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Phone Book Recycling Comes to Farm

September 9, 1998

MAIZE, Kan. (AP) _ Applying shredded phone books to farmland could be an excellent way to dispose of unrecyclable paper while increasing crop yields and preventing soil erosion, officials say.

Experts hope to test the idea on a 20-acre farm near Maize this winter.

Sometime before the milo crop is planted in May, about 70,000 phone books will be baled and ground, and 10 tons of paper will be spread on every acre of land. Workers will use nitrogen to keep the paper down and help it decompose into the soil.

``The project has a lot of potential, and it could possibly kill two birds with one stone,″ said Brad Goering, Sedgwick County agricultural extension agent. ``But until we test it properly, there’s no way to tell.″

The test project will determine how much it would cost to do this on a large scale and how much nitrogen can be applied to the land without damaging it, Goering said. It will also prove whether paper can reduce erosion and improve crops.

The project is based on the research of Kansas State University and Jim Edwards, a professor at Auburn University who has worked on the process in six states since 1991.

In a Texas project, wind erosion of soil was reduced by 41 percent. In areas of the country with low rainfall, adding paper also can increase crop yields 50 percent because paper can hold six or seven times its weight in water, Edwards said.

``Paper is more than half carbon, and it can do a lot to improve soil and increase its organic matter,″ Edwards said. ``Not to mention the benefits of getting rid of all that paper.″

Despite the success of recycling programs, paper still makes its way into local landfills. Phone books are an additional problem.

The books not thrown in the trash are too expensive to recycle because it is hard to remove the glue binding that holds the pages together.

The paper is also very low-grade, and its only value is as an ingredient in asphalt or shingles, said Bridget Lemen, operations manager at Weyerhaeuser Co., a Wichita recycler that will help carry out the project.

``If the project works, we wouldn’t have to truck it out of town, local farmers would benefit and no one would have to pay landfills to take useful paper,″ Goering said.

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DUMMERSTON, Vt. (AP) _ Apple growers in southern Vermont are reporting poor harvests this year, caused by a rainy spring that prevented bees from pollinating apple blossoms.

Some farmers have been devastated while others have found ways around what some are calling the poorest apple harvest in memory.

``It is the worst I have ever seen it in that orchard,″ said Donald Hazelton, a retired farmer, looking at a field of apple trees he once owned in Dummerston Center. ``Do you see any apples on those trees?″

For Matt Darrow, owner of Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, one of the largest Macintosh growers in the state, the pollination problem could not have come at a worse time.

``We got a little over half a crop,″ said Darrow. ``If it had not been for the previous six years before this, it would not have been so bad.″

Honey bees need warm, relatively dry days to pollinate. Without pollination, the fruit does not form. Eight days of rain this spring wiped out many Macintosh apple crops.

``We are struggling,″ Darrow said. He compared this year’s woes to the hurricane of 1938, which wiped out that year’s apple crop.

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