, and experimenta­
tion and practice support this position, there
are still many problems associated with their
application. One of the major problems is the
selection of fertilizers that will be most suit­
able for a farmer’s soils and will be most ef­
fective in production of his particular crops.
A problem of equal importance, and one
about which relatively little is known, is the
correct placement of fertilizers to secure
maximum benefits. Fertilizer placement stud­
ies are being carried on at experiment stations
throughout the country, and each year the
volume of available data increases. However,
the magnitude of the fertilizer placement
problem also increases each year, due to de­
velopments in agricultural science and tech­
nology and to changes in farm practices.
The farmer who wants to get the most
from the use of fertilizers will want to find

DALLAS
Number 3
P A Y S

out which fertilizers are needed in his soils.
A good soil test is the best method for doing
this, and such tests or analyses can be made
by the agricultural experiment stations. A l­
though soil tests may not indicate the exact
needs of the soil, they do give a good esti­
mate of the response a farmer can expect
from different fertilizers. Soils in the South­
west are extremely variable, and most of them
are deficient in some of the nutrient elements
needed for good plant growth. The three
most commonly lacking— nitrogen, phos­
phorus, and potassium — are the elements
usually sold in commercial fertilizers.
If the soils of a farm are lacking in only
one of the principal plant food elements, that
one should be applied. Most soils, however, are
deficient in more than one nutrient element,
and many farmers have soils needing each of
these elements and possibly others of less im­
portance. It is well to recognize that a defi­
ciency of any one of the fertilizer elements
can limit crop yields. Just as the water level
in a barrel will be no higher than the shortest
stave, the yields of a crop will be no higher
than the level permitted by the fertilizer ele­
ment in shortest supply. They not only must
be available but also must be in the propor­
tion needed. It is important to consider, also,
that too much as well as too little of one ele­
ment can reduce the effectiveness of the fer­
tilizer.
Crops differ greatly in their food require­
ments, and consideration of the crops to be
grown must enter into a correct choice of
fertilizers. For example, on most soils corn
gives a better response to potassium fertilizers
than do small grains or hays; legume crops do
not require nitrogen fertilizers since they ob­

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AGRICULTURAL NEWS LETTER

tain nitrogen from the air; small grains usual­
ly need both nitrogen and phosphate. Even on
the same soil, therefore, different crops will
respond in various ways to the same applica­
tion of fertilizer.
A very important phase in the correct use
of fertilizers is their placement with respect
to the seed or plant. This subject has received
considerable attention within recent months
due to announcements regarding the use of
radioactive isotope tracers to follow fertilizer
elements through plants in order to deter­
mine the elements’ best use as fertilizer. While
it has been assumed generally that the place­
ment of fertilizers anywhere within a few
inches of the crop plants was all that was
needed, more careful examination and study
of this practice indicate that the farmer may
increase his yields and income significantly by
placing the fertilizers in a more beneficial lo­
cation with respect to the crop grown.
In the January 1949 issue of Iowa Farm
Science, L. B. Nelson points out that corn and
oat crops in that State do better when the
fertilizers are applied at planting time and
are placed close to the seed. Fertilizing at
planting time gets the plant off to a good
start. It increases early growth, advances ma­
turity, and may increase the final yield—in
the case of corn, by as much as 7 to 10 bush­
els. Fertilizers applied to corn are much more
effective when placed in the hill or row than
when broadcast. Likewise, oat yields from
plots where phosphate was drilled along with
the seed were two to four bushels per acre
higher than in similar fields where the ferti­
lizer was broadcast.
The Iowa studies of fertilizer application
have shown also that fertilizers placed at seed
depth are considerably more effective than
those placed several inches below the seed
level. Seedlings of many field crops, such as
corn, have small roots and do not benefit
immediately from fertilizers placed at the
lower depths. Furthermore, these roots tend
to grow laterally when there is sufficient
moisture in the soil, and deposits of fertilizer
at lower depths may be a partial loss.

General recommendations for more effi­
cient use of fertilizers are contained in a re­
cent report entitled, "Methods of Applying
Fertilizer,” which was prepared by the N a ­
tional Joint Committee on Fertilizer Appli­
cation. This report indicates, for example,
that fertilizers under cotton should be applied
simultaneously with planting of the seed and
should be placed in narrow strips or bands
approximately two and one-half inches to
either one or both sides of the seed row and
two to two and one-half inches below the
seed level. Peanuts generally are best ferti­
lized by supplying sufficient amounts of fer­
tilizer to the preceding cash or cover crop to
insure adequate residual fertility. Fertilizer
applied for direct use of the peanut crop
should be placed in a band two to three inches
to each side of the row and two inches below
seed level.
While the farmer can benefit from knowl­
edge gained by experimental work in his own
state and other states and by general recom­
mendations made concerning methods of ap­
plying fertilizers, it is well that he recognize
that soil, climatic, and other conditions on
his own farm may be different from those
under which the experiments were conducted.
Therefore, he will want to do some experi­
menting of his own, while keeping up with
the latest information on this general subject.
In conclusion, it should be emphasized that
the farmer will get maximum returns from
use of fertilizers only in a balanced system
of farming; he must use them with the
knowledge that many other practices are in­
volved in producing high crop yields. Good
crop rotations, control of weeds, proper till­
age, and use of manure and other sources of
organic matter are also important to high
yields. Fertilizers are most effective only when
these and other items are making their full
contribution to fertility.

FARM MANAGEMENT
Certified Seed and Good Cultural Practices
Recommended for Watermelon Production
Watermelon production can be more prof­
itable if farmers use the best certified seed,
grow varieties demanded by the consumer,

AGRICULTURAL NEWS LETTER
and follow recommended cultural practices,
reports John A. Cox, Extension Horticultur­
ist at Louisiana State University. Seed-borne
diseases can be controlled by treatment of the
seed with red copper oxide (cuprocide) be­
fore planting. This is done by placing the
seed in a glass jar, adding one level table­
spoonful of cuprocide for each pound of
seed, and shaking the jar until the seed are
well-coated with the chemical, after which
the excess dust is screened off.
Watermelons should not be planted on
wilt-infested soils; but if a farmer is forced
to use this soil because of land shortage, he
should use melon varieties which are wiltresistant, such as the Black Lee, Kleckley
Sweet No. 6, and Thurmond Gray. The most
popular commercial variety of watermelon in
Louisiana, says Mr. Cox, is the Black Dia­
mond, which is known also as the Florida
Giant and the Cannonball. The Black Dia­
mond is a large, nearly round, dark green
melon with meat that is bright red, crisp, and
sweet and with black seed. It produces high
yields and is a good shipper because of its
tough rind.
Mechanization of Texas Agriculture Moves
Forward Rapidly
Texas farmers are making long strides to­
ward complete mechanization of crop pro­
duction, according to H. P. Smith, Agricul­
tural Engineer of the Texas Agricultural
Experiment Station. Information obtained in
a recent survey of power used on Texas farms
indicates that horses or mules are not used
in crop production in about 40 Texas coun­
ties. With the exception of some hand-hoeing
and hand-harvesting of cotton, crop produc­
tion in these counties is completely mecha­
nized. Thirty counties use less than 25 horses
or mules, while in another 3 5 counties less
than 100 horses or mules are used in crop
production.
Tractor power is used almost exclusively
in the production of all crops in a block of
77 northwest Texas counties. It is reported
that a few farmers in those counties still keep
a team or two for odd jobs about the farm or
for hauling feed. The survey shows that east

3

Texas farmers still use considerable animal
power. This is due partly to the type of farm­
ing and the fact that farms generally are
small units. East Texas farmers are reported
to use horses and mules ranging in number
from a few hundred per county to more than
6,000.

Control Measure Recommended for
Pecan Tree Scale
A small, ashy gray insect is causing serious
damage to pecan trees in the Southwest and
may keep the farmer from harvesting pecans
next fall, says Allen C. Gunter, Associate
Extension Entomologist of Texas A. & M.
College. The small insect, which is covered
with a circular waxy scale, is found on the
bark but cannot be seen moving over the tree.
It feeds on the sap of the tree by injecting a
small, needle-like beak through the bark. The
scale does not bother the leaves or the pecans,
but often a large limb or a whole tree may be
killed by this pest.
Control of the scale is difficult, says Mr,
Gunter, because it is so well-protected. The
best control method is to spray the trees
thoroughly during the winter or dormant
season with a 3 percent dormant oil. Growers
are cautioned not to use the oil spray if there
are leaves on the trees.
Improved Practices Give Increased
Peach Production
A farmer who plans to set a peach orchard
this spring or to increase the size of his pres­
ent orchard should consider soil type, orchard
location, and use of adapted varieties, advises
D. H. Spurlock, Louisiana Extension Assist­
ant Horticulturist. Select a sandy or sandy
loam soil with a porous clay subsoil, because
good drainage and aeration are absolutely
necessary, says Mr. Spurlock. Peaches will not
grow vzell on soils where water stands or on
soils that stay damp and cold over long peri­
ods of time. A hillside with suitable soil is
the ideal place for a peach orchard, as it helps
provide good water and air drainage. Fruit
trees on a northern slope are less likely to bud
before the late spring freezes, and there will
be less tree crotch injury resulting from sud-

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AGRICULTURAL NEWS LETTER

den drops in temperature during the winter
months.
Land that has been in cultivation for at
least three or four years is preferable, as peach
trees may suffer from root decay and termite
damage if planted on new land. The soil
should be well prepared before planting, and
enough terraces of medium height should be
built to protect against erosion. Mr. Spurlock
advises farmers to cultivate and break the
land for planting a summer cover crop if
they expect to plant trees next winter and
suggests crotalaria spectabilis as a cover crop.

Cotton Growers Advised to Plant
Good-Quality Seed
Cotton growers can produce more and
higher quality cotton by planting seed not
more than one or two years removed from
the breeder, says the Louisiana Agricultural
Extension Division. It has been found in Ex­
periment Station studies that seed more than
two years removed from the breeder generally
will be inferior because of the mixing of seed
at the gin and because of cross-pollination by
insects in the field. On the other hand, tests
at the Northeast Louisiana Station in 1948
indicate that it is not absolutely necessary to
plant first-year seed to get the highest yield.
In fact, these tests show a slight difference in
favor of second-year seed.
Although planting certified seed is advis­
able, seed with just as much purity often can
be bought from a neighbor or from a onevariety community, if the seed has been pro­
duced under appropriate field conditions and
handled properly at the gin. If farmers buy
such seed, they are advised to determine the
germination of the seed first. Since the 1948
season was favorable to seed production, highquality and high-germination seed should be
more plentiful this year, says the Extension
Division.

FARM PRICES
Support Programs for Butterfat and
Hogs Announced
The Department of Agriculture announced
recently a program to support the price of

butterfat at a national average of 90 percent
of parity during 1949. The support opera­
tions will be carried out through offers by the
Department to purchase wholesale butter,
when necessary. In carrying out any neces­
sary support operations during the year, the
Department will offer to buy in any area
butter of U. S. Grade A or higher at 59 cents
per pound for delivery before September 1
and at 62 cents for delivery on and after
September 1. The Department’s purchase
prices for U. S. Grade B butter will be 2
cents lower in each period.
The Department of Agriculture, in a step
to assure a more stable meat supply next fall
and winter, has announced that hog prices
will be supported at 90 percent of parity
through March 1950, the end of the market­
ing season for 1949 spring pigs. Specific price
supports with the usual seasonal variations
will be announced next fall and will be based
on the September 15, 1949, parity price.

FARM INCOME
Net Farm Income Lower in 1948
Farm operators in the United States in
1948 realized net incomes tentatively esti­
mated by the United States Department of
Agriculture at $17,400,000,000. The decline
from $ 17,800,000,000 in 1947 was more than
2 percent and was the first drop in 10 years.
Realized net income of farm operators in­
cludes the value of crops and livestock sold,
placed under government loan, or used in
the farm home during the year, plus govern­
ment payments to farmers and the rental
value of farm dwellings and minus produc­
tion expenses. It does not include the value
of net changes in farm inventories of crops
and livestock. Cash receipts and gross farm
income increased more than 2 percent in
1948, reaching a new record high, but pro­
duction expenses increased almost 8 percent.
Cash farm receipts in the five states of the
Eleventh Federal Reserve District were 4 per­
cent larger in 1948 than in 1947.