Ten Tips For Tough Times – Recession Beaters from NTS
By Graeme Sait
Despite Government denials, Australia (like much of the rest of the world) is in recession. The vast majority of businesses (including farming operations) are suffering from the slowdown and fears for the future are beginning to counter development potential. There is a tendency to slip into lockdown mode in this environment, but this can often mean missed opportunity and stagnation, which can then serve as a self-fulfilling prophesy i.e. times are tough but you made them tougher by losing both flexibility and all-important adaptability.
In crop nutrition terms this can often mean a return to what you have always done (regardless of the overall effectiveness). In the following article I will illustrate that highly productive changes can be made for a very small investment and these are the things that should be embraced to survive and thrive in difficult times.
The Top Ten Recession Busters
Treat seed with Seed-Start™ – Assuming that you have adequate soil nutrition to support the kickstart, there is nothing that can give a bigger bang for your buck than a well formulated seed treatment. Such a formula should include the seed energising mineral, manganese, and the leaf enhancing micronutrient, zinc, combined with calcium, the trucker of all minerals. These key minerals should be supported by the cytokinins, gibberellins and auxins that are critically required to initiate strong vegetative growth. Soil-life promotants like kelp and humates should also be part of the package. Seed-Start™ from NTS boasts such a formula and it has been a proven performer in over forty countries for the past decade. The NTS Iranian distributor claims yield increases of up to 30% with nothing more than Seed-Start™ but this exceptional result may be related to the overall lack of nutrition in the light Iranian soils. This investment can provide an unparalleled cost-to-benefit ratio to all growers everywhere. The Seed-Start™ investment for wheat, for example, is less than $2 (AUD) per hectare. It is exactly these kind of low risk, high benefit strategies that can offer considerable cheer amidst tough times.
Inoculate with Platform® – Mycorrhizal fungi in our farming soils are struggling. Their numbers have been depleted by 90% following ten decades of extractive agriculture. This is a sad loss as these remarkable creatures offer a 1000% increase in root surface area when they attach to the host plant and they are responsible for producing 30% of the planet’s humus. They dramatically extend the root zone with their massive network of fine, pipe-like filaments and it is not hard to imagine the benefits of this ten-fold increase in roots. There is more nutrient and water retention, more delivery of “difficult” minerals (phosphate, zinc, potassium and calcium) and more resilience for the host plant. The problem with repopulating with this critically important workforce has always been the cost. The spores cannot be “brewed’ like some of the other inoculums and must be laboriously harvested from living roots. However, the cost need no longer be the stumbling block. Platform® from NTS is a revolutionary new mycorrhizal inoculum that can be successfully applied to broadacre crops for as little as $5.00 (AUD) per hectare. Even the intensive horticulture rates are just $20.00 (AUD) per hectare, so this is exciting news for anyone seeking to profit from a revitalised root zone. Platform® delivers a huge number of spores and propagules when applied at just 200 grams per hectare and this is sufficient to ensure impressive colonisation. Platform® also contains Trichoderma which confer additional benefits including enhanced digestion of crop residues.
Combine NTS Soluble Humate Granules™ with your fertilisers – Humic acid stabilises expensive minerals so they can’t leach and it also magnifies their uptake via a phenomenon called cell sensitisation. Here the cell membrane becomes more permeable and enhances uptake by over 30%. This means you can use less, increasingly expensive fertiliser, or get a better result with what you do use. The good news doesn’t stop there however. Humic acid is also a powerhouse promotant of soil life – it stores 4 times its own weight in water and it is a major modifier of soil structure. It detoxes chemical residues from your soil and mycorrhizal fungi and earthworms love the stuff. We usually suggest that if you reduce the amount you spend on fertiliser to accommodate the cost of the soluble humates, then it can be an inclusion that is effectively free of charge! The granules are included at 5 kg per hectare in broadacre and that rate is often increased to 10 kg per hectare in horticulture. They are simply combined with granulated fertilisers like DAP/MAP before application. A rough and adequate mix can be achieved, for example, by fanning in 50 kg of humate granules, as a one tonne bag of DAP or urea is slowly emptied (via the attached drawstring chute) into the fertiliser spreader. This equates to the desired 5%. Urea becomes a stable urea humate when combined with humic acid in this manner. Similarly, soluble phosphate becomes a phosphate humate that does not lock up in the soil, as P is so prone to do. It is extremely rare to encounter a grower who has not continued to add humates to their fertiliser once they have experienced the benefits.
Brew your own 4/20™ workforce – The idea of multiplying microbes yourself to create a D.I.Y living fertiliser is both foreign and frightening to many mainstream growers. However, when growers discover how simple it is and how little it costs, there is more motivation to explore productive new ideas. Brewing bugs is as simple as adding the freeze dried microbes and a food source to water and aerating the mix for 24 hours. This can involve an inexpensive, fish tank pump with air stones (around $30.00 AUD) for small scale brewing (up to 200 litres) or larger pumps costing several hundred dollars for much larger brews. Following the one-day, multiplication process, the end-product is boom-sprayed, fertigated, foliar sprayed or applied as a liquid injection at planting. Nutri-Life 4/20™ has been one of Australia’s most popular microbe inoculums for over 17 years. It involves huge numbers of beneficial bacteria and soil-friendly fungi, dominated by nitrogen fixing organisms, phosphate-solubilising organisms and cellulose digesting fungi. These organisms can harvest free nitrogen from the atmosphere, release locked up phosphorus in the soil and rapidly convert crop residues into invaluable humus. They are amazingly cost-effective but we have discovered that there is a little trick that can make them even more so. The first brew can be split in two and brewed a second time with the addition of more food and water. This “on-brewing” strategy can only be repeated once as there is a very likely possibility of contamination beyond a second brew. The key point here is that farmers can now produce an exciting and productive bio-fertiliser for as little as $5.00 (AUD) per hectare. In one study conducted by Masters students at the Sunshine Coast University, varying rates of Nutri-Life 4/20™ were trialled on ryegrass pasture. There were substantial yield increases at lower application rates but the standard, 100 litres per hectare rate, delivered a remarkable yield increase of 41% over the control. There are not many $5 investments that can generate this level of response.
Treat young crops with Root & Shoot™ – This popular, liquid, starter fertiliser is designed to promote vigorous vegetative growth and root development for young plants of all kind. I swear that the name was an accident. If we had intended sexual innuendo we would have made it a little more romantic (he! he!). This product was developed in conjunction with biological Agronomists in Holland who asked for us to develop an organic fertiliser with this capacity for vegetative promotion. They trialled various formulations for us until we settled upon Root & Shoot™. This product is more suitable for horticulture as it costs around $35.00 (AUD) per hectare at the recommended rate of 5 litres per hectare.
Trial Tri-Kelp™ Soluble Seaweed Powder on all crops – This synergistic blend of three proven kelp varieties is the most cost-effective kelp. You can use it to make your own liquid kelp for less than $2 (AUD) per litre or you can simply add the soluble powder to water and fertigate or foliar spray. Tri-Kelp™ is effective as a foliar at just 1 gram per litre so this means that it is cost-effective in any operation. 200 grams of Tri-Kelp™ can be added to 200 litres of water and applied to broadacre crops and pastures at a cost of just $4.00 (AUD) per hectare.
Foliar spray urea and humic acid – This is an exciting, low-cost approach to sustainable, nitrogen nutrition. Foliar fertilising is many times more effective than ground application but this is not the only reason that foliar applied urea is so much more effective. Urea begins life as an amine but when urea is applied to the soil, the urease enzyme immediately converts it to ammonium nitrogen. This nitrogen is loosely stored on the clay colloid until warmth and moisture rapidly convert it to the highly leachable, nitrate form of nitrogen. It is estimated that just 27 of the 46 units of N in urea actually make it to the plant. The lost nitrogen contributes to nitrous oxide (and the associated global warming effect) in the atmosphere and ground water contamination with nitrates (which are proven carcinogens). The 27 units of nitrate nitrogen that make it to the plant are often counter-productive because nitrates are always uptaken with water. This has a nutrient diluting effect within the plant and this can generate both disease pressure and insect pressure. Many growers will attest to increased insect activity following urea applications. The nitrates are stored in the leaf until they are converted, via the nitrate reductase enzyme, into amines, then into amino acids and then into protein. The conversion of nitrates to amines is an energy intensive process that requires around 10% of the plant’s total photosynthetic energy. Ironically, this yield-diminishing process can be avoided if the urea (in its original amine form) is simply sprayed directly on the leaf. The amines are converted to proteins without this sacrifice of energy and all of the applied nitrogen is utilised without the normal 40% loss. It has been estimated that 20 kilos of urea combined with 1 kg of NTS Soluble Humate Granules™ (pre-dissolved) is comparable to around 80 kg of side-dressed urea. This strategy is exactly what is required to cut costs in difficult times and it delivers a more healthy plant into the bargain. Many crops can handle 20 kg of urea, particularly when buffered with humic acid. However, rates may need to be adjusted down as low as 10 kg per hectare for more sensitive crops.
Achieve precision nutrition with the new NTS Farm Saver™ Range – This range features three biological essentials, liquid kelp, liquid fish and fulvic acid, in a low cost format along with a full range of cost-effective trace minerals. We strongly advise the use of the NTS Plant Therapy™ service to help you take the guess work out of nutrition. The aim here is to reduce your reliance upon increasingly expensive, farm chemicals by building plant and soil resilience with optimum nutrition. A disease or insect attack is not about a lack of an appropriate chemical but rather an indication that the plant is lacking the nutrition to fuel optimum immunity and the biology to protect from pathogens.
Combine Herbi-Safe™ with glyphosate – The recent published studies by Professor Don Huber have highlighted the fact that the world’s most widely used farm chemical, glyphosate, is anything but a soft option (as suggested by the marketing). In fact, it now appears that this herbicide is reducing profitability and seriously impacting soil fertility. Glyphosate limits the uptake of trace minerals that are required for maximum production and immunity and it also negatively impacts the protective biology in the soil. This “biodegradable” chemical is often still present in the soil up to six months after application where it continues to impact biology and profitability. Even when it finally breaks down it leaves a residual that is equally destructive. Herbi-Safe™ is designed to rapidly breakdown glyphosate and some other contact herbicides so they no longer impact production and sustainability. It can provide an inexpensive strategy to increase the sustainability of contact herbicides.
Include NTS Soluble Fulvic Acid Powder™ with all inputs – Fulvic acid is also a cell sensitiser that increases the permeability of cell membranes to increase nutrient uptake by up to 34%. Unlike, humic acid, fulvic acid is virtually compatible with everything. Small amounts of this humate will achieve this effect, so it is remarkably cost effective. For example, as little as 200 grams of NTS Soluble Fulvic Acid Powder™ per hectare can magnify fertiliser effect at a cost of less than $4 (AUD) per hectare. Fulvic acid also promotes nitrogen-fixing bacteria and phosphate-solubilising bacteria and, remarkably, it can serve as a substitute for sunlight in cloudy conditions to allow for ongoing photosynthesis. Fulvic acid can also promote a rapid return of dense clover in pasture situations.
For more information or technical advice please contact NTS or your closest NTS Distributor. Ph: +61 7 5472 9900 – Email: [email protected] .