The Top Ten Biological Farming Strategies
In this article we will look at practical implementation of biological farming principles focusing upon the strategies that are proven to deliver greater yield and quality while reducing the need for chemical intervention. The following summary can serve as a box ticking audit of your progress along the biological path.
1) Mineral Management – Soil testing is the first step forward but choose a lab that understands mineral balancing. NTS Soil Therapy™ is a comprehensive, analysis and programming service conducted by experienced biological agronomists. Calcium affects soil structure and impacts uptake of all other minerals so it is always first priority. The higher your Soil Therapy™ star rating the more productive and disease resistant your soil. Ratio guidelines: 1) the cal/mag ratio – this ratio governs the delivery of all important oxgen into the soil. The ideal ratio is 3:1 in light soils and 7:1 in heavy soils but it varies depending upon CEC. 2) The phosphorus to zinc ratio – these minerals are either synergistic or antagonistic to each other depending on the ratio. The ideal ratio is 10:1 in favour of phosphorous. 3) The sodium to potassium ratio – there should always be a higher percentage of potassium than sodium according to base saturation. 4) The potassium to magnesium ratio – try to achieve equal ppm of these two. 5) The iron to manganese ratio – a little more iron than manganese is required.
2) Building Biodiversity – High production fertility is about minerals and microbes. A healthy soil should contain over a billion organisms in a teaspoon, involving tens of thousands of different species. Unfortunately, chemical agriculture has compromised soil life and most of us are paying the price. The path back to productive biodiversity involves compost tea and biostimulants. This is not expensive. You can source the brewing equipment from NTS or make your own. After multiplying out your new workforce you need to send them off to work with a lunch box to encourage colonisation. We have found that the most popular lunchbox item is Nutri-Sea Liquid Fish™. This fertiliser has the highest known mineral analysis of any fish fertiliser in Australia and it has a rich oil component. Fish oil is an essential part of the potent biostimulation achieved with this input. Fungi and Protozoa thrive in the presence of this mineralised mix of protein and fatty acids and the earthworms return.
3) Kick Starting the Seed – A well formulated, seed treatment can offer the best cost to benefit ratio in your program. This nutrient package surrounding the germinating seed can improve germination and provide a mother’s milk-like kick start to the young plant which invariably translates to significant yield gains. The NTS product, Seed Start™, has proven a resounding success in over 40 countries and we believe that it is the best seed treatment product available. Mr Mohammad Hussein Yavari, the dynamic NTS Distributor from Iran, has recently reported yield increases of up to 40% following treatment of wheat and corn seeds with Seed Start™. The cost of treatment with this remarkable formulation is around AU$40 per tonne of seed which equates to just AU$2 per hectare. Treatment simply involves spraying the Seed Start™ formulation on the seed as it enters the planter or it can be pre treated in a concrete mixer.
4) Magnifying and Stabilising Fertilisers – Conventional fertilisers are destined to sky rocket in price as we reach Peak Oil. Any strategy that can increase the efficiency of these inputs is important. The best tool to magnify the benefit of your fertiliser investment is NTS Soluble Humate Granules™. At a cost of just $15 per hectare you can increase fertiliser performance by more than 30% (based on published research regarding cell sensitisation, where humic acid increases cell permeability to sponsor a 34% increase in nutrient absorption). The humates can also stabilise unstable inputs like DAP/MAP or urea through the root zone formation of a stable phosphate humate or a urea humate. Currently you are getting around 27% of your phosphate before it locks up. Urea is rapidly nitrified and exits the soil, or enters the plant, in the undesirable nitrate form. Humates can dramatically enhance urea performance. Humates are also powerful chelating agents to further magnify fertiliser performance.
5) Promoting Precision Nutrition – There is no place for guesswork in biological farming. Feed the plant what it needs, when it needs it and you will reap the rewards. Leaf testing provides a valuable insight into these requirements. NTS Plant Therapy™ is an excellent tissue testing and analysis service offering advice for a more productive precision approach. The unique Shuttle™ nutrient delivery system can be used to address specific deficiencies or if broader coverage is required you might consider NTS Triple Ten™, an all-inclusive foliar fertiliser that is the biggest selling NTS product around the globe. Triple Ten™ involves a hot mix 10-10-10 base with Shuttle™ chelates and a host of natural plant growth promoters including humates, kelp, fish, vitamins, saponins and triacontanol. Shuttle Seven™ is the most popular Shuttle™ blend but all trace minerals are available separately with the amazing Shuttle™ chelation.
6) Increasing Cell Strength – The biological approach is proactive in that we strive to create conditions that reduces the attractiveness to pests. An important strategy involves building the strength of the cell wall to create an impenetrable barrier. The tools for this task are calcium and silica. The trace mineral boron is also important as it improves the uptake of both of the other minerals. Calcium and boron can be delivered to the plant with the NTS product; Cal-Tech™, which includes amino chelated calcium and boron. Silica can be supplied as Dia-Life™ (which also contains boron) or Photo-Finish™, which involves potassium silicate and a suite of synergists. Silica also serves to increase stress resilience, stem strength and photosynthetic response. There is also new research linking soluble silica to significant yield increases. Dia-Life™ is based upon micronised diatomaceous earth in a liquid suspension. It can be fertigated or foliar sprayed to build silica levels and associated cell strength.
7) Microbe Management – There can be tremendous gain in introducing specific microbes, in very high numbers, to your soil. You may be seeking access to the 5000 truckloads of nitrogen that hovers as a gas above every hectare or you may be wishing to reclaim some of your frozen reserves of phosphate. Nutri-life 4/20™ is Australia’s largest known selling microbe blend for a reason. It can be brewed and applied for as little as AU$12 per hectare and it is a proven performer. You can reclaim locked up phosphate with these microbes and fix substantial amounts of nitrogen from the atmosphere. This blend also includes cellulose-digesting fungi to build your humus levels and co-factor species to stimulate your native soil life. It is now recognised that microorganisms are responsible for the delivery of all minerals. Microbes are the bridge between soil and plant and you will always profit from bridge building exercises.
8) Building Bio-Balance – A fungal disease does not represent a deficiency of a fungicide and root knot nematodes didn’t show up because you neglected to gas your soil. These pathogens are symptoms of a biological imbalance and the secret is to reclaim that balance. Building humus and introducing inoculums of beneficial organisms, offers the fastest road back to bio-balance. Nutri-Store 180® is a unique carbon fertiliser based upon composted black coal. Root Guard™ is an inoculum that fills niches that may otherwise occupied by undesirable nematodes. Tri-Kelp™ is a soluble seaweed powder that stimulates beneficial soil life in the ongoing, beneath ground battle between good and bad. VAM-Tech™ introduces Mychorrizal fungi back into the equation and Trichoderma can be replaced with the best selling, Tricho-Shield™. The missing link in the soil foodweb is often Protozoa and these creatures are best sourced via lucerne tea but you need to source and brew organic lucerne.
9) Root Zone Revival – The area immediately around the roots is where everything happens. The most important considerations are adequate oxygen and protection from dehydrating salts in this action zone. Gypsum is often called the clay breaker because it can neutralise the two minerals that tighten up the soil and stress both the roots and the surrounding microbes. Gyp-Life™ is a liquid micronised form of gypsum that can be delivered directly into the root zone for positive impact. The sulfur component can bond with magnesium and sodium so they can be leached out and this product also contains fulvic acid to buffer salt negatives. The other tool for management of saline soils is Huma-Life™, a breakthrough, micronised, liquid humic acid concentrate (24%) that can be combined with Gyp-Life™ to provide a double whammy. This duo can buffer the roots and organisms from salt damage while immobilising the salt to reduce plant damage. The humates also stimulate soil life.
10)In-Field Monitoring – Fingertip control is the essence of informed nutrition and this is best achieved with a select group of in-field monitoring tools. These include the refractometer, which measures dissolved solids (nutrient density), photosynthetic potential and your associated skills as a chlorophyll manager. The ideal brix level is 12 degrees brix for most crops, although root crops need a minimum brix of 8. The second essential tool is a sap pH meter. American consultant, Bruce Tainio, has shown that a healthy disease resistant plant should have a sap pH of 6.4 and I have yet to see a plant with this ideal ph ever succumb to disease. A low sap pH signals a lack of alkalising minerals (calcium, magnesium or potassium) and increased fungal problems while a high pH increases the likelihood of insect pressure (often linked to excess nitrates). Nitrate and potassium meters are also invaluable plant monitoring tools.
Contact NTS on +61 7 5472 9900 for more information.