Today marks the last day of March. Planting season is right around the corner. People are planning, and orders are going out the door. This month, I want to spend a bit of time talking about seeds and germination, one of the most critical stages of a plant's life.
The first root to emerge from the shell of the seed is called the radicle. This becomes the primary root in the soil. At the beginning of a seed’s life, water or soil moisture is critical to trigger the germination stage. If they are not hydrated, the protoplasm and cytoplasm in the seed cannot be activated. The protoplasm is the living cell inside the seed, and cytoplasm of the seed is responsible for the living part of the cell. Even as we sprout seeds to grow our own meals, it is amazing to see how fast a seed can produce its roots when planted in the proper growing environment. There are great health benefits of eating sprouts as well.
"I have often said that 'We are what we eat, eats' and this is why it's so important to provide a healthy environment for the seeds to germinate and grow."
There are a few important factors during the germination stage. The first is temperature. The ideal soil temperature for good seed germination is between 18-24°C for many crops. The ideal temperature for the crop you are growing should be on the seed label. You can check your soil temperature by placing a thermometer approximately 2-5 cm deep into the soil, or at the depth you will plant your seeds.
A second important factor during germination is oxygen. It is an essential source of energy required for seed growth. This is why good organic matter in your soil is so important, as is the depth at which you plant your seeds. The yield potential of a seed is often much higher than the actual yield. The factors I’ve mentioned here (and others) have a significant impact on the end resulting yield (like oxygen availability and soil temperature). Most of these factors are things we cannot change right away, but just like a small child who depends on its mother’s milk to grow and develop, we also can affect certain aspects of the seed during and after it germinates.
As the seed germinates and the radicle emerges it will now search for nutrients to power its growth and build its structure and frame. I have often said that “we are what we eat, eats” and this is why it is so important to provide a healthy environment for the seeds to germinate and then grow. We need to help supply the nutrients and vitamins for the plant to have what it needs to grow strong and reach its full yield potential.
As we plant the seeds in the ground we have high hopes of a plentiful harvest. This is the reason that we pick great seeds and varieties that work for our system. It’s now very important to take care of the next growing stages, as the beginning often determines the result. As the roots start to emerge there are ways to enhance the surrounding environment. The roots are the point of absorption of minerals and moisture for plant uptake, so it is vital to help create a good balance in the soil for the roots. One way to enhance root uptake is to add a source of mycorrhizae as this will expand the root mass through the soil and create a network of fungi between the growing roots.
What exactly are mycorrhizal fungi?
Mycorrhizae, which means fungus-root, are beneficial fungi that attach to the plant's roots and are fed with sugars and carbons, and in return, bring nutrients and water back to the growing plant. The most common are arbuscular mycorrhizae…
Arbuscular mycorrhizae have hyphae that attach themselves to the root cells and form vesicles. These create a bond between the plant and the fungi to exchange water and nutrients with the soil. This can have a large impact onplant functions and can certainly affect drought tolerance, plant health and, of course, yield. About 80-90% of all plants will benefit from an application of mycorrhizae with the exception of those plants in the brassica, ericaceae, and amaranth family. Some of the reported benefits of adding a mycorrhizal source are less pathogens, better drought tolerance, less transplant stress, enhanced flowering and improved soil structure.
As we are beginning the process of planting for 2021 and are enthusiastic about a great season ahead, it is truly very important to plan for success early on and to be mindful to give those seeds the best chance possible to produce a healthy and bountiful crop and yield. Think about the soil health as you plant your seeds in the ground. Think about the potential of the seed and what it needs for a great germination and what you can do to give it a boost this spring. Healthy roots are the base of the plant and are there to hold the plant up, feed the plant and the microbes in the soil, build structure and produce food to feed us.
Benefits of adding kelp to your fertilizer program.
With only a month until spring is officially here, temperatures are starting to warm, snow is beginning to melt, and winter is starting to ease a little. This month, I will be diving into the world of kelp and why more and more growers are using it in their fertilizer programs.
Let me begin by sharing some of my experiences with kelp as a nutritional fertilizer amendment. Kelp has been used for decades in the fertilizer industry, but I began understanding and learning about the true benefits of kelp around 20 years ago. It was a very popular product in the fruit and vegetable world, and during my attendance of the Tulare Ag show in California, I noticed it was a very hot topic amongst the growers there. So I began my research into the effects and properties of kelp products. What was the reason that so many growers continually add kelp into their fertilizer programs and what are some of the results they are seeing?
What is kelp?
Kelp is a plant that is grown in ocean “forests” in cold water usually below 14°C and is a form of algae that resembles a plant. It does not quite have a root system but it sends out shoots into the seafloor which is called a holdfast that allows it to hold onto surfaces. The leaves filter seawater through them and capture the readily available macronutrients and micronutrients. These nutrients are then available to the plants and field crops that the kelp fertilizer is applied to. When a plant takes in these nutrients, they enhance the plant’s immune system (very similar to when we take vitamins). It has been studied and observed that kelp can contain over 70 vitamins and minerals.In ideal conditions, kelp can grow up to 18 inches per day. Kelp is dependant on light for photosynthesis - so it primarily exists in shallow waters.
"These nutrients are then available to the plants and field crops that the kelp fertilizer is applied to."
As I was working in Baja California, Mexico with some growers there, they were excited to show me how they harvest kelp and dry it for use as a fertilizer. It was very interesting to see this process as once it's dry, they then ground the kelp into a fine powder and added it into their foliar applications. They shared with me that they were seeing less disease pressure in crops ever since they started to use kelp. We had some great discussions around the benefits of using kelp and how it helps to protect the plant. In my work across North America, I have seen kelp used in almost every type of growing from orchards and vineyards to vegetables and cash crops, broad-acre, and on golf courses as well.The increase in yield is just one of the many benefits of using kelp, and we often see better root development, which in turn enhances nutrient uptake and improves plant reproduction.
Different species of kelp.
There are many species of kelp just like there are of most living things on the planet. Species differ from each other in many ways, they can differentiate in their diet (nutrient absorption) and therefore have differences in the vitamins and minerals they contain when dried. Here, I’ll explain the advantages and special benefits of three species of kelp…
Ascophyllum nodosum would be the most commonly found species of kelp used in plant amendments. It contains very high levels of cytokinins which helps to extend shelf life and increase stress resistance in plants. Independent testing has shown Ascophyllum nodosum to increase yields, improve tolerance to heat, drought, salinity and disease stresses.
Sargassum is another species of kelp that can be found in some amendments. Sargassum mainly boosts drought resistance and contains a different, but advantageous array of micronutrients.
Lamariria is the least common species of kelp found in amendments but contains levels of high iodine, which has been known to aid in biomass production and increase the antioxidant levels in plants which provides drought and stress resistance.
Research conducted by Dr. T.L. Senn from The Texas Organic Research Center in the late 50's ' and early 60's has revealed a lot about the advantages of using kelp. Over the course of his career, he accomplished over 40 years of research in this field.
"In recent years the results of scientific research provided evidence that seaweeds contain more than 70 micro-elements and that the representation in these plants is considerably higher than it is in terrestrial plants. Of organic substances, marine algae contain, in addition to carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and vitamin substances of a stimulating and antibiotic nature." and, ”when seaweed extracts are used at the recommended times and rates it will supply the amounts of iron, zinc, copper, molybdenum, cobalt, boron, manganese, and magnesium that most crops require” and, "Reports that seaweed releases unavailable minerals from the soil have been made. Micronutrients have many functions in crop plant growth and development. The amount and availability of micronutrients will vary with soil types and the demand by different crops. Even though the amounts required by plants are small, the micronutrients are just as essential as the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, and in some areas even more so. .....Micronutrients are (also) necessary for plants in times of plant stress, such as flowering, maturing, and during periods of drought.”
[Senn., Dr. T.L. 06/01/1987. Seaweed and Plant Growth.]
We have found that using kelp on any and every plant as it grows will improve its immune system and resistance to environmental stressors. Our kelp products are 100% water-soluble and are very easy to use. They have worked well with growers that have applied it with a backpack sprayer all the way up to a full-size field sprayer and even with helicopters or airplanes. There is no growing operation too small or too big to add kelp to their fertilizer program. Graeme Sait, CEO of Nutri-Tech Solutions Australia discusses the significant vitamin portion in kelp includingvitamin B and vitamin C. Research has shown that plants require vitamins just like animals and humans. Vitamin C protects plants from disease, and eight of the vitamin B group are now recognized as growth promotants in plants.
As you plan your upcoming season of growing make sure that you add kelp into your program and let your plants reap the benefits of this excellent fertilizer. As always, I am here to help and answer any questions you might have as you start to plan for the nearing spring.
Humic acid can give your soil and crops a huge advantage
Welcome back to Reading the Fields,
This month I will be writing about humic acid and its importance in your growing program. I have worked with humic acid for almost 20 years now and it is a very important component of agriculture.
Our TrueHume 80 humatesare derived from leonardite which is a rich source of humic acid and is mined near the surface of coal deposits. There have been many studies, field trials, and research done on humic acids and their benefits to crops. Global Market Insights Inc. states that the humic acid market might reach $1.4 billion worldwide by 2026 due to agriculture. It is widely used as a chelating and buffing agent.
Why does humic acid make a difference?
When nitrogen fertilizers are applied to the soil, any ammonia not absorbed by the plants is rapidly oxidized by autotrophic ammonia-oxidizing microbes.
Studies show that adding nitrogen without the addition of humates will quickly deplete soil microbes and slows the process of mineral absorption to the plant. Adding humic acid will help regulate the soil availability of nitrogen due to maintaining good microbial activity and thus mineral availability to the plant roots. As a very strong chelator, it will assist your fertilizers and allow them to become available in a way that the plant can absorb nutrients when needed.
Adding humates to nitrogen is very popular and this process is widely accepted as an excellent input by agronomists across the world. This is only one of many ways to utilize the wonders of humates in your growing program.
Humic acid originates from chemical and biological degradation of plant and animal residue and from microbial cells. Humic acid can absorb or chelate the nitrogen into its structure either directly through a chemical process or indirectly through microbial activity. This process of “coating” the nitrogen will slow down the degradation of soil microbes such as ammonia-oxidizing bacteria. Humic acid will buffer the change in diversity and quantity of microbes affected by the application of nitrogen. Humic acid performs the crucial role of binding insoluble ions and releasing them when required.
A few other amazing benefits of using humic acid include that it improves water retention of the soil, prevents surface run-off, regulates the pH of the soil and improves root respiration.
Here are a few thoughts, from my years of experience, that I hope will prove useful. Always look for and use 100% soluble humates. These will dissolve in water and will work much more effectively to spread out and chelate much more quickly than raw ore. Whether used in a dry form or a liquid form, 100% soluble product is the only way to achieve the desired results. Humic acid can easily be pre-blended with dry fertilizer products such as urea, MAP, kelp etc. When making a liquid please agitate constantly and try to keep air out of the mixing solution. Add humates with any soil-applied fertilizer to increase the plant’s ability to utilize it all. Something to note as well is that I have seen negative results when added to a herbicide so be careful.
We have helped many growers across North America to learn about humates and add them to their operation successfully. It is well known that the popularity of humic acid is on the rise and we are here to assist you with knowledge and understanding.
I’d like to spend a few moments discussing Soil Health.
There is currently a lot of talk about soil health, soil biology and nutrient management in regenerative farming but how do you know if you are on the right track?
Let’s talk about soil.
Soil health can be recognized as the soil’s ability to function. With the mounting pressure to produce good nutrient-dense food, feed for increased overall health of animals, fibre for manufacturing and even for fuel; soil health is gaining attention around the globe. More research is being done on this subject than ever before and more media has been covering this topic as well. Take into consideration the example of the “Kiss the Ground” movie that was recently released. Some of those guys are acquaintances of mine and they attended our course with Graeme Sait in L.A. a few years ago. With Graeme’s teaching, they began their mission and are doing a great job reaching the masses. While there is good progress being made, there is still a long way to go.
So what is soil? Soil is the zone where rocks, organisms, air and water interact. It is not just the physical state that you see, hold and walk on; it has a biological state as well. The composition of soil is its main characteristic, and how nature or human management determines the way it functions. Soil is filled with life as you may have seen in soil food web charts. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NCRS) suggests that there could be more species of organisms in one shovel-full of garden soil than species that exist above the ground. The initial food source for all of these organisms is the broken down crop residue and root decay, as well as the exudates from the growing plants. In the same way that us humans need food to survive, so do these biota. In the farming or growing of any plant, it is the manager's responsibility to provide this excellent habitat for the ecosystem underneath our feet.
Many books and articles are written about soil health and a modern consensus states that it can be defined as:
“a continuing system of the soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals and humans” (NCRS).
As these organisms feed on the residue and exudates, they burn off or respire a lot of the carbon that they take in. They also keep some of the nutrients that they consume and in turn release it slowly or keep it from leaching away or running off with water. This activity of respiration can be used as a measurement of soil health as it is a sign of biological activity.
As this soil life is managed in a way that encourages and promotes a healthy biosphere, there is an overall reaction that takes place. Not only will these microbes break down minerals in the soil to be readily available to plant roots, but they also become microbes that integrate and connect themselves with the plant's roots. You have your nitrogen-fixing bacteria that create nodules on the root of the host plant. An excellent fungi that many are aware of is mycorrhizal fungi. It connects to the roots and increases the plant's nutrient uptake - especially phosphorus.
Healthy soil should have good tilth that has room for water and air to move through it and breathe. The healthy smell of nice soil is caused by the biology that exists within it…
Bacteria known as Actinomycetes thrive in moist warm soils with good levels of organic matter. When the soil dries up these organisms release a chemical compound called geosmin, which is a Greek word meaning “earth smell”. Many times as I have walked fields with farmers and as we dig plants, take soil samples and look at roots, we smell the soil together. It is a pleasant aroma when you can smell healthy soils and it’s great to see the smile on the faces of those I am with. Soils that are taken care of with management practices that build organic matter tend to require less added inputs and are more resilient to extreme weather patterns. When you take care of organic matter, you are essentially taking care of soil health.
In my travels and on many farms across North America, I have been able to see growers make changes to increase soil health. Using nutritional inputs and monitoring how to utilize practices that promote living soil is an increasingly popular way to farm.
Take time this winter to read more about soil and how to really take care of it. Read blogs and listen to podcasts from NTS & Graeme Sait, Joel Williams, and others. Plan your next growing season around the things you learn, and reap the benefits of your healthy soil. Let your soil work for you.
And as always, do not hesitate to reach out to me.
Wow, how the time goes by so quickly. Only two more months and 2020 will be over. Let’s all hope that 2021 brings a better year.
As I was thinking about a topic to discuss this month my mind was constantly drawn to things that help both FIELDS and FERTILITY.
The other day my wife’s son came home from school and was sharing about bees and how the colony works. The ‘queen bee’, or sometimes 2 queens, are designed to give birth and to give off a scent to help regulate the unity of the colony. The worker bees in the colony essentially keep the queen fed and in a home. The queen is the heart and soul of the colony and without a queen, the colony would not survive. The role of the male bee is to mate with the queen and then die off. Everything is done in harmony and with purpose.
This functioning ecosystem reminds me a lot of a plant and soil’s ecosystem, with the queen bee reminding me a lot of the value and necessity of calcium. Calcium as a nutrient has often been referred to as the “king” of nutrients. I would like to suggest that it could also be seen as the “queen” as its role in plant growth is so critical and essential. Calcium is imperative for good cell wall strength and root growth along with regulating plant growth. Calcium regulates by slowing the release of chlorophyll and loss of protein. It also plays a role in maintaining and controlling membrane structure. Calcium is not mobile in the plant so it moves with transpiration and can carry other nutrients with it. Deficiencies are noted when there is low transpiration and also can be seen when high rates of nitrogen are used. Generally, new growth and the quick-growing early leaves are affected first.
“If you could double the thickness of a leaf, that leaf would increase its sugar production four times.” - Dr. Carey Reams
"If you could double the thickness of a leaf, that leaf would increase its sugar production four times.” - Dr. Carey Reams?"
As I have had hundreds of soil analysis reports come across my desk and I have walked many fields with growers, often the same questions come up. “If I have calcium already in my soil, why would I need to apply more?” And “What is a great way to apply available calcium to my plants?”. One of the things to know is that although there may be plenty of calcium in the soil, plants are often inefficient in absorbing calcium through the roots. In fact, they are about 10 times less efficient absorbing calcium as they are potassium. Soil microbes require very little calcium thereby not breaking it down for the roots to absorb.
How would one fix this issue?
One excellent option is to use an available source of liquid calcium that does not need to go through a biological breakdown. It should be immediately available to the soil and to the growing plant. We have had great success using a liquid 10% calcium and we sell it to bothconventional and organic growers.
So, when I first got thinking about the queen in a beehive and her importance to the entire colony, I remembered thinking that the importance of available calcium is similarly critical in plants and soils. Chris, our stellar marketing and design guy pointed out that the queen is also the strongest, most important piece on a chessboard. So the next time you think about using available calcium in your growing operation you may smile and think about it as the “Queen” nutrient.
Can you believe that October is already here? It truly is a breathtaking time of year with the leaves beginning to change, the days cooling down and sweater weather is beginning. Although, I could’ve used another 6 months of nice summer weather, fall is a wonderful time of year.
Over the years it has been excellent practice to take time to soil sample your harvested fields around this time. I cannot even count the number of fields I have had the opportunity to do this on. It is always an enjoyable adventure and a worthy practice. So much can be learned as we walk the fields at this time. It’s a good time to analyze soil structure and biological activity. Count the earthworms, look at roots from the harvest, and admire the growth of your cover crops. I have often walked with growers and as we pull soil plugs we also observe what is happening at this time and what to concentrate on. Is the trash/residue heavy and should you address it by increasing biology in the soil? Have the cover crops started out with a good root base?
If you have planted crops that are to grow over the winter, you may want to address potassium in an available form.
Here is a little explanation about the role of potassium in plants and why it is so important as a macronutrient.
Potassium is an essential nutrient to plant health, just like it is to human health. Often when we see high levels in the soil it is in a form that is not readily available. This is why tissue sampling is also critical during the growing stages of a plant's life. Comparing soil and tissue levels of potassium can really show how much of it in the soil is truly plant-available.
"So why is potassium so important in plants?"
Did you know that over 50% of the earth's crust is made of Feldspar, which is a large group of rock-forming silicate minerals? These minerals are predominately high in potassium and as they weather and are broken down by organisms in the soil,they release that potassium, “freeing it up”. As crop residues break down on the soil surface and animal residues decompose, the available potassium will seep down into the soil.
Potassium is associated with many metabolic processes and functions in plants. It is well-known that potassium activates as many as 60 enzymatic and plant hormonal reactions. Also, it is critically vital to protein synthesis and has a fundamental role in regulating leaf stomata openings and controlling water usage in the plant. When we have drought conditions and available potassium is limited, plants have reduced yields, poorer quality and are more susceptible to pest damage. An important reason to address potassium in the fall on plants that grow over the winter is the fact that good, available potassium will aid in winter hardiness and plants overcoming environmental stressors and conditions.
Since our soils often already have an adequate level of potassium in them, the goal is to create an environment where the potassium is broken down into a form that the plant can readily absorb. This is where maintaining a living soil through cover crops,, nutrient-rich and healthy soil inputs play such a great role. As the crops grown are used in food for humans and animals we need to understand the importance of the value of nutrient-dense foods. The human recommended daily diet allowance of potassium is 4,700 milligrams per day. Diets high in potassium and low in sodium have been shown to reduce blood pressure and strokes. In animals, potassium is the most abundant cation in the intracellular fluids which helps maintain salt balance between cells and body fluids.
So, potassium is important, but it is important to remember to use a healthy and available source of potassium to your plants or soil. Promoting and maintaining life in the soil will go a long way to help create an abundance of available nutrients for your healthy plants to thrive on.
If you are ever wondering how to find available potassium you can always send me an email or call me, I am here for you. I would encourage you, if you have not yet, to get out in the fields and take a soil sample. My team here can help you read the analysis and develop a plan for you soil and plants.
During these times I believe staying positive, eating healthy and enjoying each day as a blessing is so important to our well-being.
As September arrives and the nights begin to cool down, crops continue to be harvested, school has started and we welcome the beginning of Autumn. Each year brings its own set of successes, as well as challenges. I encourage you all, in these unprecedented days, to stay focused on, and thankful for the good things in your life.
It is always my goal to bring knowledge and positivity to those I meet. If I can share an idea with you, orboost your bottom line, then I've done my job. So, here are a few things I can share from my times in the fields as harvesting continues. There are times for reading written theory, and then there are times to apply practical, real-world strategy. I like to offer advice that sits somewhere in the middle, utilizing the best points from both sides.
If time permits and you are able to plant a mixed blend of cover crops, this is something that should always be done. These crops will feed soil microbes and keep life sustained in the soil. The roots and the mass above will contribute to increasing organic matter. You will notice more moisture retained, and often more plant-available nitrogen for the next crop, thus saving input costs down the road!
Adding a mixture of different cover crops also allows for different root penetration throughout the soil. So, rather than just specific crop, with a specific root system feeding a specific depth and specific biology, a mixture of cover crops will feed different biologies and loosen up different depths of soil. This allows for oxygen and water to be retained throughout your soil, again, increasing organic matter.
Plan to keep your soil covered as long as possible and you will see good things happen. Often, this is also a good way to help manage weeds and lower soil-borne diseases.
If you are organic, try planting crops that are more prone to winter kill and let them die off and breakdown through the winter.
Soil Conditioning and Residue Management
If residue management is something you need to focus on, then try some of these ideas:
As you help the system continue to break down decaying plants, it can become a great food source for microbes in the soil and thiscan help increase resistance to disease pathogens as well.
For many years I have worked with many growers who are doing just this, and we have been able to see great results. A good mix of humates, carbohydrates, microbes and a food source of hydrolyzed fish really works well.
I remember getting a call from a customer who had just purchased a new field. He commented on how hard and compact the soil was and asked me what he could do about it. So we developed a soil foliar mix and applied it. About two weeks later I walked the field with him and, wow, what an incredible change. He commented that it was like walking on a mattress versus the area where he had not sprayed, which felt hard like concrete. The soil was spongey and broke up easily in your hand and had such an excellent earthy smell to it.
I have heard comments that insect pressure on new growth is heavier when there is more plantdecay on the soil, and less insect pressure if the field is cleaner. Often times this can be true, as the old plant matter that has not broken down yet can become a home for these unwanted insects. Also, microbes will be spending time breaking down residue at the time when they should be breaking down minerals in the soil for the new growing plant.
So, always remember to manage your residue as best you can.
If time does not permit you to plant cover crops or you would like to further enhance your soil’s conditioning for next season, adding a soil conditioning program can be extremely beneficial for years to come. I will not go too in-depth about soil conditioning as it is part of a program we are offering at AGSOL, but if you would like to read more on that, you can click here:
I know that harvest can be different for everyone for many reasons. It is my hope that each of you ends up with a successful harvest. Every year is so different with regards to challenges of weather, pressures of insects, weeds and diseases and, of course, markets and changes. On top of all that, this year addedCOVID-19 issues and the lastingeffects it has had on everyone. I encourage you to stay positive and healthy and find ways to enjoy each day, and to find silver linings.
I’ve found this positive story in a negative situation to be very encouraging.
My wife and I like a certain little pub with craft beer and amazing pizza. Like others, it has been hurt by COVID-19 and has been closed for many months, until just recently. We finally got to go back for drinks and food, and one of the owners came to take our order and we started to chat. I asked her how she has been doing throughout all of this and, to my surprise, she smiled and said it was the best thing for her family. She admitted it was tough on the business, but she explained that she has two young children and did not realize until she was forced to stop working,just how much her kids had missed her. She explained her daughter had been struggling with some health problems and mood issues and soon after staying home and slowing life down, those problems disappeared. They just needed their parents around a bit more. She is now refocused on her business and home life and finding a healthy balance of the two.
I understand that this doesn’t directly help with your soil, but what a positive story from a great lady. It makes me think, as we harvest, as we stay home and maintain social distancing, as we eat from our gardens, we need to focus on and count our blessings and where we can in our lives, we can readjust and find a healthy balance.
This year was definitely not what I had pictured for 2020, but it has offered some perspective on what is most important in life. What is worth fighting for and what is worth slowing down for. We are entering into the season of sitting in harvest equipment with time to think and I encourage you to spend some time thinking: “What has been good about this year, what am I thankful for?”.
And always remember that your soil cannot be forgotten about.
I am sure you have heard the phrase “you are what you eat”. A phrase often portraying that a healthy body eats healthy food and an unhealthy body eats unhealthy food. While this phrase is a good standard to live by, it does not portray the truth. I would urge you to compare and challenge the mindset of “you are what you eat” to “you are what you eat, eats”.
Just as humans need a balanced diet of minerals and vitamins, so does the food we eat. To focus only on the phrase “we are what we eat” creates the opportunity to trick our minds into eating green, commonly known as “healthy”, foods without actually receiving the vitamins and nutrients we need. Suddenly we are eating what we believe to be healthy foods, but still lack the vitamins and minerals to be healthy ourselves. Unfortunately, we HAVE become what we eat — an appearance of healthy, but lacking the vitamins and minerals we really need. If we can change our minds and think that “we are what we eat, eats”, we must take a look at the inputs our vegetables, fruits, food and meats have received.
We are in a certain period of human existence where it is vitally important to take a look at what our food actually contains. This is where I cannot stress enough that organic, nutrient-dense food with no preservatives is so important to find right now. Find foods like this that have received attention to what is inside of them.
This is the season when we are starting to see lots of fresh veggies being pulled from gardens to be sold at your local stores and markets. I suggest you check them out and support locally, but don’t forget to ask the right questions. Are these foods grown without chemicals, have tissue samples been taken recently? What types of nutrition fertilizers are you using?
Are you certified organic? Remember, you must find out “what you are eating, eats.”
If you are growing your own vegetables at home, add some nutrients to the soil and to your plants. Foliar feeding things like Triple-Ten, SeaPack, and Fulvic70 can offer some much-needed nutrients to your plants, even days before harvest. You will also find that foliar spraying your plants early in the morning can give them a great boost, help flowering and add flavour.
For farmers, we have discussed soil and tissue sampling in the past. Check your plants for the vitamins and minerals they need to thrive, knowing you are helping the end consumer receive the vitamins and minerals they need as well. If you notice deficiencies, fix the problem.
A simple solution for your plants that are looking lighter than normal colour of green, apply 4-5lbs per acre of soluble Magnesium Sulphate. Magnesium is the central atom of chlorophyll and is very important in photosynthesis. This is the key to a plant’s life and some may say that photosynthesis is one of the most important functions in life as, without it, we wouldn’t have plants.
As I walk our farmers’ fields and enjoy the diversity I get to see, it has been great to hear all of the exciting news farmers share. I was on a great banana, lemon, avocado and strawberry farm and it was lemon harvest time. The picker and lead guy came to the grower, Andy, and I and said they were all done picking. Andy laughed and gestured to me, saying “let’s go for a drive”. So up through the orchard we drove, and the trees were absolutely loaded with lemons! The lead guy, Fred, just shook his head and could not believe it. Andy is organic and out-yields all of his neighbours to the point where he did not know if he could sustain the growth, but year after year he continues to see incredible, successful and healthy yields. Andy has taken NTS’s Certificate in Nutrition Farming course twice and he continues to apply the knowledge and insights that has helped him along the way, year after year. Not only does he integrate nutritional foliars to his inputs program, he also implements cover cropping throughout his orchards. I am always excited to see him and I wish him success daily.
As harvest starts to come and we smell our gardens, see flowering throughout our lands and hear the combines roar, I urge you to think about that next bite you take, “what did THIS bite eat? – What went into the food I’m eating?”. That simple question could very well change your life, your immune system, your health and your energy.
I wish all of you health and strength during 2020 and hope you see the value in assessing the nutrients in your food.
We are well into our season of growing, and this is always an amazing time of year - walking through fields and gardens, seeing plants shooting up, and enjoying all the wonderful earthy smells.
Take your shoes off when you can and feel the soil between your toes. Dig up some plants and look for biology and root health. Witness how the products you used to enhance nature’s possibilities and microbial enhancement have had such an impact on growth.
As I have walked through many fields, I often have found that there is one tool, my go-to tool, that is a true helper — my refractometer. Using this tool I have often been able to help growers determine concerns in their crops, and in many cases, we get to see an improvement after spraying a nutritional foliar.
Here’s a background on the refractometer:
First invented in Germany in the late 1800’s Ernst Abbe developed a laboratory prototype model. This table-top unit had water circulating through it to control its temperature and it was used to measure the refractive index of a liquid. This index is a number that describes how fast light travels through the material.
The tool we use today is a handheld refractometer and it works on the same principles of lenses and prisms. The sample of sap or dissolved solids (taken from leaves of your plants) is placed on the prism and a clear cover is placed over it. The number shown on the sight glass is a measurement of nutrient density and is represented in a number of °BRIX. This is a measurement of the carbohydrate level in a plants sap which is the product of photosynthesis. A healthy, nutritious plant will have a higher °Brixreading and will tell you about things like pest pressure, and the overall health of the plant.
The line between the clear and dissolved solids will tell you about calcium. If you have a straight, solid line, you most likely have a calcium deficiency.Click here to download our Brix Chart
When on the topic of photosynthesis and calcium, I have to mention TrueStim - our leading photosynthesis stimulator. It is strained through a 100 mesh for easy foliar application. TrueStim is loaded with calcium, as well as over 70 trace and ultra-trace minerals and inputs to improve resistance to adverse conditions like disease, stress, and drought. This foliar application can increase yield, calcium availability, and improve photosynthesis. Using a refractometer before and after a foliar spray with TrueStim, you will see a great improvement.*
As we walk through fields and gardens with growers and we look at their °Brix readings I am able to share with them the facts that this handy meter shows. That is one of the joys of walking the fields, experiencing each growth stage and observing plants’ needs in order to help them grow to their fullest potential.
My wife, Anna, her 10-year-old son, and I just drove to Saskatchewan and back and it was so great to see all of the new growth along the way there and back. So many fields in the early stages of summer and so many great farms to see. Each farm tended by wonderful people such as yourselves that hope to harvest abundantly this fall. Take some steps in your field and try a refractometer. We cannot control the weather, but we can be in charge of the nutrition we provide to our plants. If you see low °Brix or you see a calcium deficiency, take the time to apply what the plant needs to correct this, and watch them thrive from a change in the right direction.
And, as always, I am only a phone call away.
*Remember Wait 24 hours before checking your brix levels after foliar spraying and plant as it takes this time to absorb the foliar*.
Farming season is in full swing across the country. I cannot believe the weather in my town. A few weeks ago we had snow for two full days and now it is 30 degrees almost every day! With some help from the rain, we will start to see our plants poking up from the ground.
As they poke their heads up from the ground, it is time to begin walking the fields and paying attention to the plants’ needs. Personally, this is my favourite time of the year! Over the last 17 years I have walked fields across North America with so many great people and so many friends. So many different crops being grown, and everyone is working hard to raise the best crops; seeing growth exploding from the ground daily, warm weather, cold drinks and time spent outdoors. Walking the fields and seeing great, healthy plants popping up is just the cherry on top of the cake.
Speaking of walking in the fields, I recently purchased a new home with my wife, Anna. When she arrived here from Germany, she could not believe the amount of grass on everyones’ property. “We certainly cannot eat it and we do not own cows…why do we have so much grass” she said. From day one, I could see the excitement in her eyes and the creativity weaving throughout her brain as she envisioned a landscape that is green and flourishing, but not with just grass…
Every day I come home from work now to the beginning of an edible landscape on its way. We have apple, peach, pear, cherry and plum trees, berry bushes, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, currants and the list goes on. Anna has taught me the value of using the space that nature gives us to grow food. Your home should be surrounded by trees, bushes and plants of all kinds that have sustenance to offer. We even designed a living fence using mulch, branches and integrated growing vines. This has become a home for insect life and diverse biology. Our privacy is secure, and all of our plants now keep it that way. Everything was planted with MycoApply and a blend of TrueHume, SeaPack, Micros, molasses and water. Now, every single one of our plants have budded and each evening we get to take a walk through our landscape, drinks in hand, and observe new, daily growth. Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, peas, potatoes, kale and much more are all thriving and receive a weekly foliar feeding of Triple Ten or TrueStim. These are nutrient-based fertilizers that can help your plants thrive.
”I am so excited to soon pick my dinner every night, from my backyard, all organic.”
I grew up on a dairy farm and I miss the days of eating straight from the garden. Soon I am going to do that again, and enjoy so much more. My friend, Graeme Sait, often talks about all of his gardens and I encourage each of you to take an area of your farm or property and plant as many types of fruit trees, berry bushes and vegetables as you can, take the time to foliar feed them and grow nutritious food.
In a perfect world we would walk through the fields of green with healthy, BIG plants sprouting from the ground, but as 2020 continuously reminds us, we are not living in a perfect world. As we walk our fields we are reminded that, although the world is not perfect, it is beautiful, mysterious and exciting. It’s beautiful to watch healthy plants spring up, mysterious as you may see patches of field a different colour, height or success, and exciting to figure out how to solve the mystery and help the plants to thrive again.
As I said before, I have walked hundreds of fields in the past 17 years and have gained a lot of knowledge and insight regarding foliar sprays and their affect on the stages of plant growth.
Here are my 3 main takeaways from my experiences in the fields:
1. Sampling is an invaluable tool that needs to be utilized.
An experienced farmer will have an eye for their fields. The eye test is a tried and true method that farmers have been using since humans figured out how to put a seed in the ground, but as technology advances, we need to utilize it. Field monitoring tools (which can be found on Amazon) such as pH meters, Brix meters, etc. are simple ways for the farmer to do a good health check. Use your eyes, find the spots in your fields that may need extra attention and play doctor, use these tools to discover deficiencies, stresses and diseases. Not only do we have access to in-field monitoring, but we have access to professional testing. Tissue samples, when viewed in conjunction with soil samples, can give a farmer superior insight into the needs of their plants.
A soil sample will show all of the nutrients in the soil and a tissue analysis will give a thorough view of what nutrients are being absorbed by your plants. Sometimes the nutrients in the soil can be ‘tied-up’ or bound to soil and unavailable to the plant itself. So without a tissue analysis you may think your soil is thriving, but comparing a tissue and a soil analysis can give you excellent insight into what is tied-up in the soil.
When you know what is tied-up in your soil you can use specific fertilizers and plant amendments that will be able to release those nutrients into a plant-available form.
2. Foliar Feeding.
Tissue and soil sample analysis will show you the nutrients your plant may be missing, and which nutrients are tied-up in the soil. There are many soil-specific fertilizers that can release those bound nutrients, but that can take between 3-6 weeks. This is a long term solution, but does not aid in the plants struggling for the nutrients right now. This is where foliar feeding comes into play.
Foliar feeding is the direct shot in the arm your plants need to receive the nutrients they may be lacking and needing in the immediate future.
Not only does foliar feeding directly infuse your plants with nutrients, but it can act as a protective coating for your plant. We offer a product called Dia-Life, which is a micronized, fully suspended diatomaceous earth. It is hard to find a diatomaceous earth product that you can foliar spray broadacre as well as in greenhouses without settling or clogging sprayers. For those of you unfamiliar with diatomaceous earth, it is fossilized remains of diatoms, which is a single-celled group of algae, and these fossilized remains are ground up and normally used as a powder due to the difficult process of keeping it in suspension. These fossilized diatoms are sharp and when coated onto a plant, will cut insects that land on them. We have seen great success in greenhouses, foliar spraying Dia-Life as a natural insect repellant.
Foliar spraying is so incredibly beneficial to your plants’ health. During times of stress, heavy winds, drought, heat, foliar spraying can be that immediate ‘refreshing drink’ that will strengthen your plants. Foliar spraying can immediately encourage larger leaf sizes and increased photosynthesis, strengthen plants’ immunity to disease and stresses, and increase natural plant production.
3. Fulvic - The Secret Tool
Foliar feeding is so beneficial to your plants’ health and protection, and we all know foliar spraying with herbicides is a common practice among conventional farmers. There is a a hidden gem that needs to be included in every foliar spray!
TrueHume Fulvic70 is our secret tool - Fulvic Acid. You can add fulvic acid to your nutritional fertilizers and even to your herbicide applications such as glyphosate. Using fulvic acid alongside your herbicide will allow you to reduce your herbicide application rate by up to 30% off the label rate for just $.51 per acre!* With a CEC of over 1400 and its microscopic size, fulvic acid acts as a huge carrier entering directly into the plant as a plant food. Fulvic acid also works to break down any residual herbicide after application. It is one of the most cost-effective ways to make sure your foliar spraying is utilized to its full potential.
As this season approaches and you start walking your fields feel free to contact myself or my team with any questions you may have. This is the most exciting time of year in your fields but also the most critical. This season give your plants the extra boost they need, and watch success follow.
As always, my thoughts and hopes are with everyone during this time. Stay safe and responsible! Also, feel free to email me with questions you may have or topics you would like to see me speak on. I love hearing from you.
P.S. In a few years my landscape will be way more than my family can eat. You are welcome to come over with a basket and pick as you please!