Nutrient Use Efficiency on Organic Farms

Nutrient use efficiency means maximizing the amount of yield produced with the amount of nutrients that are applied. Enhancing soil biology is one of the best ways to get the most from your fertilizers. Here are a few practical tips on how to build soil biology:

Feed your biology all year.

Soil biology is the living organisms in your soil. This includes things like earthworms, bacteria, fungi and even protozoa, actinomycetes, and beneficial nematodes. All of these organisms need to eat, and by keeping living roots in the ground and plants growing for as much of the year as you can, you provide a food source for your soil biology year-round.

Promote the healthy biology that’s in your soil.

In soil there are both beneficial organisms and pests, and your farming practices can favor one over the other. Keeping the soil structure loose and crumbly, growing a diversity of plants and avoiding things that are hard on soil biology (like high-salt fertilizers) helps keep more of the beneficials you want alive and healthy.

Add biological enhancers when necessary to build soils.

Soils can get compacted, eroded and degraded, and when that happens, you don’t get all of the benefits of healthy soil biology. As you rebuild your soil, add food for your biology like molasses and carbon-based fertilizers along with biologicals like CX-1 to give the soil life a boost.

Feed your soil life a balanced diet.

Soil biology, just like your plants, needs a balance of all minerals in order to thrive. When you apply micronutrients, you not only benefit your crops, you also benefit your soil biology. Tying those micronutrients to a carbon source further enhances the efficiency of those nutrients.

Build soil life diversity through plant diversity.

Each plant species puts different types and amounts of exudates into the soil through their roots — things like sugars, amino acids, complex carbohydrates and defense compounds. This means different types of plants feed different types of soil life. The more types of plants that are growing, the more diversity of soil life gets fed and can thrive.

Keeping your soil structure loose and crumbly, feeding the soil a balance of nutrients plus carbon sources, growing a diversity of plants, and avoiding things that are hard on soil life are all great ways to keep your soil biology healthy. And healthy biology is what delivers healthy, high- yielding crops!