Manure and bulbs: was Re: amarcrinum

Jim McKenney
Wed, 20 Feb 2013 17:30:48 PST
Alberto asked "Jim, then your advice is do use manure on bulbs."

Yes, Alberto, but to use it not on them (i.e. touching them) but rather well over them as nature does..

We've had this discussion before; in the modern world it's not too important because few of us have easy access to manure. And because of the widespread use of antibiotics in animal husbandry, using manure now has additional potential risks not associated with its use long ago.

One thing which gets lost in these discussions of soil borne organisms is that not all are pathogens.  I think many funguses will not co-exist peacefully with other species of fungus. I saw a good demonstration of that years ago (I've told this story on this list before, so it might sound familiar to some of you). Decades ago I had a supply of fairly fresh stable manure (horse bedding wood chips mixed with manure). I had been having trouble keeping my tulip bulbs from drying out too much during the summer, so I decided to try something completely contrary to the rules. I packed them in small plastic bags filled with the stable bedding. As the weeks went by, every once in a while I would feel the bags to see if the bulbs were rotting. They were not rotting. By the end of the storage period, the bags were filled solid with fungal mycelium, yet the tulip bulbs were sound. When the bags were opened to remove the bulbs, they had to be broken gently out of
 the mass of fungal mycelium. This mycelium gave off a delicious aroma of mushrooms. Once I got the tulip bulbs out I noticed that their tunics had an unusual texture, as if they had been very lightly abraded. They were firm and lively and ready to go.
The conclusion I came to is this: the fungus in with the tulips was not a pathogenic fungus, and it probably killed any other funguses which might have been present. 
Until they saw the results of this experiment, most people would have scoffed and said it was the stupidest thing to do with tulip bulbs.   

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7 

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