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Does Your Farm Have a Biology Program?
On our farms, we have a number of programs in place to produce our crops. We have a fertility program, a herbicide program, sometimes a fungicide program, on irrigation we have a watering program, but does your operation have a “Biology Program”?
You might wonder what this is, and more importantly how it affects your farm. Quite simply, it is the introduction to beneficial biology into your crop production process. Now, before you dismiss this as something unnecessary or an added expense to an already razor thin profit margin, hear me out on this first.
Whether you know it or not, you already have a biological program of sorts already in existence in your operation. Our soil is teeming with biology. Bacteria, Fungi, Nematodes and Protozoa just to name a few. Most work under the soil to facilitate plant growth and development. In fact, without these microscopic biology communities, we wouldn’t have much for crops at all, if any. Most are beneficial, but a small percentage are antagonistic pathogens that harm the crop. Having a Biology Program in place for your farm just makes sense, to better steer your crops to a healthier more nutrient dense production which will allow you to reduce input costs for synthetic herbicides and fertilizers.
“If these biology are so important, why am I just hearing about this now?” Excellent question. As technology advances, we are learning more and more about the mystery of how a crop grows to a deeper dimension than ever before. When synthetic fertilizers were introduced after World War 2, many farmers thought it was snake oil until they saw the economic benefit. When herbicides were introduced, the same question above was asked until farmers saw the economic benefits to using them. Now we are focusing on the next frontier of plant growth amendments- biology.
As good as synthetic fertilizers and chemicals are for production, ag production has reached an economic sustainability plateau where the adage “more is better” no longer applies to both of these. New research has been revealing that some of our use and in fact overuse of these products is starting to hinder our production, creating more problems to deal with and reducing our economic sustainability to make a profit. In fact, Dr. Don Huber, Professor Emeritus at Purdue University states that his research has revealed that overuse of glyphosate has an antibiotic effect on a spectrum of the soil biology, and is directly correlated to the proliferation of 21 diseases in crops in North America. The result? We need to use more chemicals, in this case fungicides to manage the problem we created by overusing in this case herbicides. Who wins here? Certainly not the farmer. His farm has quietly been transformed into a “Symptom Management System”, where he is waiting for problems to develop, and then chasing after a solution to mitigate them. We then are taught to start using these products “in a pre-emptive way” every year, and it becomes a crutch for us and a steady source of income for input suppliers.
So what does all this have to do with biology? EVERYTHING. While the understanding of biology and their role in healthy nutrient dense food production is still in its infancy, and there is so much we don’t know, there are enough studies, anecdotal evidence and farmer experience to show that the introduction and supplementation of soil and foliar biology is not only beneficial, but profitable as well. For example, there are biology that are dedicated to solubilizing each nutrient in the soil, reducing our need for synthetic fertilizer. There are biology that get applied to the leaf surface that sequester N2 nitrogen and what they excrete is absorbed directly into the plant through the trans-cuticular pores. The result? Free nitrogen. Secondary to that, when we crowd the leaf surface with beneficial microbes, there is less chance for antagonistic pathogens to set up shop and do damage to the plant. In actual fact, these microbes are already on the leaf surface in your regular cropping system, but usually in smaller quantities. However, under our current “Symptom Management System”, we wipe them all out when we apply a fungicide. Not only that, because todays fungicides are systemic, we get a double whammy because the fungi-CIDE (“cide” means kill) translocates through the plant to the roots and wipes out beneficial biology in the rhizosphere, eliminating their ability to supply nutrients to the plant. The solution? More synthetic fertility… I think you get the picture and you can see what is happening here. My next statement is something I believe you will agree with. “The current agronomic model which commercial agriculture production is utilizing is NOT economically sustainable for the farmer long term.”
It is only when we get off the merry-go-round that we get a chance to see where we are in this process. If this makes sense to you and you want more information, give one of us a call. We would be happy to have a discussion on how easy it is to start incorporating these concepts into your operation to enhance your farms financial profitability as well as the increasing soil health, which is the foundation to where our profitability lies.