Agricultural Soil Amendment Project

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2011: $14,870.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Western
State: Arizona
Principal Investigator:
Bill Edwards
North Leupp Family Farms

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: beans, cucurbits


  • Crop Production: crop rotation, cover crops
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Pest Management: competition
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: green manures, soil microbiology, organic matter

    Proposal summary:

    This project will be conducted at the North Leupp Family Farms (NLFF). NLFF is a 100-acre organically farmed, native/community-owned farm in the Western Agency of the Navajo Nation in the state of Arizona. Agricultural Soil Amendment Project (ASAP) will teach and demonstrate soil improvement to Native Navajo farmers. ASAP will demonstrate how to increase the soil nutrient content, improve soil quality, increase crop yield, and reduce alkaline buildup through the addition of soil amendments, composting, and cover copping. What sets this project apart is the use of Mycorrhizae fungi as a major component of the soil amendment process, along with the cover crop of annual rye, Dutch clover, field peas, tiller radish, and hairy vetch. “Over millions of years, mycorrhizal fungi and plants have formed a mutual dependence. The fungi are nourished by root exudates and in return bring great amounts of soil nutrients and moisture to their host plants. A mycorrhizal plant can uptake 100 times or more nutrients than one without the beneficial fungi.” -Dr. Michael Martin Melendrez.

    ASAP will conduct the soil management project using four ½ acre demonstration plots. The methods to be used will set-up field tests on the four ½ acre plots. One plot will be the control and three others will be comparison plots. All plots will be planted with Navajo White Corn, Tepary beans, Pinto beans, and Navajo summer and winter squash.

    Plot #1 will be the control plot. No compost, no soil amendments, no cover crop.
    Plot #2 Cover crop plus compost and composted animal manure will be added.
    Plot # 3 Cover crop plus Humates and Kelp meal will be added to the soil.
    Plot # 4 Cover crop plus compost and composted animal manure, plus organic soil amendments such as humus that has been inoculated with "mutualistic plant root microorganisms such as mycorrhizal fungi along with helper bacteria." All are certified organic material.

    Additional plant proteins will be added to the humus to support the mycorrhizal fungi and will help supply N-P-K to the soil. The produce from all plots will be weighed. Produce ripening dates will be recorded. Water usage will be recorded. Quality of produce will be recorded. The amount of weeds will also be recorded.

    A soil testing, as in the first demonstration, will be done at the beginning and at the end of the project.

    Cover crops are an effective weed control tool, particularly where herbicide are not or cannot be used.

    Adopting the use of cover cropping in our area will greatly reduce wind erosion. NLFF at times will have winds up to 70 mph. Cover cropping will provide additional winter forage for the sheep owned by so many of our Diné Farmers. Once a farming method is demonstrated to work, native farmers will readily adapt.

    Other advantages of using cover crops is to control damage by water erosion and improved soil tilth. The added material from a winter cover crop, whether turned under or left on the surface, will benefit the soil, improve crop yield, and add nitrogen (N) to the soil. Other advantages include recycling nutrients that might otherwise be lost to leaching during the winter and spring.

    With improved soil nutrient content and soil quality, the farm will be able to promote traditional crops such as heirloom squash, melons, beans, and corn.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The North Leupp Family Farm ASAP project, through the use of small mechanical tools, (rotor tillers, and cultivators) and organic soil amendments (minerals, composted animal manure, humates, kelp meal, and mycorrhizal fungi) will show local farmers how to increase crop yield, improve friability of soil, and improve moisture retention. This will increase farm income and employment, especially self-employment, and supply the local market with fresh nutritious produce.

    This information will enable local farmers to be able to move from subsistence farming to profitable market farming. North Leupp Family Farm, through ASAP, is working to create access to open and fair markets and have the tools and resources needed to meet consumer demand for sustainably produced local foods. After demonstrating to the community the viability of cover cropping and the use of green manure, these practices will be embraced by the community. The increased yield will allow the members of the farming community to have excess produce to sell. Preliminary research has shown that the local market is looking for value-added Native American produce.

    Some of the local restaurants have indicated a interest in native corns and squash. Marketing at present is limited to visitors to the farms and to sales from pick-up truck beds. With increased crop production, the families will have surpluses beyond their immediate needs, which is home consumption and ceremonial use. By making use of the lessons learned through the Agricultural Soil Amendment Project, NLFF will be able to establish a farmers market in the community of Leupp and expand into Flagstaff. With increased production, NLFF envisions providing a CSA to the local community and being able to supply the restaurants of Winslow and Flagstaff with produce.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.