This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Welcome to the Manure Analysing Machine

Almost instant analysis

A Manure Analysing Machine

A prototype manure-analysing device that works off a car or truck battery has been built by a United States Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist. Chemist James B. Reeves at the ARS Environmental Management and Byproduct Utilization Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, designed the portable, easy-to-use analyser so that farmers and growers can quickly tell how much nitrogen and water are in a sample of manure. Many growers apply manure to their crops as an organic fertilizer, but it can sometimes be too much of a good thing. They apply too much because they are not sure how much nitrogen or phosphorus might be in it and decide to err on the side of excess. However, excess nutrients frequently run off in rainwater and eventually pollute streams, lakes and other bodies of water.

To determine how much nitrogen or phosphorus manure contains, it is possible to send samples to a laboratory for analysis, but that takes time and money. Usually only one sample is sent. According to Reeves, a one-sample analysis cannot reflect the nutrient levels that often vary throughout a manure heap. The prototype analyser passes invisible, near-infrared light through filters onto about two tablespoons of manure placed in a small cup. The amount of light reflected back allows a filter spectrometer to quantify both the nitrogen and water content. Manure samples require no preparation or chemicals, and the analysis takes about a minute.The prototype analyser is a 38cm (15in) cube that weighs about 9kg (20lb). Reeves plans to make it even smaller, ideally about the size of a shoe box and weighing around 2.25kg (5lb).

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