"We just had started, 1949, to get fertilizer. And the first fertilizer I received came from Holland, and it was in 112-pound bags, burlap bags. And we'd get it – Our trucker who was trucking for us would haul corn down to Texas and go Houston and pick up the fertilizer and bring it back… It was 33.5 percent nitrates. We sold a lot of nitrate in the first part of – and then we finally got into the phosphates and potashes…
   "The nitrate, of course in those days, was taking the place of the legumes, which were – The legumes were sweet clover, red clover, alfalfa. And that's what the farmers had been using as rotating their crops. So, that's what they used the nitrates for."
   Question: "Legumes would put nitrogen back in the soil?"
   "Back in the soil, yeah… After the United States got so that the government wasn't taking it for ammunition, they – I started getting all my nitrate from Spencer Chemical Company out of Parsons, Kansas. And Mr. Spencer had been making it in the war and supplying it for ammunition. And so then I bought some from the Phillips Petroleum people. It was an outcome of the war."
   Question: "So, it was a whole new industry? Interesting."
   "Yeah. Of course, however they had been doing experimental work at colleges [of] agriculture, and testing it… Well, they would find the depletion of nitrates and the phosphates. And of course, the phosphates was what strengthens your plant. And the potash, which we don't use much in this area because we – Our soils are pretty heavy with potash in this area. We still use some. We still use mixed fertilizers."
   Question: "So before this, a farmer wouldn't really know what kind of nutrients were on his farm, right?"
   "No.[We] didn't get into the heavy soil testing until probably the late forties, early fifties."
   Question: "What prompted that, what brought that on?"
   "Education… I had meetings all the time, every year, draw – I had the farmers come in and they would listen to the Extension people from the University [of Nebraska] which would be in soils, water management, and chemicals. Different chemicals that could be used, which – Of course, education is excellent. My theory of education is no better than the application of it. And of course, the farmers – we would encourage them to use it, which they did."

Holly Miller – Postwar Fertilizer Boom


Other Excerpts from Holly Miller's Interview:

Holly's War Experience
Holly's Wife Lenore as Rosie the Riveter
The Blizzards of 1948 & ’49
Draft Deferments for Farm Workers
Starting Business
Changes in Combines
War Surplus
Broadleaf and Grass Herbicides