CSI Grower Grazier Newsletter – January 2001

Because CSI now has a new reader base that call themselves “graziers “, I have included them in the title. They graze various livestock throughout the country, on grass or grass/legume mixtures. Some practice intensive or rotational grazing and some do not. Because of space limitations I will have to address most issues with both groups (crop farmers and graziers) in mind. Where appropriate, I will try to make specific distinctions, but I ask that you all just glean and apply those concepts that fit or can be adapted to your particular climate, soil, type of operation etc. Thanks for a great 2000 season.

NITROGEN: The big issue for spring is nitrogen. Prices are climbing, and will probably keep doing so. I don’t recommend you go all to soybeans, because I think that too many will do that and the price of corn might be quite good come fall. My suggestion is to change your approach to providing N for your crop. We all know there is all that free stuff (N) we need in the air above our fields and in the air that is supposed to be in our soil. The trick is to fix as much as possible into the soil and/or apply N in forms such as the protein in Fish Agra (4-1-1) that give maximum efficiency. Calcium nitrate has not gone up like other types because its N is made by electrical discharge in Norway rather than natural gas. It can be purchased in dry or liquid form.

N FIXATION: You can fix N with legumes or with azobacteria that do not require a legume. Legumes can be grown prior to or with a non-legume crop such as a row of soybeans planted very closely with a single or double row of corn. Those of you who saw Hugh Lovel’s presentation at Acres USA realize the potential for growing corn without added N when growing soys right with the corn. However, Hugh was also applying Biodynamic preparations [homeopathic energy patterns] through a broadcasting tower. I may be taking training from him this winter and CSI now offers the broadcasting towers available for sale. They can cover up to 500 acres, so it is something to consider.

Direct fixation by azobacter is accomplished by putting a liquid bacterial product in the row, broadcast and/or foliar feeding later in the season. Very specific methods and fixation rates have been established by the manufacturers of “Soil Biological” the product we work with. Growers can cut the applied N in half and add 1 pint of Soil Biological in the row. Although the product contains some bacterial food, it is recommended that you include additional carbon in the row such as humic acid and/or sugar or molasses. Even more important is to include vinegar. Florida research shows that vinegar stabilizes the nitrogen being released from your soils organic matter, with about 60% being in the ammonia form. This is very important, because almost all conventionally farmed soils have bacterial populations that convert N to nitrates at a much too rapid rate. The results are losses of N to leaching and/or excessive uptake of nitrates which cause susceptibility to disease and insect attack, decreased seed production, failure to dry down, etc.

A recommended program would look like this: One pint Soil Biological, 1 qt. 200 grain apple cider vinegar or 1 gal store strength vinegar, and 2 qt. molasses in row at planting. Reapply one pint soil biological by foliar at last cultivation. I would suggest 1-2 qt. fish and 1 pint seaweed, and 1 qt. molasses with it. This program can be expected to fix 40-60 #’s of N under normal conditions as well as stabilizing the released organic matter N. You can also figure on 30-40#’s of N released per lb. of your soils organic matter. Start looking for vinegar and molasses now.

Protein N acts very differently than nitrate or ammonia. It is selectively taken up by a plant under stress. That is why the Fish Agra (4-1-1) has performed so well on corn and grasses in drought conditions the last three years. I would suggest that those with reasonably healthy soils and at least a 1.5-2% organic matter could move right to an all natural N program. Use 2-3 gallons of Fish Agra and a cup of Nitrozyme in the row or broadcast with the above Soil Biological program and go for it on at least part of your best field. Some sort of N monitoring can be done and a foliar feed of 2-4 #’s of urea with fish and seaweed at last cultivation or 1-3 times on pastures will probably provide more than enough N. Livestock will love the lower nitrate, higher true protein, feeds.

Choose hybrids with lower N needs. It is never too late to condition open pollinated corn to your farm and to save your own low N requiring genetics. At least a gallon or two of fish should be used with any reduced N program to insure stress resistance under any circumstances. At least one knowledgeable person has been talking major drought for the mid-west and very high temperatures this season. Last fall’s or this spring’s ammonium sulfate will also help control soil temperature.

HUMATE: If you have low organic matter, it may be time to consider compost or humates. 200-500 lbs./A of a humate can make a major difference in the biological response of a soil. It can also help hold moisture. Compost can also work like a humate, but the volume has to be greater to a point that humates could be very economical in comparison. If you want to consider increasing the efficiency of water use, look to yucca. Yucca, a saponin from cactus, also suppresses nematodes. It is already in Fish Agra or may be purchased separately. [See price list]

OTHER BIOLOGICALS: Many growers have had excellent success with adding AgriGro to a standard chemical program. It is a broad spectrum biological stimulant that can be used easily with other chemicals. I don’t want to confuse you, so call if you want to discuss the options. A new organic version, Ultra, is now available.

FIGHTING FUNGUS: Fungus is best fought by two methods, root colonization by beneficials and controlling internal and surface pH of your crop. If you are doing greenhouse growing, check out the Actinovate. If you are in horticulture, food or ornamentals, check out the BioOrganic products. They now have 7 strains each of endo and ecto mycorrhizea in the LA type. Field crop and graziers should check out the BSG seed treatment for both mycorrhizial and tricoderma inoculation. All these products colonize the entire root structure to prevent any disease fungi from establishing a basis as well as increasing nutrient uptake. Diseases are more prevalent when plant sap is below 6.4. Low sap pH would usually result from lack of calcium or other positive ions such as magnesium or potassium. When fungus attacks a leaf and is able to establish itself, you can assume the surface pH was also low and beneficial microorganisms were not as diverse and healthy as they should be.

To knock out an existing fungus, try a 1-3% solution of hydrogen peroxide. Put nothing else in except the water and 3-5 #’s white sugar and spray just where there are infections. This spray can kill both external and internal infections and encourage the beneficials. Wait at least 4 hours and then come back with 3-5#’s/A baking soda or potassium bicarbonate on the area of possible infestation to prevent establishment of the new fungi on the surface. Don’t put anything acid like fish with the bicarbs, as the 8+ pH is part of the kill, but do use a surfactant. Helena Chemical has a registered fungicide called ARMICARB, which is potassium bicarb mixed with two dry surfactants. I used a similar product in Australia against orange rust on sugarcane. The peroxide and potassium bicarb treatments were very successful in knocking out and keeping out the orange rust. You can also try a 10% solution of water and milk. Milk and sodium bicarb worked very well on my friend’s organic, tropical flower plantation in Hawaii. Milk is alkaline and the potassium phosphate compounds in milk are perfect for increasing the cell strength and raising brix. And finally, for fungus in fescue, seaweed seems to help mitigate the negative effect on the livestock. You can spray the seaweed on the fescue and/or feed kelp meal. CSI handles both.

PHOSPHATES: The more you encourage mycorrhizial root colonization, the more phosphate is taken into your crop even in low phosphate soils. Many farms have ridiculously high levels of phosphate because they have blindly applied phosphates that have high analysis, low efficiency due to quick tie-up, and unavailability to plants in chemically damaged soils. Using the carbohydrates, bacterial cultures and bio-stimulants can greatly increase the phosphate availability. If your soil is really low phosphate, CSI has located and obtained marketing rights on natural, non-tie-up type phosphates in Florida, Tenn. and Montana. Each is a different type of deposit with its own unique properties. CSI will work with you to determine the one suitable for your needs.

INSECT CONTROL: Again this year, some biological/organic soybean growers have had trouble with disease carrying insects. Again, I urge you to put garlic juice in the row for early immunity and not wait to try to rescue an already weak/insect attractive plants when the insect is there. Although CSI has two insect control options available, they can still be more costly than the prevention. Kaliente will knock down existing insects at a reasonable cost. The new organic version, Complete, is far more expensive than expected because of OMRI specifications. The new federal organic reg’s would allow Kaliente as is, which will be a Godsend to organic growers. Use the Crop Guard in Row for maximum benefits of both garlic and yucca, insect/disease resistance and water efficiency. Those using the Fish Agra could use the straight garlic, RepellEX AG at a reduced rate.

WEED CONTROL: Besides the three we covered last Jan. [Mechanical, suppressive companion crop such as winter grain with soys, and liquid surface materials], the homeopathic approach deserves a close look. The manufacturer has combined all the “crop specifics” into the one Restore product. The Restore now contains mycorrhizal stimulants for all crops and grazing range situations. It also provides weed suppression for all crops. Since the material is usually applied at 2 oz/A, it offers an economic possibility for spraying large acres by helicopter or fixed wing aircraft. It is a direct energy/information approach, rather than a physical nutrient one. Please call me if you are interested in experimenting on a range/desert situation. Furnish CSI with a Polaroid of a large area and Louisa will electronically check product responses.

LIQUID CALCIUMS: CSI will continue to offer 3 quality, liquid chelated calcium products. We were unable to get one of the types certified organic by OMRI. This was definitely a case of a total lack of agronomic/scientific understanding by OMRI as the material will qualify as organic under the Fed Reg’s and rightly so. It is made from a naturally mined calcium source and combined with an organic chelator. What more do they want!!

PLANT HORMONES: Although we like to think that fertilizers are causing/controlling everything about our crop, it is really the hormones that have the final say as to what the plant will do. This is particularly true for growth, reproduction and senescence. All of these can be problems, depending on the crop. The roots should be thought of as the head/brains of a plant. The roots start with cytokinnen hormones to produce growth. Later, IAA produced in the growing points starts to negate the cytokinnen’s and reduces their production by inhibiting new feeder root growth. You can overcome this plant limitation by using seaweed, the best source of natural cytokinnen. That is why the first foliar application at early growth stage can be beneficial, but the real plant changing impact can come with an application at pre-bud stage followed by a mid-season one. Nitrozyme is used at one pint/A at these times. Fish, sugar, etc. can also be used at the same time, but see below to do even more plant manipulation.

To increase set, decrease the nitrates with 2-4 lbs. of Epsom salts [magnesium sulfate], move the sugars by adding a touch of Boron and increase the K with liquid potassium or potassium bicarb just before budding or about 10 days prior to tassel for corn [same time as Nitrozme above]. A pint of aqua ammonia or 2-3 #’s/A urea will carry the nutrients in. Same approach can be used to start to close down a crop 2-3 weeks before harvest.

SODIUM: Many of you are in low sodium areas and those of you with livestock realize how much you force feed them and/or allow them to free choice. Sodium [Na] is also a small, but important part of the soil cation exchange system. It is agronomically beneficial to have more sodium coming through the pastures or forages for several reasons. The New Zealand studies showed a dramatic decrease in bloat when up to 80 #’s/A of plain salt was applied, because the bovine uses the sodium to make its own sodium bicarbonate or rumen buffer. Sodium coming through a plant is biologically tuned, which increases its efficiency of use by the animal. Therefore, CSI has been checking a special salt against the soil tests coming through the lab that show low sodium availability. Redmond salt, which is a mined, natural red salt that has lots of trace minerals, has an excellent livestock and soil application history, so we are recommending it. Plain feed grade lose salt could also be used. It you don’t have a local source of Redmond, CSI has made arrangement with some of their regional distributors to source it for you.

CALCIUM: CSI can now recommend 3 options for calcium. Regular lime for low pH soils, gypsum for high pH soils and calcium silicate for mid-range pHs such as 6.2-6.8. Calcium silicate is available at the same site as our Tenn. Brown Phosphate, bulk only. Silica is showing major yield increases in rice and sugar cane on sandy ground as well as fungal kill. It shows a similar response on vegetables on muck. Part of the success of the new Quantum Biodynamic paradigm is focusing on silica.

SOUND MACHINES: Several machines were out for research in 2000. Two were used on soys and produced a very noticeable size increase. They were not even used to maximum efficiency as one was let on too long on some days and the other wasn’t even combined with a foliar feed, which is supposed to be the main use of the sound [to open the stomata for nutrient uptake]. However, the sound does increase root nutrient uptake as well as normal leaf uptake of nutrients from the air. The third machine was used on wheat in Idaho and then moved to sweet potatoes in Miss. In Idaho, the machine attracted an amazing population of ladybugs and in Miss. it stopped an infestation of armyworms from feeding and they just dropped off and died. The obvious explanation was increase of nutrient uptake followed by a rise in brix to a point of insect non-palatability.

MISCELANEOUS: I will be lecturing in Canada and Australia in Feb., but Louisa will be here to serve your needs. Farmer problem mentioned in last newsletter turned out to be excess use of surfactants that stripped minerals off colloids and collapsed soil structure. Be sure to monitor any reduced N program by in field nitrate test, chlorophyll meter or other suitable method. If N prices go down, plan on the ammonium sulfate for this fall as a hedge against a similar ploy next winter. Don’t hesitate to order early for later delivery. Almost all our suppliers reported record sales in 2000. Thanks, Phil & Louisa.