The Top Ten Farming Tips for 2012

sun rising over wheat - farming tips 2012For the first time in my memory we are confronting a new year that holds more threat than promise. The triple specters of a European meltdown, a bursting Chinese property bubble and fragile “recoveries” in the US and Japan, present a torrid, tightrope walk through the coming months. Even if we muddle through and somehow avoid a major recession this year, we still need to survive the week before Christmas, which the ancient Mayans tipped to be a momentous moment in human history. In what is shaping up to be the “year of fear”, it seemed like it might be a good idea to offer some constructive suggestions to help farmers counter this most negative and destructive of human emotions. Breaking the cycle is critical because of the self-fulfilling nature of fear-driven inactivity. Now, more than ever before, we need strategies that help us rise above the negativity. Food, after all, is historically recession-proof, but you need to be in the driver’s seat to secure that inherent protection. Hopefully, these strategies will serve to cement your rightful place as the helmsman in the storm. I wish you all the very best for the coming year and I trust that you are equipped to become the victors rather than the victims.

1) Soil Health is Financial Health

The biggest mindset change in the move toward a more sustainable agricultural future is the recognition that you are dealing with a living system and that everything you do will impact that system. Your goal is to make that impact positive. However, a second paradigm shift involves an understanding that risk reduction, recession proofing and financial reward are intimately linked to the health of your soil life. It amazes me that research is still required to prove this point. Disease is the biggest risk factor limiting financial success in cropping and there is no disease that is not naturally controlled by a fully functioning soil foodweb. There are hundreds of papers linking specific disease protection to particular beneficial soil organisms. There are older farmers the world over who lament the loss of earthworms, soil structure and resilience, linked to the rise and rise of extractive agriculture. There are younger farmers, of course, who have never seen an earthworm on their properties and perhaps they are the audience for the latest “findings”. Enviroveg, for example, is a research initiative by Ausveg, the industry body for vegetable growers. The 2011 Enviroveg studies conclusively confirmed that soil health determined the need for chemical intervention, particularly in relation to fungicides. The irony here though, is that chemicals beget chemicals, and the collateral damage from this viscous cycle is to the soil life that actually reduces the need for chemicals.

So, how do we escape the treadmill, how do we improve the life in our soils and reduce the need for chemicals? The answer involves a three-way approach including the protection, repopulation and stimulation of this silent workforce. Protection involves soil management decisions like the reduction of tillage (a proven humus depletor), the use of detox agents, like fulvic acid, to minimise the damage potential of the chemicals and the utilisation of compost and humates to boost humus levels. Humus (organic carbon) tends to buffer some of the damage associated with farm chemicals. Repopulation involves brewing and applying inexpensive specialist inoculums and compost teas along with the use of actual compost (which is, essentially, a broad spectrum inoculum). Stimulation requires the regular use of proven bio-stimulants like kelp, fish, humates and sugar.

2) Become Carbon Wise

Agriculture is the biggest single green house gas polluter accounting for 25% of CO2 emissions, 60% of methane emissions and a whopping 85% of the nitrous oxide released into the atmosphere every year. It is only due to the importance of food production and food security that farmers have yet to be penalised for their premier role in Global warming. I am not suggesting that this will change in 2012. In fact, the industry is set to be rewarded for reclaiming some of the CO2 it has contributed (via carbon credits). The loss of 70% of our soil humus over the past 150 years has contributed 470 gigatonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere. All of mankind’s other enterprises, including industry and transport, have contributed 270 gigatonnes of CO2. Agriculture has been the big culprit and it will also prove to be the savior as no one else can save the day in time. Humus is built from CO2 that would otherwise be in the atmosphere. If we increase soil organic matter levels by 1% in US croplands, for example, we capture 4.5 billion of the 8 billion tonnes of CO2 that the American’s release each year. This is the only strategy, at this stage that is capable of halting or reversing climate change! So, how do we convert atmospheric carbon into soil carbon and how do we minimise the release of the other two offending greenhouse gases from our farms to reduce our overall footprint (before the regulators do it for us)?

Here are some suggestions:

Nitrogen should always be stabilised with soluble humates or compost to reduce losses to the atmosphere. We should also enhance nitrogen efficiency and increase our access to atmospheric nitrogen. Urea can be applied as a foliar at rates of 10 kg to 20kg per hectare (with 1 kg of NTS Soluble Humate Granules™) and this form of direct entry can be three to four times more efficient than ground-applied nitrogen. Molybdenum and cobalt are required in the soil to fuel nitrogen fixation from the atmosphere and it is also important that oxygen delivery is maximised through optimising the calcium to magnesium ratio (this ratio determines a soil’s capacity to breathe, and nitrogen fixing organisms are particularly reliant upon good levels of oxygen).

Grain-fed beef fart and burp much more methane than grass-fed animals and perhaps it is time to question this production technology. The rationale for feeding grain to beef cattle has always related to the superiority of the grain-fed product but this is simply not true. It is time that we recognised that there is no comparison between the end product in these two contrasting production methods. Contrary to the marketing story, grass fed beef is a vastly superior food, containing just 20% of the saturated fat of the grain-fed animal. It also contains good levels of omega 3 fatty acids and the highly protective fat, CLA, which is not found in grain-fed beef.

Studies of the carbon sequestering potential of different systems have revealed three very effective humus-building strategies, all of which are linked to grazing. Rotational or cell grazing is a proven carbon builder. The principle here is basically common sense. The higher the above and below ground biomass, the greater the potential for humus production (because there is more raw material present). The below ground biomass (the roots) directly mirrors the above ground biomass (the foliage). If you graze down to a bowling green, the plant roots will correspondingly reduce in size and so will your potential to build carbon. Buffaloes grazing the Great Plains did so en-masse for short periods and then moved on. This was the natural equivalent of cell grazing. These soils were some of the most consistently productive soils in the history of the planet until man intervened. As is so often the case, our management strategies have not proved the equal of Nature and the Great Plains has consistently lost their productive potential since the advent of extractive agriculture.

Pasture cropping is a relatively new phenomenon that appears to have considerable promise as both a carbon builder and an income stream. Here, cereals and other crops are interplanted with the pasture. They are grazed off twice before they are left to go to head and harvested. It seems that the biodiversity and added photosynthesis potential linked to greater plant density may be playing a role in sequestering more carbon into these soils.

The third of these strategies has been well researched over the past twenty years by the Rodale Foundation in the US. They have shown that no-till and minimum-till farming significantly increases the carbon-building potential. Tillage exposes humus to oxygen and there is always some loss through oxidation. This loss is magnified greatly if the soil is too moist when worked. No-till has disadvantages due to the compromising effect of the herbicides required, but minimum-till farming, with well-timed use of mechanical weed management tools, seems to be the most sustainable and productive option.

Perhaps, the single most effective carbon building strategy is to reintroduce mycorrhizal fungi back into our soils. It is now estimated that these remarkable creatures are responsible for over one third of the stable soil carbon on the planet and their decline, due to modern agriculture, directly parallels our loss of soil carbon. It is estimated that up to 90% of the mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) have now been lost in the cultivated, food producing soils on the planet. Increases in the efficiency of spore harvesting have now enabled the remarkably cost effective inoculation of AMF. Other free living cellulose digesting fungi can also be inexpensively reintroduced, to maximise the carbon building potential of crop residues like stubble.

3) Diversify or Get Out!

This sounds a little extreme but only because it is intended to contrast “get bigger or get out!”, the prevailing maxim in agriculture in recent years. There are several factors linked to this change in perspective, including the following:

  • The average age of farmers is increasing (now over 60 years of age) and we desperately need to entice a younger generation into farming. The idea of monoculture involving commodities governed in price by the value of the Australian dollar and the whimsys of world investors has lost its appeal to many. A younger generation spawned on the promise of diverse, exciting, often digitally driven career options, is not flocking home to the farm. Entrepreneur farmers like American, Joel Salatin have recognised the need for change. Diverse, multi dimensional, interrelated enterprises have much greater appeal to youth.
  • As peak oil and global warming issues begin to bite there will be more drivers to buy local, seasonal food. In fact, we eventually may not have a choice.
  • The massive increase in farmers markets around the globe reflects a trend toward shopping locally and a desire to put a face to our food. These markets have proven lucrative opportunities to cut out the middlemen and the growers who have prospered most are those with the greatest variety on offer.
  • The farmers markets also allow a cash injection, which is immune from bank interference. Many of the larger dairy farmers, for example, in both Australia and New Zealand, have borrowed heavily to “get bigger” and now, when they finally get some good milk prices, the bank is demanding a big slice of the action to repay some principle. The milk cheques are being severely pruned as a result and the farmers are given their meager monthly living allowance.
  • Polyculture is invariable less pest intensive because biodiversity tends to reduce pest pressure, particularly if companion planting is practiced. The Farmers Markets reflect increasing consumer demand for chemical-free food. Farm chemicals will dramatically increase in price with peak oil and so there is a dual motivation to reduce your reliance upon them.

 

4) Become a Price Maker

You can produce record crops of high quality fruit and vegetables and leave them unharvested because the market falls in a heap. You need to become a price maker rather than a price taker. Marketing your produce is as important as growing it, but it is often the neglected skill in the armada of talents involved in modern food production. Sending your hard won produce to distant markets to be sold by strangers is a risky practice rarely mirrored in other industries. A writer, for example, does not market his work as an anonymous wordsmith at the mercy of all comers and the winemaker is similarly discerning regarding the outcome of his labours. There are some simple tricks that can increase the odds of success if you are sending food to the large markets. It’s not just enough to develop a reputation for quality, although it definitely helps. Branding is important. Create your own catchy colours, logo and product name on your box and make sure that labelling reflects your key selling points. If you are growing biologically, then include a reference to “biologically grown with forgotten flavours and extended shelf life” on your box, or you have sold yourself seriously short!

Consider developing your own export market for your produce. It can be as simple as visiting some South East Asian markets and identifying an agent with whom you would like to work. An export agent will take care of the bookwork and you can simply ship on demand. There may be some initial hiccups but then you have a system in place that can ensure a much better return.

You will need to develop some basic retail skills if you want to succeed in direct selling at the farmers markets. Print out your prices and specials with your computer and keep the site mess-free and creatively appealing to consumers. One simple trick is to keep the shelves full. As soon as you slip up and fail to refill your display area you will notice an immediate reduction in sales. For some reason people are drawn to abundance. A friendly, positive attitude will attract return custom so even if you may be struggling with crowds because you spend all day alone in the paddock I suggest that you may need to fake it or forget it! I am amazed that anyone ever returns to some of the grumpy, unhelpful characters that sometimes appear to sell their produce at the markets.

5) Consider Organic Certification

I have argued long and hard for the flexibility of the biological approach over organics. I have suggested that organics is largely about what you can’t do, while biological farming is all about what you should be doing to achieve nutrient dense, flavoursome food. However, it is a simple fact that depending upon your marketing skills, the organic produce will usually return a higher premium. It is often worth jumping through some extra hoops to access this premium. There is also the issue that organic certification offers the only ironclad certainty that the food you are buying is completely free from chemicals. Recent research published in this month’s issue of “The Townsend Letter For Doctors”, a highly reputed industry journal, adds extra impetus to the need to be chemical free. This research covers the effects of farm pesticides on the intellectual development of children. There is now compelling evidence linking exposure to organophosphate pesticides to significantly lower IQ in children and this also applies to low level prenatal exposure. This exposure can lead to lasting metabolic disruption in children. In newborns this exposure is related to an increased number of abnormal reflexes but in adolescents the effects manifest as emotional and mental problems.

In 2002, The US National Centre for Health Statistics reported a 50% increase in the number of women reporting impaired fecundity in the 14 years since they had initiated these studies (4.9 million women in 1988, increasing to 7.3 million women reporting problems in 2002). In 2005, a group of 40 experts compiled by Stanford University, noted that there were significant concerns about the effects of organophosphate pesticides on fertility. The cynics amongst us may suggest that this is one way of addressing the problems associated with overpopulation but this is not a view which will be shared by the countless, confused newly weds struggling to conceive. The consumption of organic food is now a proven strategy to increase sperm counts and reduce problems with fecundity.

6) Feed what you need when you need it.

Most growers now understand the necessity for soil testing to avoid driving blind. This information is essential when designing crop nutrition programs, but you do need to understand the figures to make productive decisions. All minerals affect other minerals and that influence may be negative or positive. If you follow the common NPK prescriptions favoured by many of the fertiliser companies, they usually remain the same year after year regardless of the soil test results. How can this be possible you may well ask? A crop removes a whole range of minerals and they need to be replaced. There is obviously more than NPK involved here but even the simplistic, NPK prescriptions, repeated year after year, do not gel from a soil science perspective. The amount of each of these three key minerals required each season will vary based upon many environmental and biological factors. Nitrogen requirements, for example, will vary based upon the supply of free atmospheric nitrogen and environmental factors that influence the supply of this form of nitrogen. Phosphorus requirements will also vary, based upon release of “locked up” phosphorus and this in turn can be influenced by soil aeration, suitable soil life, P releasing legumes and the presence of beneficial fungi which release phosphorus. Potassium is, perhaps, the most mismanaged of this trio, when it is included every season with the NPK blend, whether needed or not. We encounter many occasions in intensive horticulture where the soil contains way too much potassium and yet more is added every feeding time. In this instance, the grower is not only wasting hard earned money on the most expensive of all fertilisers, but the excess is creating other problems. Excess potash negatively influences the uptake of boron, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. We call these minerals “the Big Four” because they have such an impact on both yield and quality. The absence of “the Big Four” can produce a compromised plant that will require more chemical intervention. Understanding mineral relationships can have a huge impact upon your fertiliser bill and your profitability. Attend one of our courses or educate yourself on the NTS website and put yourself back into the driver’s seat for 2012.

7) Discover the benefits of tissue testing

While most growers understand the need for soil testing, many have yet to understand the benefits of tissue testing. Testing the leaf during the crop cycle offers an invaluable insight into exactly what the crop is accessing at any point in time. On many occasions the presence of a mineral in the soil (according to soil test results) does not ensure the presence of that mineral within the plant. This can relate to antagonism from other minerals that are in excess, the destruction of biology responsible for the delivery of that mineral or a dilution of minerals within the plant due to an oversupply of nitrate nitrogen (a mineral that is always taken up with water, which dilutes other nutrients). Whatever the cause of the mineral imbalance, a tissue test allows rapid correction. This correction is best addressed as a foliar spray as this has proven to be the most efficient way to deliver minerals and it means that soil lockups can be bypassed through delivery of the required minerals directly into the leaf. I am of the opinion that, in many circumstances, tissue testing can be of more value that soil testing because it facilitates yield building, precision nutrition.

8) Rid yourself of herbicide residues

The recent research efforts of a single scientist have questioned the ongoing viability and sustainability of the largest selling herbicide on the planet. Who says one man cannot change the world? In fact, multi-national giants are quaking in their boots at the potential losses associated with these findings. Professor Don Huber, from Purdue University in the US, has released a series of damning research papers that confirm beyond any doubt that glyphosate is not the benign, biodegradable weed killer that the marketers would have us believe. Don’s research has revealed the following:

  • Glyphosate kills the soil creatures responsible for delivery of iron and manganese to the crop with obvious implications for chlorophyll density and associated photosynthesis potential.
  • Glyphosate has been linked to an increase in the prevalence of over 40 soil diseases because it compromises both the plant defense systems and the beneficial soil life that would otherwise protect against these pathogens.
  • Glyphosate increases the growth and virulence of several fungal pathogens, including fusarium, pythium, rhizoctonia and phthora.
  • Glyphosate immobilises the nutrients responsible for mobilising a plant’s defense system. This is actually how the chemical operates. It weakens the plant so the pathogens can then kill it. This raises huge issues for the genetically modified, Roundup Ready crops because the food crop is drenched in this chemical and can be compromised accordingly.
  • Glyphosate compromises the nutritional value of food crops because a robust defense system is directly linked to the presence of medicinal phyto-chemicals in the food. In fact, in many cases, the very same biochemicals are involved.
  • Glyphosate increases the likelihood of dangerous mycotoxins entering the food chain and there are also issues with the chemical itself in stock food. In fact, the toxin levels in straw can be high enough to make cattle and pigs infertile.
  • There are many reports of allergic reactions in both humans and livestock following consumption of Roundup Ready crops.
  • The chelating capacity of glyphosate can lead to a reduction in the plant availability of key micronutrients, including zinc, and this is having a negative effect upon human health. We now know that our food contains less nutrition when it is grown in soils that contain glyphosate residues or when we consume GM food that has been directly treated with glyphosate.

So how do we reduce the collateral damage associated with the world’s largest selling farm chemical? Unfortunately, the increasing popularity of no-till farming has increased the use of this chemical and resistance is becoming a major issue. It is now known that the biodegradability of glyphosate reduces over time as the organisms responsible for the degradation are compromised by the chemical. One productive strategy involves the use of specific biostimulants that accelerate the breakdown of the chemical in the soil. It is important that the glyphosate is rapidly degraded because if it remains in the field, it also continues to kill algae in the soil. These plant-like creatures are a major food source for the key workers in your soil (bacteria and fungi), so their demise signals a negative effect upon the entire, interrelated soil life community. If you are locked into a glyphosate regime (as many farmers are), then make sure that you combine a suitable soil detox agent with your glyphosate. NTS has pioneered the development of this type of product. Herbi-Safe™ is an inexpensive, essential additive if you are seeking to increase the sustainability of glyphosate and other contact herbicides. If you can remove the residues from the soil as rapidly as possible, then the long list of potential negatives can be seriously reduced.

 

9) Discover the multiple benefits of AM Fungi

Mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are the single most important creatures on our planet at this point in time. They are single handedly responsible for producing over one third of the stable humus in our soils. Stable humus holds CO2 in the soil for up to 35 years and prevents it from returning to the atmosphere, as part of the carbon cycle. The storage of carbon in the soil as humus is the only viable way that we can change the CO2 equation fast enough to avert a climate change catastrophe. Unfortunately, we have lost over 80% of these creatures during a few short decades of extractive agriculture. It is past time that we put them back and the NTS product, Platform™, offers an inexpensive, repopulating solution. Platform™ has proven to be the most exciting NTS product addition in the last decade and the unanimously positive feedback flows in from all corners of the globe.  The reason for this widespread enthusiasm is not just related to carbon sequestration. AMF fungi offer a spectacular range of other benefits that play a major role in ultimate profitability. They are the key to achieving optimal soil health, so the soil no longer supports disease causing organisms and this alone can herald big savings in farm chemicals.  They are specifically equipped to release locked-up phosphorus in the soil and access to this huge frozen reserve can reduce fertilising costs (the CSIRO estimates that there is ten billion dollars of phosphate locked within Australian farming soils). They are synergists for highly efficient nitrogen fixation, as they supply key nutrients for the nitrogen-fixing organisms to thrive (which, again reduces fertiliser costs). They also help release potassium that is locked within clay platelets so, in effect, they offer a biological source of NPK. However, it does not end there. AMF help retain moisture with their massive network of pipe-like filaments. They mine zinc and increase the bioavailability of several other trace minerals, and they are perhaps the most important key to keeping calcium bio-available in the soil. Calcium is the hardest nut to crack for most growers and consultants, as it is extremely difficult to maintain the desired levels of calcium in the plant tissue throughout the crop cycle. If your soil contains good levels of AMF then these creatures will be constantly breaking the bond between calcium and phosphate (making both minerals available to the plant).

Platform™ can be applied with the seed in broadacre crops for an investment of just $5 per hectare. This supplies over 100,000 spores and propagules per hectare, which can populate the entire crop during the season. An investment of $20 per hectare is recommended in horticulture, field crops and pasture situations. However, if, as is often the case in pasture, you are not constantly killing off the new workforce with chemicals, then you may need only a single application to be back in the game and enjoying the multiple benefits of AMF.

10) Learn to relax through the hard times

Wherever I travel throughout the world, I ask participants at my seminars about their stress levels. There are usually less than 2% of these patrons who do not feel anxiety on a regular basis. We have created a stress-laden world often based upon rampant consumerism. We “need” all these “things” and the effort to acquire and maintain them is slowly killing us. Farmers do not usually fit into the mindless consumer mould but they actually have more real reason for stress than any other profession. You are dealing with climate extremes, greedy supermarket chains, declining soil fertility, inconsiderate banks, fickle commodity prices and a high Australian dollar. This is one of the few professions where effort does not necessarily equate to reward. This is the most important profession of them all and we need to look after the people who produce our food. In this instance, I will endeavour to help you look after yourselves with a dozen stress busting tips:

  • Breathing is the simplest and most effective way to soften stress. The first step is to make sure that you are a stomach breather rather than a chest breather. Simply place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest and breathe normally. If you are a stomach breather, the hand on your stomach (below the naval) should rise up more obviously than the hand placed on your chest. You will need to practice for several weeks, every time you think of it, to change a shallow, chest breathing habit, but it will prove tremendously rewarding if you persist. A long, deep, conscious breath, several times a day, can serve as a roundabout to slow the frantic traffic of thoughts in your mind. It has been estimated that we think over 30,000 thoughts each day, most of which are mindless babble and many of which are negative. A few deep breaths each day breaks the flow and allows a few seconds of contemplation which can lower blood pressure and heart rate and make life a little more pleasant.
  • 4-7-7 Breathing – This is a tool favoured by Buddhist monks, which can be a highly effective stress-relieving strategy. It simply involves breathing in as deeply as you can for a period of four seconds and then holding the air you have inhaled for a period of seven seconds. After this period you expel the air from your lungs with your tongue tucked in behind your front teeth. The expulsion, which should remove every gasp of air from deep within your lungs, should also take seven seconds. Hence the 4-7-7 tag. Suck in for 4 seconds, hold for seven seconds and exhale for seven seconds (with the tongue in place). This pattern is always repeated in groups of seven. A single group may be sufficient for you to chill down but, if not, then try 14 or 21 cycles of the pattern (always sticking to the groups of seven cycles at a time).
  • Meditation  is a well-researched technique that has been shown to lower blood pressure and heartbeat while mimimising anxiety and reducing the likelihood of heart attack and stroke (our two largest killers). There are many millions of people who meditate daily so don’t think that it is the preserve of tree hugging hippies. There are hundreds of research papers demonstrating the multiple benefits of meditation and we should, perhaps, all be considering learning this technique in the face of uncertain times and a growing need to look within for answers. Meditation offers the problem solving insight that so many are seeking. There are a few rules when you are learning the technique. For a start, it is much more effective to sit comfortably, rather than lying down, to meditate. You simply try to clear the avalanche of thoughts roaring through your mind and focus upon your breathing. If you are thinking about each long, deep breath, it is difficult to think of everything else (although I am sure that some of you multi-taskers might manage). Often a mantra (or repetitive phrase) is used to further distract the avalanche. The most popular mantra involves the slow, drawn out repetition of the word “Om” that is linked to the exhaled breath. The reverberation of the exhaled Ommmmmms has a relaxing, resonating effect. This word simply means “God” in Sanskrit and that is pretty much who will be helping you relax when you are successfully meditating.
  • Essential Oils – I used to be skeptical of the claims made for these plant extracts until I was chatting with the brilliant late American researcher, Bruce Tainio during his visit to Australia. He had measured the energetic qualities of a wide variety of materials and nothing came close to essential oils in terms of pure botanical healing power. The formulas and oils developed by Gary Young of Young Living Oils proved to be the most potent of the oils Bruce tested. I guess it makes sense that the plant usually concentrates everything it has into its fatty acids, so if we extract an oil concentrate from the root, leaves, bark or flowers, it is destined to be the best that nature can offer. There are a variety of oils that ease anxiety but the most cost-effective is probably lavender. You can purchase an oil diffuser for around $20 from the larger appliance retailers and you just need to put a few drops into the well and the sweet smelling lavender molecules are dispersed throughout your office or bedroom. Always use a diffuser rather than an oil burner as the burning approach has now been found to be a source of destructive free radicals. Ylang ylang, rose, sandlewood, geranium and neroli are other stress reducing oils you can source at most health shops and chemists.
  • Foot Reflexology – It is hard to find a single city block in China that does not support at least one foot reflexologist. Patrons lie back with looks varying from agony to ecstasy depending upon the sadistic tendencies of the practitioner. I once entered one of these establishments with extreme nausea and screamed my way through a thirty minute session of absolute agony. He wouldn’t let up no matter how much I yelled but I walked from his booth completely free of nausea. This ancient art involves pressure to certain points on the feet that correspond to organs and body systems. Points relative to the nervous system and adrenals are those most relevant to stress reduction. Anyone can download these points from the internet and practice the application of foot reflexology. Partners can lie on the couch massaging each other’s feet with a focus on these key points and the pressure will melt away. You can probably achieve the same effect with a nice bottle of wine but this is cheaper, cozier and much less damaging to the liver.
  • Other stress busters – Turn off the news, turn on your favourite music and turn down the lights. These are pretty obvious and acknowledged tricks to lighten up and relax but how many of us remember to make them a regular part of our lives? A daily walk has recently been shown to be more effective than anti-depressants to lift the spirits and reduce anxiety. You might argue that you are walking all day on the farm when working, but this is not equivalent. When you put aside 40 minutes for exercise, the placebo effect must kick in and the outcome has been shown to be more profound than forty minutes of walking while working. Finally, if you can’t sort your issues yourself and you are feeling depressed then please see someone. There are many trained people out there and you may be surprised to discover that your problems are not unique and others can be helpful. It is important to understand that depression forges its own pathways in the brain and the longer you leave it untreated, the more difficult it becomes to erase those pathways.

  

In Conclusion

This represents a belated set of offerings for 2012 as we are already in February but I trust you will find something of value amongst my meanderings. I wish you all a memorable, relaxing and productive time for the remaining 10 months.

20 Responses to “The Top Ten Farming Tips for 2012”

  1. Gert Bezuidenhout Says:

    Where do I aquire the product Platform in South Africa?
    Thanks for the 10 tips.

  2. Guy Izzett Says:

    I do not have a web site.
    Thanks very much for this in formation Graeme – much appreciated. I like the connection between human and soil/animal well being. I see so many of our aging farming population who think things are coming to a sticky end when in fact they have not implimented half the ideas that could save them. Their kids see the farm as a no win situation and head off to town. But there is a light . I have been given time at our next IPM training to talk about management systems under the heading of Intergrated Management Systems as part of IPM. So I woill be able to talk about the soil and mulch and not using gluphosate to a largly fruit growin g audience.
    Guy Izzett

  3. Barry Embrey Says:

    very interesting like it very much
    Thank you

  4. Gideon Says:

    Thank you very much for the top 10 tips!
    they are really helpful provided that they can be applied practically on the ground in real life situations.

    All the best for your 2012 goals and i hope you have already put yourself in the driver’s seat for 2012.
    Good luck! The wish is mine and the luck is yours!

  5. Graeme Sait Says:

    Hi Gideon,

    Thanks for the best wishes. These concepts are all practical and are being applied all over the globe as part of the biological revolution.

    Warm regards
    Graeme sait

  6. Keith Holdom Says:

    Hi Graeme

    Good article, Its a pity there are not more of us biological farmers out there although definitly starting to gain momentum. I started about 5-6 years ago & my kiwifruit are so much better tasting now & store really well,just finished eating last years fruit (picked April2011). The vines are fighting off the dreaded PSA & look really healthy, the soil is able to hold so much more water now that we rarely get into moisture stress situations. your seminars have taught me a lot, will no doubt do another some time when you are in NZ Thanks for helping show me the right road to good growing

    Regards

    Keith Holdom

  7. Gary Tucker Says:

    We are in the process of planting 105 acres of GMO coen and soybean fields back to native grass. Ther are more oil and gas wells per square mile in our county than anywhere on Earth. I have just starting to brew compost/worm casting tea with sea minerals (3 to five Tblspoons per gallon) and limestone rockdust and am spraying this on at 5 to 7 gallons per acre. Were might I acquire some microbes to bioremediate the decades of biocides used on the farmland and/or the saltwater/oilspills around old oil and gas wells. Thankyou for your time and consideration.
    Sincerely, Gary Tucker

  8. Dr Trpathi Says:

    dear mr sait
    thanks for 2012 tips. how to get your product platform TM. IN INDIA. CAN I GET MORE DETAIL ON PLATFORM TM. PRICE ECT.

    WITH BEST WISHES

    DR TRIPATHI

  9. Graeme Sait Says:

    Hi Gert,

    We will be offering Platform in your country in the near future. I will be talking about it in more depth during my visit to your country later this year.

    Warm regards
    Graeme

  10. Graeme Sait Says:

    Hi Guy,

    Thanks for your contribution and keep up your good work. I agree that there will be problems if we do not address the issue of an aging farmer population. Who will grow our food? The concept of smaller, diverse, integrated farms marketing to the burgeoning farmers markets, has great potential in increasing the satisfaction factor in farming (while increasing profitability and reducing stress). This may be one key in keeping the kids on the farm and attracting a younger generation to the most important profession of them all. One good thing is that food will not fall victim to the deflationary depression that is awaiting us. Perhaps we are at the dawn of a golden era in agriculture.

    Warm regards
    Graeme Sait

  11. Graeme Sait Says:

    Hi Dr Tripathy,

    I will organise our export department to send you details of Platform.

    Cheers
    Graeme Sait

  12. Graeme Sait Says:

    Hi Keith,

    Wow! Ten months shelf life is pretty special. Thanks for the feedback. It is great news to hear of your successes. Healthy plants and soils are designed to resist diseases like PSA. I still scratch my head in amazement that people can still believe that extractive agriculture, which is so demonstrably unsustainable, has a future. However, it is heartening to see the world changing. I’m hoping to return to NZ later this year.

    Cheers
    Graeme

  13. Graeme Sait Says:

    Hi Gary,

    Greed has no boundaries. Many of us are fighting to avert the same gasfields outcome that has befallen your agriculture. The best tool for remediation of the insults of the past is humates. Humic and fulvic acid can both be used. Our growers in Europe have had very good results using 3 kgs of fulvic acid per hectare to clean up chemical residues in the soil. However, this is not applicable to organo phosphates.

    Repeated applications of compost tea will also help with the bio remediation.

    Keep up the good work

    Warm regards
    Graeme

  14. Antonio Lugo Says:

    Hi Graeme,

    About the horiba nitrate meter. I read that it should not exceed 5000ppm during vegetative growth, and it should not exceed 3000pmm when fruiting. When taking a sustainable aproach with nitrate, what levels are the ones we should keep? If they are high. How could I get them down or promote protein synthesis to make use of those nitrates?

    Best regards
    Antonio

  15. Graeme Sait Says:

    Hi Antonio,

    The nitrate levels are a guideline only, as different crops will have different nitrate requirements at different crop stages, however, our Dutch distributors reported excellent results of reducing leaf nitrate in strawberries by 1000 ppm in 3 days by using the following recipe:
    2% Magnesium sulphate
    0.5 L/ha Nutri-Key Moly-Shuttle™ (150 gm sodium molybdate)
    150 g/ha NTS Soluble Fulvic Acid Powder™

    It would be a good idea to do a test strip first to check for burning, as the magnesium sulphate rate could get quite high, depending on the amount of water you use.

    Best Regards
    Julie

  16. Grass Fed Beef Kentucky Says:

    Thank you for some other fantastic article. Where else may just anyone get that type of information in such an ideal manner of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am at the look for such info.

  17. Antonio Lugo Says:

    Thanks Julie,

    The recepie for nitrates seems to be foliar. Is it?

    I have seen that you recommend mixing 20 kg of urea with 1 kg of humic acid to 100 lts of water and applied foliar for some crops. Are those 100 lts applied directly or they are diluted in another 100 lts and applied 200 lts of total? What crops can handle this amount of urea?

    Very interesting article!
    Thanks
    Antonio

  18. Antonio Lugo Says:

    Also, do you have to leave the urea humic mix for a certain amount of time, so that it can become stabilized? Let’s say 24 hours?

    Regards

  19. Graeme Sait Says:

    Hi Antonio,

    The recipe refers to a foliar application of 20 kg urea in 100 L water with humic acid at 1 L per hectare, however, this is the upper limit and I would exercise caution when using only 100 L water per hectare. I have had many growers using up to 15 kg/ha urea with humic acid with the same amount of water with a great response, however I would do a test strip first to determine if there is any likelihood of burning at this concentration. Generally speaking, 10 kg/ha of urea gives a good response in a young crop while 15 kg/ha gives a good response when more biomass is present.

    Regards,

    Julie

  20. Antonio Lugo Says:

    Thanks Julie, it is clear to me now!

    Regards

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