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Immediately after seeding, formaldehyde was applied by subirrigation to a
relatively dry and sandy soil (abcut 4 inches deep) in flats and pots, by setting
them into shallow pans of the solution until the soil was saturated. Damping-off
in soil which received only water killed 50 percent of the beet, 28 percent of the
lettuce, and 37 percent of the cucumber seedlings. There was no chemical injury
to these vegetables and all damping-off was prevented by formaldehyde, 3 tea-
spoonfuls per gallon of water. This treatment increased the number of plants
which lived by 176 percent in the case of beet, 100 percent in the case oi lettuce,
and more than 400 percent in the case o' cucumber. Formaldehyde 2 teaspoon-
tuls per gallon may be enough, for, thus used only with beet, it greatly reduced
the severity ol damping-off and increased by 225 percent the numbers of seedlings
which lived.

In the experiments represented in Table 18, a dry soil was brought to several
different percentages of saturation with water before treatment with formaldehyde
(3 teaspoonfuls per gallon), applied from below after sowing seeds of beet. This
treatment was effective if soil before treatment was no more than 25 percent
saturated, but it was ineffective if soil before treatment was already 50 percent

Table 18. — Effect of Soil Moisture on Control of Damping-off of Beet
BY Formaldehyde Applied From Below

Soil Moisture Relative Number Percentages

Before Treatment of Plants Which

Treatment Which Lived Damped-off

Water only(check) 100 54

Saturated Formaldehyde^ 500 50

50% Saturated. . Formaldehydei 840 31

25 % Saturated . . Formaldehydei 1233

Air Dry Formaldehyde^ 1075

' 3 teaspoonfuls per gallon of water.

Formaldehyde solutions were, immediately after seeding, also applied by sub-
irrigation to relatively dry soil in metal flats^ so made, with double bottoms, that
soil can be watered from below. The volume of soil was small, only about 2
inches deep, and the application of the solution, equal to more than 1.5 quarts
per square foot of soil surface, was heavy. Under these conditions, 1 teaspoonful
formaldehyde per gallon gave good and best results, increasing the number of
plants which lived by 31 percent in the case of lettuce, 130 percent with cabbage,
and 85 percent with tomato. More than 1 teaspoonful formaldehyde per gallon
injured cabbage and lettuce but not tomato.

It should be noted that in all the experiments mentioned in this bulletin, soil
after treatment was watered from above, not below. In the few experiments in
which the comparison was made, formaldehyde, acetic acid, vinegar, and salicylic
acid were less safe if, after fungicidal treatment, soil was watered from below.

'Waterite seed flats.



There is no one best standard dry chemical treatment for the seeds oi all veg-
etables. Red cuprous oxide is to be preferred for some, Semesan for others, and
zinc oxide for still others. A list of vegetables (Table 1) together with the seed
treatments which most improved the stand of each is included in this bulletin.

Applied to soil after seeding, chlorpicrin emulsions controlled damping-off
very well but, because of their too unpleasant fumes and the instability of the
emulsions, they are not preferred by the writers for this purpose.

Damping-ofT was more effectively controlled by vinegar in an acid soil than in
one with a high pH value. Acetic acid and vinegar are good substitutes for
formaldehyde but they did not, in general, and as applied to soil after seeding,
give results equal to those obtained by formaldehyde.

Spraying seedbeds and seedlings with Bordeaux mixture, red cuprous oxide,
or zinc oxide proved to be less effective and satisfactory in controlling damping-off
than soil treatments with formaldehyde or certain seed treatments. Applied to
soil after seeding, mercury compounds were often injurious to cruciters and,
even at best, results were no better than those which followed seed treatments.

Substance? containing sodium hypochlorite gave results inferior to those se-
cured by formaldehyde, acetic acid, and chlorpicrin emulsions.

Salicylic acid, pyroligneous acid, and oxyquinoline sulfate gave good results
with the vegetables with which they were used and they could be substituted for
formaldehyde in controlling damping-off of these vegetables.

Formic acid gave results which justify its further investigation but not, for the
present, its recommendation.

For the control of damping-off calcium cyanamide has its uses, more especially
if, for any reason, soil must be treated long before seeding.

Ammonium hydroxide, applied before seeding to soil of an initial high pH value,
controlled damping-off very well, and treated soil did not become promptly re-
infested. Ammonium sulfate was effective in a soil with a high pH value bat it
had little protective effect in a too acid scil. Damping-off was prevented by
ammonium sulfate and hydrated lime applied together, but seeds or plants may
be injured unless seeding is deferred until more than 5 days after soil treatment.

Stands of pea were much improved by formaldehyde applied in the rows at
the time of seeding.

Foimaldehyde solutions, from 1 pint to about 1 quart water per square foot,
usually gave excellent results when applied to soil immediately after seeding.
Very light applications, down to about 0.6 cc. formaldehyde per square foot, were
fairly effective, but suggested rates of application of formaldehyde (see Table 11)
vary from about 1.75 cc. per square foot for more easily injured seeds such as
those of lettuce and other composites to 2.5 cc. per square foot for less readily
injured seeds such as those of beet and spinach. In practice, this means that 1
fluid ounce of formaldehyde is enough for 12 to 17 square feet of seedbed. A less
discriminating method but one effective and safe with the few vegetables, except
crucifers, with which it was used consists in applying a solution of formaldehyde,
1 teaspoonful in 1 gallon of water, immediately after seeding without determining
the exact rate of application of the solution.

Repeated applications of very dilute formaldehyde, after seeding, interfered
with growth in some cases and gave no better results than one application

Formaldehyde gave good results when applied to soil from below, by subirri-
gation, provided that the soil did not already contain too much water

Growth of plants was usually improved by formaldehyde applied to soil not
previously sterilized, but this was not the case when it was applied to soil which
had been recently steamed.


Applied to soil before seeding, formaldehyde, as used, gave good protection
against damping-off for about 5 days after soil treatnient; little or no protection
after 11 days.


1 Alexander, L. J., Young, H. C, and Kiger, C. M. The causes and control
of damping-off of tomato seedlings. Ohio Agr. Expt. Sta. Bui. 496,
38 pp. 1931.

2. Clayton, E. E. Investigations ol cauliflower diseases en Long Island.

N. Y. (Geneva) Agr. Expt. Sta. Bui. 506, 15 pp. 1924.

3. Davey, A. E., and Leach, L. D. Toxicity of compounds of ammonia to

Sclerotium rolfsii (Abst.). Phytopath. 25:9:895. 1935.

4. Doran, William L. Germination of seeds and damping-off and growth of

seedlings of ornamental plants as affected by soil treatments. Mass. Agr.
Expt. Sta. Bui. 351, 44 pp. 1938.

5 A simple control of damping-off. Flor. Exch. 96:21:10.


6. Durham, H. E. Powdery mildew of vines under glass. Gard. Chron.

96:2480:13. 1934.

7. Fron, G. Nouveau essais de lutte centre la maladie du pietin du ble.

Comptes Rendus Acad. d'Agr. de France 20:19:644-650. 1934.

8. Glasgow, Hugh. Control of the cabbage maggot in the seedbed. N. Y.

(Geneva) Agr. Expt. Sta. Bui. 512, 112 pp. 1925.

9. Gloyer, W. O., and Glasgow, Hugh. Cabbage seedbed diseases and Del-

phinium root rots. N. Y. (Geneva) Agr. Expt. Sta. Bui. 513, 38 pp. 1924.
10. Guterman, C. E. F., and Massey, L. M. A liquid formaldehyde treatment

to control damping-off of flower seedlings. (Abst.) Phytopath. 25:1:18.

11 and Massey, L. M. An improved formaldehyde

treatment for damping-off control. Flor. Exch. 84:16:11. 1935.

12. Haensler, C. M. Formaldehyde does well in controlling damping-off. N. J.

Agr. 17:1:4. (Jan.-Feb.) 1935.

13. Horstall, J. G. Combatting damping-off. N. Y. (Geneva) Agr. Expt. Sta.

Bui. 683, 46 pp. 1938.

14 and Suit, R. F. Spraying greenhouse seedlings. N. Y.

State Veg. Growers Assoc. Bui. 16:4:5. 1937; and Farm Res., N. Y.
(Geneva) Agr. Expt. Sta., p. 9. Jan. 1939.

15. Kadow, K. J., and Anderson, H. W. Damping-off control: An evaluation

of seed and soil treatments. 111. Agr. E.xpt. Sta. Bui. 439:291-348. 1937.

16. Neal, David C, and Gilbert, W. W. Cotton diseases and methods of con-

trol. U. S. Dept. Agr., Farmers' Bui. 1745, 34 pp. 1935.

17. Ogilvie, L., Hickman, C. J., and Croxall, H. E. The control of damping-off

fungi by means cf chemicals applied to the soil, with special reference to
weak formaldehyde solutions. Ann. Rpt. Agr. and Hort. Res. Sta. Uni-
vers. Bristol 1938:98-114. 1939.

18. Pirone, P. P., Newhall, A. G., Stuart, W.W., Horsfall, J. G.,and Harrison,

A. L. Copper seed treatments for the control of damping-off of spinach.
N. Y. (Cornell) Agr. Expt. Sta. Bui. 566, 25 pp. 1933.

19. Selby,A. D. Prevention of onion smut. Ohio Agr. Expt. Sta. Bui. 131. 1902.

20. Wilson, J. D., and Tilford, P. E. The use of formaldehyde dust in growing

vegetables. Ohio Agr. Expt. Sta. Bui. 520, 40 pp. 1934.


Bulletin No. 395 July 1942

Preparation and Use of
Artificial Manures

By Karol J. Kucinski

The real or assumed dependence of crop production upon animal manures
has encouraged this attempt to provide an artificial substitute.


Illustrating the use of a snow fence in building neat-appearing, circular, artificial manure piles.
A similar homemade fence can be constructed using 4 -fool wooden laths nailed 2 to 3 inches apart
to two wires.

By Karol J. Kucinski.i Research Assistant in Agronomy


The Soil's Need for Manure

In the economy of nature, the most productive soils are those rich in organic
matter or humus. Land which has been farmed for many years is apt to be
seriously deficient in organic matter.

The incorporation of organic matter into the soil is beneficial in several ways.
It improves sandy soils by acting as a binder and increases their water-holding
capacity; loosens and lightens heavy loams and makes them easier to work; serves
as an important source of plant food; improves biological conditions of the soil;
checks leaching of plant food and erosion of soil; and helps in many other less
tangible ways. Manure has long been used as a source of organic matter for
soil improvement.

In England, experiments at Rothamsted Experimental Station, covering from
seventy to eighty years, showed that when commercial fertilizers replaced organic
manures soil deterioration was eventually observed. Organic manures, on the
other hand, maintained production at a higher and more uniform level over
this long period, and practically no soil depletion was evident.

These facts are of prime importance in gardening and in special intensive crop-
ping systems in which definite rotations with green manures cannot be, or are not,
employed. Unfortunately, natural manure has one drawback — there has never
been enough of it. This scarcity has perhaps been one of the reasons for the use
of non-organic chemical fertilizers.

The rapid replacement of horses by steam- and gas-driven machines on farms
and in cities during the last twenty-five years has made the problem of obtaining
natural manure more difficult. When it is realized that each year of farming
tends to decrease the organic matter already in the soil; that comparatively
fewer animals, especially horses, are kept on the farm to supply organic material
by way of manure; and that more intensive cultivation is required to supply the
needs of an ever-increasing population, the seriousness of the organic-matter
problem is easily seen.

The Possibilities of Artificial Manures

It was to meet these conditions that work was started on the production of
artificial manures. England was one of the first countries to feel the scarcity of
barnyard manure, and it was at Rothamsted in 1919 that the process of preparing
artificial manure chemically was first developed.

The biological principle underlying the preparation of artificial manure is
quite simple. The process of natural decay of organic material rich in carbona-
ceous compounds such as cellulose, lignin, starches, and sugars can be greatly
speeded up by the addition of readily available nitrogen and some phosphorus
compounds. In other words, the microorganisms which are the true agents of
decay need a balanced food ration in order to continue their activities and in-
crease in numbers. In any plant material the ratios of carbon to nitrogen and
carbon to phosphorus are very wide. The addition of available nitrogen and

^Acknowledgment is made to A. B. Beaumont and W, S. Eisenmenger, who helped in outlining
the project and assisted in the work by their interest and many helptul suggestions.


phosphorus compounds narrows the ratios and establishes more favorable con-
ditions for rapid growth of the microorganisms responsible for the process of
decay. In the making of artificial manures, the addition of nitrogen and phos-
phorus to the organic materials is most essential. Potassium is generally added
to make the chemical composition of the finished artificial manure more compar-
able to that of the natural manure. Today anybody can make excellent manure
out of almost any kind of plant refuse by following simple directions.


These experiments with artificial manure are supplementary to a series run
previously at this Station, but not published. The earlier experiment dealt with
the preparation of manure from various kinds of organic matter. Very small lots
of manure were prepared, and vegetation tests showed some signs of toxicity due
probably to the reagents used. In these small lots of manure, the temperature
did not rise during preparation as it does when larger masses are made.

In the present experiments, larger quantities of manure were prepared from
different types of organic materials, in order to study the method of preparation,
rate of decomposition, heat and moisture relationships, and volume and appear-
ance of the finished product. Detailed chemical and vegetation tests were run
on the prepared manures to compare the different organic materials and the
different nitrogenous supplements used.

Method Used for the Preparatioii of Artificial Manure

Chopped corn stover, mixed deciduous leaves, and oat straw were the organic
materials used, in lots of one half ton on the dry basis for each pile. Two nitro-
genous supplements, used to aid decomposition of the organic matter, were com-
pared — Cyanamid (supplied by the American Cyanamid Company) and am-
monium sulfate. Enough limestone was added to the piles built with ammonium
sulfate to equal the calcium in the piles made with Cyanamid. The nitrogenous
supplements were used in sufificient quantity to supply 0.7 percent nitrogen,
based on the dry weight of the original organic material. Other supplements
added to make the finished product approach natural manure in chemical composi-
tion were the following: 16 percent superphosphate, at the same rate as the
ammonium sulfate; muriate of potash, at one third the rate of the superphos-
phate; fresh horse manure, 100 pounds per ton of dry organic material; and gar-
den soil, at the same rate as the manure. The garden soil and horse manure were
added as bacteriological inoculating agents.

In building the stacks, a circular snow fence^ bin about nine feet in diameter
was used as a form. The snow fence was taken down and used over again each
time a new pile was built. The piles were made indoors on ground covered with
tarred roofing paper, and were built up in layers consisting of about six inches of
compacted organic material. The chemical reagents were sprinkled on, layer by
layer; and each layer was also sprinkled with water as it was being packed down.
Enough water was used to wet the material, but not enough to leach out at the
bottom of the pile. A half ton of dry organic material was about 350 cubic feet
in volume and made an initial circular stack about nine feet in diameter and six
feet high. A thermometer was placed in the center of each heap, enclosed within
an iron pipe so that the thermometer could be pulled up by a string to take the

''The snow fence was similar to those used along roads by the Highway Department for the pre-
vention of snow drifting during the winter. The fence can be made of 4-foot wooden laths (like
those used in plastering), nailed 2 to 3 inches apart to two wires, thus making the fence flexible
and easily rolled up.


The heating within the piles commenced almost at once, and the heaps had to
be reforked and sprinkled with water to lower their temperature. During the
entire time of decomposition the heaps were either sprinkled with water or re-
forked when the temperature rose to the vicinity of 65° Centigrade (149° Fahren-
heit). The rates of decomposition of the different organic materials were not the
same, thus making it necessary to water or refork the heaps on different dates,
but the total number of waterings and reforkings was the same for each heap.
The temperature readings taken in the center of each heap are shown graphically
in figure 1. It is to be noted that the temperatures of the manures differed greatly
only with the types of organic material and differed only very slightly with the
different chemical treatments. Higher temperatures were obtained for a longer
time with the corn stover. The piles made from leaves were very slow in heating
and never attained the high temperatures of the corn stover or straw piles.

Water was added as needed to keep the mass saturated but below the point
of excessive leaching. The sprinkling of the straw and leaf heaps had to be per-
formed with care, for these materials had a tendency to shed water at first. After
each sprinkling the temperature made a decided drop and then came up again
within a day or two, but never to the previous high temperature reading.

The leaves decomposed much more slowly than the corn stover or straw. The
corn stover piles were the first to take on the appearance of rotted manure, while
the piles from leaves took twice as long before they began to appear decomposed.
It was this slow rate of decomposition of the heaps made from leaves that pre
vented the use of this manure in the vegetation tests.

At the end of 135 days the temperature in the centers of the heaps made from
straw and corn became constant and equal to the outside air temperature, which

Table 1. — Pl.^nt Nutrients in Organic M.\terials Used in Making
Artificial Manure and in the Finished Product — Moist Basis

Weight Moisture Nitrogen Phosphoric Potash Calcium Magnesium Total
Material Pounds Percent Percent Acid (K„0) Oxide Oxide Insoluble

(P.Oj) Percent (CaO) (MgO) Matter
Percent Percent Percent Percent

Analysis of Organic Materials

Corn stover.. 1,702 41.2 ,49 .22 1.02

Odt straw 1.185 15.6 1.00 .26 2.03

Mixed leaves 1.513 33.9 .60 .17 .13










Analysis of the Artificial Manures

Corn Stover with
Ammonium sulfate 2,965
Cyanamid 3,033

Oat straw with
Ammonium sulfate 2,880
Cyanamid 2.723

Leaves with
Ammonium sulfate 2,671
Cyanamid 2,513

Leaves and garbage
With Cyanamid 71.5




























2. IS


5 03

The author was assisted by the Control Service in making these analyses.














































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Oays of Decomposition
Hanure f^ From Corn


Days of Dec om position
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Online LibraryMassachusetts Agricultural Experiment StationBulletin - Massachusetts Agricultural Experiment Station (Volume no.379-398) → online text (page 62 of 77)