Renewable Farming

New Ag biological firms promise improved soil health, more resilience

Those 4-color full-page ads that used to fatten farm magazines a few years ago are so yesterday. In their place — campaigns urging farmers to try the latest bugs-in-a-jug, biostimulants or other biologically benign yield boosters.

Most “bio” products cost $6 to $10 an acre. (We’ve observed that sales resistance to an unknown product rises sharply after $9 per acre.)

March 9, 2022:  We coined the term “Renewable Farming” more than 30 years ago. The innovation curve toward soil health and working with nature has climbed slowly but steadily, but now it’s promising profits for farmers and new “bio” suppliers. We’re watching these innovations closely, because many of the products with biostimulants and microbes can be enhanced when applied in-furrow or foliar with WakeUP Spring.

Here are a few “bio” products and services you can use:

1. Sound Agriculture is offering an “unlimited yield risk” program this season to farmers trying the firm’s SOURCE, intended to stimulate existing soil microbes and reduce the need for applied nitrogen. The company’s news release says “Growers can target a yield increase of 5 to 10 bu. per acre or a nitrogen reduction of 25 – 50 lbs. per acre in corn, depending on how they want to use it.” Farmers arrange a carefully monitored pilot program with company reps.

2. The global fertilizer firm Mosaic has acquired a biological ag firm, Plant Response, which has developed a wide array of biostimulant and microbial products. One of those products is BioPath, a blend of three Bacillus organisms which the company says improve solubility of soil nutrients for crop uptake. One of our WakeUP clients is eying this product for a possible test this season. (Gone are the days of just looking at a soil test and applying NPK by formula.)

3. A relatively new player in the U.S. “bio ag” market is a firm which originated in Italy: Hello Nature. The founding firm, Italpollina, has operations in 40 nations. When you open their website, a key technology they’re highlighting is KeLan, a fresh way to chelate trace elements for crops. They’ve found that peptides, a compound with at least two amino acids, link readily with the positive charge of zinc, boron, iron and other essential micronutrients. Since living cells manufacture peptides, plants readily metabolize both the micronutrients and the chelating agent. 

4. One of the most fascinating entrants into ag biostimulants is Worm Power of Avon, New York, which produces a liquid “tea” extracted from earthworm castings. Their website shows a dramatic explanation of how the firm has refined and industrialized the harvest of plant growth-promoting biostimulants created by earthworms. Originally, the intent was to sell earthworm castings, long known for natural fertility. In recent years, the firm has focused on a liquid product containing growth promoting amendments. One of our WakeUP clients, Hal Brown of Indiana, sent us a gallon of Worm Power liquid which we’re using this winter in the greenhouse. 

5. Hal Brown also alerted us to a high-tech firm using DNA analysis to evaluate soil life and thus soil health. It’s Biome Makers, based in West Sacramento, California. Hal says “I sent my worm juice to Biome Makers to see what microbes they could find in it. They tell me they can identify up to 7 million microbe species and sub-species by DNA analysis.” Biome Makers has built a testing platform they brand as BeCrop, allowing you to get a more exact profile of organisms in your soil. This will be a whole new learning curve. But a crucial one, because it’s soil bacteria and fungi which convert soil nutrients to soluble form so plants can absorb them into metabolism. 

6. A Midwest analytical firm that offers the BeCrop service is Regen Ag Lab just north of Pleasanton, Nebraska. We published a report on its co-owner, Lance Gunderson, when he worked with Ward Labs and was a principal developer of a soil test measuring phospholipid fatty acids as a proxy for soil organisms. Gunderson now operates Regen Ag Lab with Vice President and co-owner Jeremy Dalland. Also, Dr. Rick Haney recently joined Regen Ag Lab as Chief Scientific Officer.  Dr. Haney is a former Soil Chemist/Microbiologist and Research Farmer at the USDA-ARS Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory in Temple, TX, and is the creator of the Haney Soil Health Test.

7. Several of our Iowa clients say they intend to again use a silica-based micronutrient, PiKSi Dust, for corn and soybeans this season. The whimsical brand makes sense when dissected into Pi K (potassium) and Si (silica). The website teases, “You’ve already tried Snake Oil and Foo Foo Juice, why not give PiKSi Dust® a try?” The website shows a wide array of yield trials reporting 4 to 5 bu. yield gains on corn and 3 to 10 bu. on corn. One of our WakeUP clients, Mike Williams, a field rep for BW Fusion based in Fonda, Iowa, speaks well of PiKSi Dust. He intends to use a wide array of in-furrow bio promotants this season, mobilized with WakeUP Spring.

8. Corteva has acquired marketing rights to a nitrogen-fixing bacteria brand-named Blue N, and markets it in North America as Utrisha. The link at left opens a Corteva video, which emphasizes that the value of natural nitrogen capture is especially high this spring. AgriEnergy Solutions will also be marketing the product. The PowerPoint slide below is from a presentation by AgriEnergy’s Ken Musselman at a recent seminar for organic farmers in northeast Iowa.

9. Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies (AST) is refining its application techniques, especially for seed treatment. The company’s endophyte fungus product for seed treatment, BioIQ, is improved with a larger amount of pure talc lubricant for uniform seed coverage. AST has extensively researched the viability of its fungal and bacterial spores when used with on-farm water sources. They’ve found that some local water supplies can reduce viability, so this season AST offers a water pre-treatment protocol which their research indicates can enhance their living organisms’ effectiveness after application. Here at Renewable Farming, we’ve always encouraged use of the cleanest, non-chlorinated water possible when applying microbial organisms. It’s also research-proven that glyphosate residues in soil can impact the mix of fungal species in ways that favor pathogens. AST’s microbiology lab is leading-edge knowhow in this “bio” era. AST has tested WakeUP Spring for any impact on viability of its BioEnsure fungal endophyte, and found that WakeUP Spring is safe to use in foliar and in-furrow applications as well as seed treatment.

10. The new Ohio-based firm Soil Matrix is developing products which enhance soil biological life, thus reducing needs for applied NPK. So far the company is marketing three brands:

1. A microbial crop residue digester, Microchop, which we reported on last fall

2. A microbial intended for accelerating conversion of soil nutrients into crop-usable form

3. A blend of ingredients for enhancing numbers of natural soil microbes

All of these are formulated using water treated with the Pursanova water activation system.

Know any other interesting “bio” ventures that promise economical results?  E-mail or call us.