Revised 1997 April 21 (completion of this page is planned for July 1997)

System Internationale (metric)

Americans have clung to a quaint system of measurements which is baffling to the rest of the world. Americans strongly resist manufacturing products which are appealing to people in foreign countries. Hence the USA commonly runs a trade deficit because we like the things other countries manufacture specifically to appeal to our tastes, but we look upon their tastes with contempt and resist making things in the sizes they need and that stubbornness reduces our exports+. Much of this problem arises from the lliterate atitude of average Americans for the System Internationale measurements. We have fewer problems exporting farm products which God refuses to grow in the units of our archaic US system of measurement. I am tempted to speculate that God grows things in the SI measurement, but I shall yield not to temptation. When the U.S. Constitution was being written, Benjamin Franklin did all he could to get System Internationale units written in as the standard of measurement. Not enough people voted with him and ever since, to the amused glee of third world competitors, America has hobbled its own growth by refusing to admit it made a mistake.

Scientists and pharmacists gave up their grains and drams long ago and almost immediately passed the Germans, British, and French in producing scientific discoveries. Am I giving too much credit to System Internationale? This page is help Americans understand the measurements used in the remainder of the world.


One hectare is about 2 1/2 acres.

One kilogram is about 2.2 lbs, thus 500 grams is about a pound. Groceries commonly sell foods in 100g and 250g units or by the kilogram.

One liter is about 1.1 quarts

One Kilometer is about 5/8 mile; one inch is about 2.5 cm.

The above notes are the ones I use for every day mental conversions between the two systems. It is frequently faster convert a problem to SI, solve, and then convert back to American if necessary.

Here is an example:
When growing plants the standard is to use 200 parts per million Nitrogen (as nitrogen) in the water and apply this once a week. Apply this more often for young growing plants. For my strawberry mother (stock) plants I use 50 parts per million when I do not want runners. How does one calculate all this mentally (or on paper to be extra cautious). The soluble fertilizer is 20-20-20 (N-P-K). A liter of water is 1000 grams. One gram of the dry 20-20-20 contains 200 milligrams of N. Thus 1 gram of the dry fertilizer added to l liter of water is 200 parts N per million! Very easy calculation! Now we convert back to American by picking up an empty gallon milk jug (3.8 liters) and adding 3.8 grams of the dry fertilizer and then filling the jug with water. Weighing out 3.8 grams of fertilizer is easy because SI balances are used in most greenhouses. We can make it even easier. Use 38 grams of the 20-20-20 to the gallon of water and then just dilute this 10X stock 1 to 10 for use. We save weighing fertilizer every time you need to fertilize the plants. Or do as I do, add 190 grams of 20-20-20 to a 5 gallon bucket of water to make your 10X stock solution. If I want 50 ppm for stock plants, I just add one volume of the 10X stock solution to 40 volumes of water (1 gallon of stock to a barrel (55 gal) filled almost 3/4 full with water).

Science and Industry

A complete listing of System Internationale and precise conversions will be added to this page by June or July 1997.

Related pages in this web site

Background Pages

Other Web Sites Offering Information about Farming Around the World

Agrimark - Discussion
Farm Journal Today - Live International Farm Chat, Farm feature stories updated daily.
Not Just Cows (NJC) - Exceptionally colorful pages by an American ag college professor.

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Written by Harold Eddleman, Ph. D., President, Indiana Biolab, 14045 Huff St., Palmyra IN 47164

Suggestions, corrections, and comments are appreciated: Contact Harold Eddleman