Our Top 13 Yield-Building Tips for Sustainable Agriculture
1) Split nitrogen applications:
Making smaller applications more often is always more productive. In research involving 250 kg of urea per hectare. The difference between a single 250 kg application and 10 x 25 kg applications applied over several months was a 105% yield increase. Note: Single nitrogen applications in excess of one bag of urea or two bags of ammonium sulphate per acre are destructive. The microbes, which normally extract nitrogen from organic carbon or fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, are shut down when chemical nitrogen is applied excessively. The loss of this ‘natural nitrogen’ can begin a downward spiral, where more nitrogen is required to achieve the same result.
2) Work with a quality soil test, fertilise precisely and monitor your progress:
Fertilise only with what is required when it is required. Major elements are often oversupplied, and this can cause more problems than benefits. Potash and nitrogen are often the main offenders in this regard. The best possible dry fertilising program involves Personal Prescription Blends™, where all deficits are addressed in a single application. This precision nutrition is offered by Nutri-Tech Solutions P/L (NTS) in association with their Soil Therapy™ service. NTS prefer to use the renowned lab, EAL, for their accuracy and reliability, but any soil test data can be utilised for Soil Therapy™.
Leaf analysis should be used at least once during the crop cycle to monitor progress.
The refractometer is also an exceptional tool to monitor plant health. Brix readings obtained from the leaf are a guideline to plant sugar levels, mineral content, protein levels and associated inherent pest and disease resistance. A hand-held refractometer is a valuable tool for sustainable, high-production horticulture. High-quality refractometers are available from NTS.
3) Dump Muriate of Potash:
Muriate contains 50% microbe-killing chlorine. Sulphate of Potash may be more expensive, but most Queensland soils are sulfur deficient, and this benefit should be factored into the cost difference. It is always difficult to quantify microbe damage, because the organisms are not visible, but there is ample, visible evidence when we consider earthworms: NTS have collected several reports of reduced earthworm numbers following prolonged use of Muriate. Leading American consultants cite cases where this phenomenon is reversed and earthworms return following a switch from Muriate of Potash to Sulphate of Potash.
4) Understand growth v’s fruiting energies:
Plants grow from the energy released from fertilisers rather than as a direct response to these inputs. There are two different energies involved, and, if understood, they can be manipulated to maximise yield. The minerals that promote a growth response are calcium, potassium and nitrate nitrogen. Obviously calcium nitrate and potassium nitrate are the prime fertilisers for early growth, but don’t overdo a good thing. Nitrate excess contributes to unbalanced plants with poor disease and pest resistance. It also ensures poor quality and limited shelf-life of produce.
The basic fruiting minerals are phosphorus, sulphate sulphur, manganese and ammonium nitrogen. Fruiting energies should be boosted when the plant begins to set buds. Calcium and potassium nitrate should be avoided at this stage in favour of fruiting minerals like ammonium sulphate, MAP, DAP, super phosphate and manganese sulphate. A general rule of thumb for small crops is to switch from growth producers to fruit producers about 35 – 45 days following crop emergence. This general effect can be magnified if coupled with moon-phase planting. Foliar feeding is a powerful tool to maximise fruiting response.
Plant manipulations for fruit and nut trees:
Management of growth and fruiting energies is different when we consider fruit and nut trees in comparison to small crops. The old maxim “what we do one year determines our yield for the following year” is related to these energies. Fruit and nut trees begin preparing for the next year’s fruiting process, while their current fruit is growing in size. Fruiting energies should be employed at pre-bloom, flowering, fruit set and early fruit development, and then the grower should switch to growth promoters to build both fruit size and new growth for the next season. A failure to provide this type of energy at this stage can result in low budding, blossoming and fruit set the next year.
5) Use a consultant who understands both the Albrecht system and the biological approach to fertility:
Author of “Hands on Agronomy”, Neal Kinsey, is a leading international consultant who exemplifies the potential of the Albrecht approach. He has enjoyed tremendous success as the “fertility custodian” for several hundred thousand acres of varied crops, including fruit, small crops and broadacre.
Nutri-Tech Solutions P/L are Australian flag-bearers for the Albrecht approach. Soil Therapy™, the popular fertility analysis, is very much Albrecht inspired, and the entire NTS product range has been developed around a combination of Albrecht principles in association with biological promotion. The guide to the success of any approach is the client return rate. Soil Therapy™, with the associated Prescription Blends™, is a resounding success, with the vast majority of clients returning year after year. The key to cost-effective fertilising is precision nutrition, where every dollar satisfies a real need. Soil Therapy™ ensures that precision.
6) Remember that biology is the principle yield-builder after the soil chemistry has been corrected:
The chemistry referred to is not a reference to chemical fertilisers, but rather the chemistry associated with mineral balance. A correct calcium / magnesium ratio is the single most important factor involved in this balancing act, but there are exact amounts of every element required for maximum fertility in any given soil.
Biology, in this context, refers to “living fertilisers” like fish, kelp, vermicast, composted fertilisers, animal manures, microbial inoculants and it also refers to materials like humates, sugar, colloidal phosphate and rock minerals, which provoke a microbial response.
The point is that the biological materials can be substantial yield-builders, but only after soil balance is improved. This is one of the most misunderstood features of natural fertiliser inputs in conventional agriculture. These products can provide remarkable yield increases, but disappointments are invariably related to sluggish soil-life associated with poorly balanced soils.
Microbe products and nutrient-boosted worm juices on the market are destined to provide patchy performance for the single fact that the soil conditions into which they are introduced, may be inhospitable. However, the likelihood for success is magnified considerably when these types of products are used in conjunction with a soil-balancing fertility program. Nutri-Tech Soil Therapy™ involves both chemical and biological considerations, and the success of this combination has made NTS the fastest growing Ag company in Australia.
7) Understand the mechanics of humus production and apply these principles as often as possible:
a) Fit in a green manure crop whenever an opportunity arises and maximise the carbon benefits by adding microbes (Nutri-Life 4/20™) before ploughing in.
b) Ensure maximum organic carbon conversion from stubble and other crop residues by considering the carbon / nitrogen ratio in every situation. Often added nitrogen is needed to ensure humus conversion. A rule of thumb is that 1 kg of nitrogen is needed to break down every 100 kg of residue. Once again, a microbial inoculant like Nutri-Life 4/20™, a nitrate accelerator, will also help to achieve rapid breakdown. Humus creation is best achieved when decomposition is clean and rapid.
c) Humus levels can be increased even in the absence of large amounts of organic matter, if soil chemistry is balanced and microbe products are used with a food source, ie Nutri-Life 4/20™ can increase humus levels appreciably in good conditions when applied regularly with molasses or fish emulsion. A report from a SA celery grower using Nutri-Life 4/20™, involved a humus increase of 1.5% in 12 months! This grower was injecting the microbes through his irrigation every ten days as part of his bio-management program. The resulting crop was remarkably free of disease.
Neal Kinsey cites cases of considerable humus gains in the presence of limited amounts of organic matter. Generations of microbes breed and feed new generations, which can continue to breed and feed subsequent populations. The humus building becomes almost self-generating.
d) Build white sugar or molasses into your program, particularly if you use herbicides regularly. These carbohydrate feeds are essential to replace the sugars normally produced by the algae in your soil to feed the other beneficial micro-organisms. All herbicides will kill algae on contact, and the beneficial microbes dependent on algae as a food source will suffer accordingly.
8) Detoxify and repopulate after every herbicide application:
Herbicides destroy algae. Algae are a single-celled plant that lives on or near the soil surface to allow photosynthesis, which produces the carbohydrates to feed the bacteria and fungi that are essential for a healthy soil. If NTS Fulvic 1400™ is used in equal portions with herbicides (ie one litre herbicide with one litre Fulvic 1400™), then 25% to 30% less herbicide is required. This reduces both soil damage and costs, but, more importantly, the humic acid has the capacity to absorb toxic residues and reduce ongoing soil-life destruction. Research suggests that, contrary to advertised claims, the biodegradability of most popular herbicides is far slower than claimed. Fulvic acid can detoxify these residues, but it cannot prevent the initial algae death. Repopulation with an inexpensive microbe blend is the solution here (Nutri-Life 4/20™ can be brewed and applied with sugar or molasses at an approximate cost of $7 to $10 per hectare). Note: When combining Fulvic 1400™ with Glyphosate, there is no need to reduce the pH of the solution, as is normally required when using this herbicide, as fulvic acid has a pH of 2.9.
9) Use soft rock phosphate to build phosphate levels:
Soft rock phosphate is the best option available for building phosphate in the soil. We have hundreds of followup soil tests that confirm this capacity. Don’t confuse hard rock with soft rock. NTS Soft Rock, marketed by Nutri-Tech Solutions P/L, is the principle source of soft rock in Australia. There are some unscrupulous fertiliser dealers attempting to capitalise on the growing popularity of soft rock in Queensland by passing off hard rock phosphate as soft rock. Soft rock phosphate is a colloidal clay. If you mix the powder with water, it will react like any sticky clay. Hard rock, by contrast, will just look like wet sand. Most of the leading international consultants consider soft rock to be a superior phosphate fertiliser to any other source. They contend that reactive or hard rock phosphate can take up to two years to release and will not become available at all in alkaline soils, whilst most of the acid-treated phosphates ‘lock up’ and represent poor value. Soft rock can be used effectively in any soil type, and it is plant-available almost immediately. It will never lock up, and it contains a rich lode of colloidal trace elements. The Albrecht approach involves the following central proposition: “Feed the soil, and the soil will feed the plant.” NTS Soft Rock is a substantial soil food.
10) Mulch all tree and vine crops:
There is no substitute for the numerous benefits associated with a layer of mulch in the drip zone of all tree and vine crops. Even the majority of backyard battlers in the home garden have adopted a mulching policy, and yet many commercial growers leave the undertree area hard, dry and barren for no explicable reason. Mulching preserves moisture, improves soil structure and buffers the root-zone against extreme temperatures. There is no better way to bring back the earthworms to your orchard, and the microbial population inevitably explodes in these ideal conditions. Herbiciding is reduced, which can help to cover mulching costs, and erosion and fertiliser run-offs are also minimised.
Living Mulch: There appears to be considerable potential associated with the use of the perennial legume Pintoi peanut as a cover crop in the undertree area. 50 kg per hectare of Arachis Pintoi seed in the drip-zone of tree crops can (once established) produce a complete ground cover that will not climb. This dense cover offers the same benefits as dry mulch, but it also appears to function as a nutrient scavenger in the soil, actually increasing soil nutrient levels in the process. A 5 year study completed in 1991 at the Alstonville Tropical Fruit Research Station reported the following nutrient increases in the Pintoi block compared to the control: Organic carbon was increased by 5.6%, nitrogen by 8.5%, exchangeable potassium by an impressive 52%, calcium by 26%, magnesium by 43%, sodium by 23%, electrical conductivity (EC) by 24% and pH by 1.3 units. Once established, Pintoi peanuts can offer a living, fertility-building alternative to the counterproductive drip-zone aridity that we so often see in Queensland tree crops.
11) Include a biological or natural input with every chemical input:
This is the key to high-production ‘Fusion Farming™’. There is a synergistic effect with many organic / conventional combinations, but it is important to know ‘which goes with which’.
Combinations that have proven productive include:
a) Urea and humic acid (NTS Liquid Humus™) are perfect partners. Nitrogen is held in the root-zone for 60 to 80 days longer, and humic acid provides many other benefits.
b) NTS Fulvic 1400™ and herbicide should always be combined. Herbicide requirements can be reduced by up to 30%. Humic acid also acts as a wetter / spreader. Microbes, damaged by the herbicide, are replenished by carbon stimulation, and one pass over the patch successfully weeds and feeds.
c) The Nutri-Tech Triple Ten™ range and fungicides are usually compatible. Many fungicides appear to be more efficient when combined with these hormone-based foliar fertilisers.
d) Crop-specific Triple Ten products can be successfully combined with Path-X™ and Nutri-Neem to produce a powerful, multi-purpose cocktail.
e) NTS Soluble Humate Granules™ can be added to any planting blend to maximise nutrient retention and availability.
f) Sugar or molasses added to phosphate-based products has been shown to increase phosphate availability by many times.
A major benefit associated with ‘Fusion Farming™’ relates to the fact that many organic inputs have the capacity to form an organic shield around salts. They are, in effect, a buffer against salt injury. As soils become lower in humus and the use of salt-based fertilisers increases, these carbon-based inputs become more than just beneficial – they become essential.
12) Foliar fertilise to build yield and quality:
Foliar fertilising has been shown to be twelve to fifteen times more efficient in delivering nutrition to the plant when compared to conventional soil fertilising. However, there is limited foliar uptake when the soil is unbalanced. The foliar option should be used to provide that extra boost in conjunction with good soil-based programs rather than as an alternative to soil nutrition.
The crop-specific Nutri-Tech Triple Ten™ range is arguably the most technologically advanced range of liquid fertilisers in this country. In several independent trials the Triple Ten range has outperformed all other products on the market.
13) Check for paramagnetic levels and apply basalt crusher dust if required:
NTS offer a free paramagnetic testing service. Send us 50 grams of your soil and / or a sample of crusher dust from your nearest blue metal quarry, and we will measure them for you. Paramagnetism is a concept in agriculture which is attracting tremendous interest. It has always been known that volcanic soils will always outproduce soils from a non-volcanic origin. Professor Phil Callahan has shown that volcanic soils act as an antenna to draw electromagnetic radiation (radio waves) into the root-zone. Radio waves have been shown to increase cell division in both plants and beneficial micro-organisms. Basalt rock is often a source of powerful paramagnetic energy, and soils that are low in paramagnetism can receive a significant fertility boost through the addition of basalt crusher dust at 5 tonnes per hectare. Note: Measure your soil first to see if you will benefit from this material (any soil measuring lower than 300 CGS can show substantial benefits). Basalt crusher dust is not necessarily highly paramagnetic, and you will need to test your local supply to determine its fertiliser potential.
Tags: farming tips