It’s a nice sunny March day today. Spring must be right around the corner. Are you ready?
I have spent my career working on soil health, nutrient delivery and quality feeds and foods. Yield is minerals, sunshine and water mixed in a carbon biological base. It’s not about how cheap the nutrient is or how much I add, it’s about uptake, availability, and exchangeability. When this company first started, it was about the source of nutrients and how we delivered them. Our fertilizers were all low-salt, with balanced nutrients, controlled-pH and timed-release. We certainly recognized that loose, crumbly soils with good organic matter and lots of life supported plants that could grow huge root systems and access nutrients resulted, not only in more crop resilience, but gave us the best quality and yields. This plant health allowed the plants to express their genetic potential. It certainly wasn’t about providing a certain level of the cheapest NPK and liming to a 6.5 pH.
When it comes to nutrients, calcium is king; it’s not just about having the ideal pH. It’s about providing plant-available, soluble calcium. That’s why Midwestern BioAg developed Bio-Cal® and OrganiCal™. They are a part of our program and still are a huge part of soil health — addressing limiting factors and driving quality and yields.
We have always been blenders of quality dry fertilizers since you do get the most bang for the buck by applying a dry blend. It’s not only the sources of NPK but all the extras, including sulfur and traces and biological stimulants. How can you expect to keep plants healthy and have high yields but not address limiting factors?
A few years back we ran into QLF (Quality Liquid Feeds out of Dodgeville, WI) and started adding carbon (molasses) to liquid fertilizers. We now have a 7-21-3 stand-alone starter, a nutrient enhancer called ‘Boost’ that we mix with nitrogen, and an organic molasses based liquid fertilizer. The liquids are not a complete fertilizer program but when used as a starter, foliar or mixed into nitrogen sources, we have seen dramatic improvements. These carbon-based liquids are a no-brainer because it’s not an added cost, it’s a replacement cost. Some liquid fertilizer or nitrogen is removed and our molasses based fertilizers are added in. It’s been researched and demonstrated over the last few years, and does give good results. We will be on over one million acres this year.
Starting a few years ago, we got involved in manufacturing carbon-based dry fertilizers. Part of the nutrients are from anaerobic digesters on dairy farms, and the rest we add. These are high-quality dry fertilizers in a biological base. The results have been great. Most of the fertilizer you purchase from MBA now will have this new added technology in it. We have a base blend, a micro-pack and a calcium blend. You can also purchase these as straight materials. You don’t need to add extra cost to use these materials because, like our liquids, they work as a replacement for some of your existing dry program.
The farm economy is tight right now, so what dollars can you afford to spend on fertilizers? One option is to match your fertilizer to the yields you are getting. Another option is to try something different that can take you to the next level. I believe most farmers know there is more potential for higher yields and with healthy soils and a balanced fertility program, plant-protective compounds and other technology may not be needed. Again, it is a shuffling of dollars. In today’s economy, I see no choice. We are forced to do better, reduce unneeded costs (things that don’t make your farm better) and invest in moving to a new level. We have many skilled consultants that can help you achieve these goals. “Management is doing something about something you can do something about.” In today’s world that means farming “cleaner”, getting more nitrogen efficient, and building soil carbon. These practices will take you to the next level on your farm.
Have a great growing year,
Gary F. Zimmer