CSI Grower Grazier Newsletter – January 2012

GROWING PROBLEMS: In spite of our best practices we can still be challenged by Weeds, Insects, Diseases and Conditions. I will address each of these and give you some ideas that may help you avoid or deal with them. These problems can be worsened by rising carbon dioxide levels that can cause a major change in your local climate: temperatures, winds, storms, rainfall, snowfall, water table levels… Carbon dioxide levels are rising faster than expected.

By “Conditions” I do not mean weather or the balance in your checkbook. I’m talking about those visible (usually) conditions of the marketable part of your crop that would tend to make it unsightly or unmarketable. Conditions are usually caused by lack of a certain major, trace or rare earth mineral. Examples are Hollow Heart in cauliflower, strawberries & potatoes; Blossom End Rot in tomatoes; and Bitter Pit in apples – these are simply a lack of boron and/or calcium and are not caused by a disease organism. About every soil test sample CSI receives is low in Boron.

Other “conditions”, such as failure to set fruit (lack of manganese or excess growth energies); dropping of fruit (excess nitrate); “necking” of a squash or cucumber (reduction of the caliper or circumference due to reduction of K uptake); twisting of corn rows (due to a variety of stress factors); hollow stems in grains and alfalfa; etc., are all lack of (or excesses of) nutrition. Sometimes the nutritional lack/excess is caused by weather conditions and may not be visible without very intense crop monitoring. Sometimes the nutritional stress may be due to a new microwave system in your area or some company or device using frequencies that your plants have never experienced before. Examining the insides of stalks or fruits/heads/grains at all stages of growth is recommended. You can accomplish that at the same time as your brix, pH and ERGS monitoring. On high value crops, please invest in a tissue analysis at least once a season.

Insects and diseases are also nutritional problems, but the approach is slightly different. Your monitoring comes first and hopefully you will attempt to adjust the sap readings to prevent your crop from inviting in the unwanted guests! The sap pH needs to be kept as close as possible to 6.4 so the electromagnetic signals in the infrared range don’t invite problems. Although it is almost impossible for you to know the surface pH of your crop leaves, the arrival and survival of a fungal organism is dependent on surface pH being below 8.4. Above 8.4, the fungal organism can’t grow a hyphae or foot that allows it to penetrate the tissue and feed on the plant juices. The research was done by Cornell and a baking soda and seaweed based fungicide soon followed.

Our recommended approach if fungal/blight/rust outbreaks are occurring in your neighbor’s field is for you to spray with calcium, potassium, sodium, boron, phosphorous and/or seaweed to attempt to have the plant raise brix and have a high pH barrier against the fungal organisms. The recommended sources of the above nutrients are milk powder (calcium, potassium and phosphorous), sodium &/or potassium carbonate or bi-carbonate, (sodium bi-carbonate is household baking soda), sodium borate (Borax or Sol-U-Bor) and SeaCrop16. If you have some COMPLETE, or SeaStar on hand, they can be used along with the above materials and the same goes for NutriFoliar. All will provide nutrients and organisms that can crowd out the bad guys. Typical rates per acre are: Milk powder-8 lbs or one gal fluid milk; sodium or potassium carbonates/bi-carbonates-2-3 lbs; boron products-1-2 lbs; SeaCrop16 (seaweed)-1 pint; COMPLETE-1/2 lb; SeaStar-1/4 lb. Use enough water to coat the plant. You may have to repeat if rain washes off your barrier. Try to keep crop coated till the “fungus period” is passed. Note that I have avoided liquid fish in these formulas as they are very acidic. IMPORTANT: If you already have fungus on your plants, spray/drench with a 2.5 % peroxide or bleach solution FIRST! Wait till next day and then spray your protective nutrient barrier.

According to Greg Willis, fungi are present in nature to consume dead cells. Therefore, you can make the assumption that any plant being attacked is already nutritionally deficient and/or already has dead cells before the fungus takes hold. Using Steiner and homeopathic methods, Greg has produced a product called SSFI, Super Strength Fungus Interruptus that has been effective in stopping fungus already on very susceptible plants and allowing them to continue growth and production.

Weeds are responses to soil conditions: nutritional, structural, temperature, moisture, air spaces, humus levels and microbial type and activity. The least weed pressure will be experienced when you have mineral balanced, biologically activated, flocculated soil. We know that excess available potassium readings in relation to available phosphate readings will encourage broadleaf weed. We also know that low calcium content and/or availability will encourage grasses.

For years, growers have used a mixture of 2 gal each molasses and liquid calcium in 20 gallons of water/A as a grass/weed suppressant. The mixture is sprayed within 24 hours of last soil disturbance which is usually the planting stage. Savvy growers have rigged up booms behind planters to cover that step in one pass over the field. The same thing can be done during an early cultivation to give suppression until canopy cover. Liquid calcium is available from CSI in both organic and sustainable forms. This year, in our micronized mineral product line, we have two liquids that could also be used for weed suppression: Phos Cal 22 and Premium Cal 33. Both have been reported to be effective. I would still use the molasses with either as the molasses activates the phosphorous releasing bacteria. It even works on rice!

Experience has shown that the continued use of both our Nitrogen Fixing & Phosphorous Releasing and our Micronized Mineral line accumulates benefits to soil and plant health systems which can better help you avoid the challenges of weeds, insects, diseases and conditions.

NUTRIENT DENSE CORN: One of our Blooming Blossom distributers produced some amazing corn this year. Using a standard hybrid on long term improved organic soil with fish, Bioplin, NutriTech and NutriFoliar his corn produced 170 bushels at 10.8% protein; 62.5 lb test weight and 70.2 % starch. WOW! When he completes his feed analysis, it ought to come back similar to a high grade alfalfa. He had a very bad drought most June to Sept, so his neighbors were harvesting in the 70 bushel range. Who says soil building doesn’t pay off! Who says you can’t get N from microbes?

PRODUCT UPDATES: This year CSI will offer soluble powders in our Micronized Mineral line instead of wettable powders. They will now go into solution. Still to help avoid screen clogging you might use a blender/good agitation to solubilize them faster. When the minerals are micronized to the soluble level the efficiency is doubled. So the recommended rates are cut in half meaning where we used 1 to 2 lb per acre last year we now recommend ½ to 1 lb this year. The cost per acre will remain about the same since the increased micronization increases the manufacturing cost. Also the microbial counts have increased. We will also offer two liquid products (Phos Cal 22 & Premium Cal 33) that are still micronized to the soluble level, but handle better in the liquid form. Microbes placed directly in the root zone help a great deal, especially when fish, seaweed and/or molasses is added. Note, these microbial products contain Mycorrhizea.

SCHEDULE: Dr. Phil and Louisa will be in Acapulco Jan-March. Ron will be at the Moses Conference Feb. 23-25. Ron & Sue will be in the office ready to help service your needs!

Good Growing in 2012 Dr. Phil, Ron & Sue