The Fight for Higher Yields

Friday, May 23, 2014
John in the field capturing research data. (Contributed photo)

John Ortiz is the owner of Basic Solutions Research, an agricultural research company, and he is the general manager of Missouri Food and Fiber in Garden City, Mo. With more than a decade of farming and research under his belt, John plays an active role on growers panels and within his local community as he educates farmers and discusses the latest advancements in agricultural technologies. Among all of John's passions in agribusiness, he is most enthusiastic about the bottom line: reducing costs and making growers more efficient.

I am excited to be a contributor in Missouri Farms magazine. There is a lot of talk amongst farmers about how to increase yields, while at the same time, lowering costs. One of the more recent technologies that is successfully doing this very thing is the rise of various microbial formulations for row crops. These are products that are designed to improve the health of your plants by adding "good bacteria" to your soil or by directly applying it upon your plant. The result often times is increased yield.

I have a number of years working in this arena and get asked about this topic quite often. With that in mind, I thought we'd spend the next several issues discussing "Biologicals."

Question: What does the term "Biologicals" mean?

Answer: "Biologicals" are living microorganisms that are bacterial or fungal in nature, and that are derived from plant extracts. These are unsynthesized organisms that have not been created from any chemical process. That means that they exist in nature and generally show up only when the optimal conditions for their growth are found in nature. These microorganisms, also known as bacteria, are a type that is very similar to the type of bacteria that shows up in yogurt. Thanks to the clever marketing of yogurt manufacturers, many of us are well aware of the health benefits of these good microorganisms to humans. "Biologicals" can be thought of in much the same way, a highly effective booster of a plant's health.

Question: What do "Biologicals" do?

Answer: "Biologicals," or microbials, have demonstrated their ability to significantly improve your plant's health. This bacteria produces metabolites of a fungicidal and bacterial nature that actively boosts a plant's immune system, giving it the ability to survive in conditions that it might not survive otherwise. Just by having a biological organism in proximity to your plant can cause it to respond by activating and increasing the operation of its own immune system. Biologicals have also shown to positively overwhelm the atmosphere around a plant's root system and create a defensive zone that doesn't allow pathogens to ever gain access to its tissues. Both of these responses boost your plant's health and create a stronger plant.

Question: What kind of research is being done on "Biologicals?"

Answer: Research is happening on a grand scale in the biologicals community. This technology will likely be a major focus of large and small companies alike. This is due to the simple fact that the process of improving a plant's health will generally have a direct impact on its production capabilities. And with the growing population of the world in the decades to come, it will be increasingly necessary to produce more food from the same acreage. For these reasons, and a host of others, we are seeing biological research take place in every corner of agriculture: In universities, private enterprises, humanitarian organizations, even within governments. All for the single goal of creating a healthier plant, which will contribute to higher plant yields.

Question: What is the research showing us about the effectiveness of "Biologicals?"

Answer: There's quite a lot to be said about the data that is coming out of biologicals research. The good news is that biological applications actually do improve plant health resulting in improved yields! The bad news is that not every biological microorganism has the same impact on every plant type. And not every soil condition or growing condition produces the same effect even when the same biological treatment is applied to the same plant. But there are solutions that work today, and those solutions will only improve over time.

Join us next time as we continue to discuss more about biologicals and what impact they can have upon your farm business. Until then, if you have comments, suggestions or questions that you want answered in future articles, contact John directly by email at mofarmsmag@agteampro.com, or by mail at MOF2, LLC - PO Box 401, Garden City, MO 64747. John can also be reached by phone at 816-773-6018.