Top 8 Signs You Should Be Using a Biological On Your Farm
Biological products are the latest line of tools to emerge from the soil health and sustainability movements in agriculture, which seek to improve yield and conserve the quality of our nation’s farmland through naturally-occurring biochemical, biological and bacterial solutions. The ultimate goal of these products is usually one of three things: 1) stimulate the biology already existing in the soil to make nutrients and water more available to the crop 2) supplement the nutritional content of the soil itself or 3) enhance the natural vigor and health of the crop.
The use of biological products, when used in conjunction with other synthetic fertilizer or chemical solutions, can help to holistically optimize the use of farm inputs and help to generate short term yield gains and long term soil quality and conservation benefits.
But how do you know what to use? Unlike their herbicide, insecticide or fungicide peers, biological products and their uses are less intuitive. We can tell when a weed emerges, a disease breaks out, or when pest populations exceed thresholds. But who among us can, at the drop of a hat, observe a plant and tell that it lacks nitrogen?
Understanding, and in some cases, anticipating the below-ground needs of our fields can be complex. Moreover, if I had a dollar for every biological product that promised nutrient efficiency and drought tolerance, I’d at least have enough for the bone-in ribeye next time I go out to eat.
So to help simplify the process, and ensure you are applying the biological products that are truly the most beneficial for your fields, we’ve developed this simple list of signs that a biological product may be right for you.
If any of these common signs and symptoms sound familiar, your field could probably benefit from the use of a biological product. Soil sampling and tissue testing are always the tried and true ways to confirm this, and FBN recently launched Gradable Plan to provide these services to you. But this list is a good starting point to make this assessment, or flag issues to discuss with your agronomy team.
When used effectively, biological products are a solution that can help farmers maximize their profit potential, from the ground, up.
Now let’s get to the list.
Top 8 Signs You Should Be Using a Biological Product On Your Farm
1. Poor Growth or Yellowing of Leaves
Potential Cause: If you notice stunted vegetative growth or yellowing leaves on your crop, chances are your crop is experiencing a nutrient deficiency or stress from environmental or chemical factors. A soil tissue analysis, combined with a tissue sampling test can ultimately determine which nutrients are present in the soil, but not making their way into the plant.
Biological Solutions: There are a few ways to tackle this problem. One, you can utilize a soil prebiotic, such as GCS Catalyst™, to help activate native microbes that free up existing nutrients in the soil and make them available to the plant. Our native soils are often teeming with microbes that are ready to go to work, but they just need a source of food and energy to stimulate them.
Second, you can utilize soil probiotics or advanced micronutrients to add bioavailable nutrition to your soil. Soil probiotics such as GCS Inject™-N fix atmospheric nitrogen and GCS Inject™ - PK makes phosphorus or potassium more available in the plant to help improve uptake and satisfy early nutrition needs. GCS Inject™- N products allow you to supplement your standard nitrogen program with microbes that will help put nature to work for you and fix a portion of your nitrogen needs.
Advanced micronutrients, such as GCS Nourish™ products, act as a highly effective chelating, or bonding, agent to help more efficiently deliver micronutrients into the plant, resulting in efficacy at lower rates than standard products.
Potential Cause: If the problem is stress related, Satellite imagery can indicate if there is poor chlorophyll content in your crop, which is often a result of stress.
Biological Solution: Atarrus™ enhances photosynthesis in the plant, helping to stimulate the production of chlorophyll and help plants to bounce back more quickly from weather or chemical-related stress.
2. Compact Soils
Potential Cause: If one or more of your fields is experiencing soil compaction, you should consider biological products to help improve soil quality. Soil compaction could be a symptom of an imbalance in soil pH, CEC or the carbon:nitrogen ratio in the soil. Soil quality tests can ultimately provide leading indicators for soil function. It's important to have a healthy, stable soil habitat to stabilize your available nutrients as well as create efficient pathways in the soil for efficient use by the crop.
Biological Solutions: GCS Inhabit™ products are an excellent source of stable carbon to supplement your soil and keep a healthy balance to help improve soil quality and maximize nutrient storage and transport. For low pH issues, biologicals are a great complement, but not a replacement, for lime or calcium.
3. Water Accumulation
Potential Cause: Fields that tend to accumulate and pool surface water or are slow to absorb water following a rain event are typically compacted and have poor water infiltration and holding capacity. Modern farming practices and heavy equipment leave behind compaction which, in turn, leads to decreased water holding capacity.
Biological Solutions: Soils with sufficient stable carbon help to improve soil quality and provide aeration and increased pore space. Prebiotic products, such as GCS Catalyst™ help to stimulate the native microbes to help proliferate fungal growth and expand soil habitat to break up compaction and absorb more water.
4. Soil That Turns White from High Salinity
Potential Cause: Soil that physically turns white is the most obvious and apparent sign that there is high salt content in your soil. Soil quality tests can confirm your suspicion. Most soils in modern agriculture have pH or salinity issues to varying degrees. Synthetic agricultural inputs are highly effective, but have a fairly high salt index that can throw your soils out of balance and can result in negative long term effects on soil quality and performance.
Biological Solutions: GCS Catalyst™ works well to help activate the native microbes that can metabolize and balance the soil naturally. GCS Inhabit™ products will also help bring your soil back into balance. These products also work well when paired with lime and calcium treatments for low pH situations.
5. Sandy Soils with Clear Erosion Marks
Biological Solutions: Carbon sources, such as GCS Inhabit™, are a good solution to help mitigate some of these issues. They help to capture and stabilize nutrients and water and slow their movements through the soil.
6. Slow Seedling Emergence
Biological Solutions: Prebiotics, such as GCS Catalyst™, not only free up nutrients to make them more available earlier, but they also provide a great source of early nutrition to help with early germination and emergence.
7. Poor Root Development
Biological Solution: Stimulating plant health to promote early vegetative growth, as well as in-season root development can help push your yield to the next level and help the crop more efficiently mine the soil to capture nutrition. GCS Catalyst™ provides an early source of nutrition to help stimulate root development. For later stage root development try pairing it with Atarrus™, which contains peptides that can help stimulate lateral root growth and multiple other plant health reactions that can help to achieve these results.
8. You Just Want to Go for the Gold on Yield
If you're looking to push your yields to the next level, then a healthy balance of macro and micronutrients, such as GCS Nourish™ Vitals, at the right time, in-season, can help optimize plant performance and provide that extra boost and improved grain fill. Post-season yield map analysis is always the best way to validate if an input pushed your yields to the next level, post-season.
Utilizing biological products to maximize ROI is a process and it is unique to every farm. That’s why FBN is launching a Biological On-Farm Research Network to enable farmers like you to trial up-and-coming solutions in this space. But in the meantime, these tried and true solutions can help address the most common challenges with soil and plant health.
The return on investment (ROI) of biologicals can come from increased yield or reduction in fertilizer costs. Gradable Plan offers soil sampling and custom nutritional recommendations to help farmers maximize the ROI of these new products. Contact the Gradable team for a consultation on how this could work on your farm!
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