Renewable Farming

Suddenly the biological farming learning curve accelerates! With profits to match

That Verdesian field day at Dave Schwartz’ farm yesterday presented an eye-opening array of promising new biologically-based crop technology. Your challenge now: Choosing the most profitable, synergistic blend of ideas!

August 21, 2018 — Over the next several days, we’ll summarize many of the ideas at the “Show Me the Money” field day Aug. 20. The rapid-fire lineup of presentations was far too much to absorb completely in the solid eight hours of presentations and questions. We’ve organized and attended dozens of seminars focusing on eco-friendly technology since the mid-1980s, and this meeting proved exceptional for presenting real breakthroughs.

Here’s a photo of the crowd which filled Dave’s bright, cheerful machine shed. (Everyone was safe from the pounding rain that totaled four inches that day.) Speaking in this photo is Bob Wagner, representing Biodyne USA. We’ve mentioned one of Biodyne’s products, Environoc 401, in a separate news item.

Photos by Terry Carlson


We’ll start our series of summaries with a product farmers have been asking us about for three years: An environmentally safe and effective burndown herbicide. It’s a promising, biologically based way to terminate cover crops without damage to soil organisms or the environment. It’s progressing through EPA approval, and could be labeled for specialty purposes next year or 2020. We can’t give it a brand name because the developers want to stay “below the radar,” as they put it. 

Over the past five years, we’ve experimented with several formulations which preceded this burndown breakthrough. Now real experts are bringing it to a refined and reliably consistent formulation. The labeled effective ingredient is 2.5% to 3.5% acetic acid. But as Howard Vlieger says, “This isn’t your grandmother’s vinegar.”

One of its most positive aspects: Tests at a highly accredited research facility reveal that the product’s effect on soil organisms is friendly toward beneficial species of microbes such as arbuscular mycorrhizae and pseudomonas, while tending to constrain fusarium and other pathogenic fungi. 

Its mode of action is desiccation of plant cells, rather than enzyme inhibition or a growth regulation mechanism. There should be little chance for weeds to develop resistance. The effect on leaves shows up within an hour on a sunny day. Usually, all sprayed plants are brown within 24 to 48 hours. We anticipate that its major broadcast spray use will be termination of cover crops. Thus, it could help accelerate adoption of cover crops, a trend with huge ecological and economic benefits.

Howard Vlieger

Howard Vlieger, whose background is farming near Maurice in northwest Iowa, founded a firm to develop, import and register the product for American use. Howard was also instrumental in some of the earliest work in tracking the impact of glyphosate residues in livestock rations, leading to very revealing scientific reports. That research amplified his eagerness to find a safe burndown product.

“It’s all about getting this product into the plant,” Howard told farmers. That resonates with us, because thorough leaf coverage and rapid absorption is what WakeUP does. We field-trialed early versions of this burndown, and even developed an intense formulation of WakeUP for it. That showed improvement of the early trial products which Howard sent us for testing. Then the developers — keen biochemists — found a way to build in a surfactant/carrier of their own formulation. Howard stresses that complete leaf coverage is essential. That should be no problem on most cover crops such as cereal rye, if they’re terminated when fairly young in the spring. 

In field tests around the U.S. and overseas, the new burndown killed all weeds tested so far, even weeds resistant to other herbicides such as glyphosate.

The developers Howard is working with also refined a proprietary technology for energizing or structuring the solution. The energy pattern they use apparently further increases systemic absorption and translocation. Howard asked that no video of his presentation should be released, so farmers who showed up at the Guthrie Center meeting Aug. 20 are the only ones with detailed advance information. 

Visit this site in upcoming days for summaries on other new products and ideas. Next report in line: An early look at organisms which help crops resist drought and cold extremes.