Understanding biologicals and their role in higher yields
Question: If Biologicals are all natural then don't they already exist in my soil, and aren't they already hard at work for me?
Answer: The short answer is no... As growers, we are faced with a wide variety of soil types and soil conditions. Unfortunately, the types of beneficial organisms that we're discovering through biological research are not created within your soil under normal growing conditions.
Biologicals are created from plant extracts and from a fermentation process that establishes the right conditions for these organisms to live and grow. As they are naturally created through these processes, they have health-boosting compounds built inside of them. Compounds that act as a booster shot to a plant's health, which ultimately leads to higher yields.
Question: What should I be looking for as I talk to vendors about their Biological programs?
Answer: Ultimately, you want to know what research has been done with the programs that your vendor is offering. You want to see the numbers. What did their Biologicals do in their trials? How many years have they experienced positive results? And, under what conditions did they get those results? The old saying continues to be true... location, location, location! When looking at various biological programs, you want to select a vendor that has done research in your area and has experienced results where you are. That's the race today in biologicals research. And for a good reason. As I stated above, not all solutions work everywhere with the exact same results. We're dealing with living organisms, and because of that, researchers need to understand the impact of all types of conditions on these living creatures.
Question: Should I look at using Biologicals on my crops in this next growing season? Yes! YES!! Y E S !!!
Answer: The cost of many Biological applications fits easily into today's corn, soybean, and wheat programs. In many cases, a grower only needs to produce a couple bushel increase to justify the cost of the treatment. And, on some farms here in Missouri, we're seeing as much as an 8 - 12 bushel increase during the 2013 harvest.
Question: Okay, I'm interested... how do I apply Biologicals?
Answer: Biological programs are applied two ways: In-Furrow and Foliar. It's important to talk to your vendor to understand what crops, what conditions and what biologicals will produce the best results for your farm. Pretty much every product I have worked with mixes well with today's programs and can be applied at the same time as other treatments. Having said that, you will want to make sure you discuss the details with your vendor, as some of the Biological products out there do have specific timings for their application in order to get the most bang for buck out of them.
Note: For In-Furrow applications, your planter will need to be modified to deliver the treatment right along with the seed in the row. I have experienced different responses from farmers as they consider the cost of retrofitting their planters. After looking at the research and evaluating the cost vs. the gain, I decided to modify a planter and give it a try. Now all of my planters have been modified because in-furrow Biologicals work. Many of my large scale grower friends have also retrofitted their planters, a necessary one-time expense, and are glad they did. Especially those farming thousands of acres.
Question: What if I'm not convinced yet?
Answer: That's okay. We are just at the beginning of Biologicals research and technology, and without a doubt, there will be much more to come on this exciting front in agriculture. There's no question that the early adopters are realizing gains today. In some cases those gains are pretty exciting. But others have not had the success they might have hoped for, and it's not always been clear why. As time continues on there will be more local research, better living organisms, better programs and better results for us all. Regardless of where you are at in your understanding of Biologicals, I want to urge you to continue listening, learning and making yourself aware of the possibilities that are ahead for you.
John Ortiz is the owner of Basic Solutions Research, an Agricultural Research Farm, and he is the General Manager of Missouri Food and Fiber in Garden City, Missouri. 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 dicusses 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. If you have comments or suggestions for future articles, contact John directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail at MOF2, LLC - PO Box 401, Garden City, MO 64747. John can also be reached by phone at 816-773-6018.