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#432139 Silica – The Hidden Cost of Chemicals

Posted by Sandgroper on 21 March 2011 - 10:11 AM

Silica – The Hidden Cost of Chemicals
Posted ImageA major mineral is missing in many soils and most soil tests do not even monitor its presence. This mineral can increase stress resistance, boost photosynthesis and chlorophyll content, improve drought resistance, salt tolerance and soil fertility and prevent lodging. lt can also reduce insect pressure, frost damage and destructive disease while lowering irrigation rates, neutralising heavy metal toxicity and countering the negative effects of excess sodium. If I were to tell you that this same missing mineral can increase root growth, boost yield and enhance crop quality, you could well ask, “how could we have overlooked something so important?” and you would be correctIt has been a serious oversight. The mineral in question is silicon, and science is rapidly revealing the scope and scale of our silicon neglect.

Poverty in a Sea of Abundance
Silicon is not classed as an essential nutrient, but, in response to a wealth of new findings highlighting the importance of this nutrient, that status may soon change. Silicon is the second most abundant mineral on the planet. It is everywhere. Clays are alumina silicates and sand is largely silicon, so how could there be a shortage of silicon? The answer lies in the form of silicon that enters the plant. Plants uptake silicon as silicic acid and this is what is missing in the soil. Something we have done in conventional agriculture appears to have compromised the conversion of insoluble silicon into the plant available form. It may reflect a mineral imbalance or we may have knocked out some of the soil microbe species that solubilise this mineral. It is not yet understood what drove the widespread deficiency but we do know that a healthy, disease suppressive soil should contain 100 ppm of monosilicic acid (as measured in a soil analysis) and very few soils come anywhere near that mark!

Little was known about the multiple roles of silicon until recently. It was known to be present in every soil but it was only when it became less plant available that it was realised that there may be a link between this loss and a host of growing problems. During the last decade, silicon seems to have become “flavour of the month” in the soil science community. Researchers have delved more deeply and hundreds of papers have been presented at the International Silicon Conferences in Brazil and South Africa. This neglected mineral is now emerging as a key player in proactive pest and disease management and the production of nutrient dense food. If you are not yet aware of the silicon story then this article should serve to fill some gaps.

Cell Strength is Resilience
The cell wall in plants is a substantial barrier that must be breached to gain access to the goodies within. A fungal pathogen must drill through this wall with its hyphae to be able to tap into the nutritious cell centre. Once this goal is achieved, the pest has the food source that sponsors its spread, and a disease is born. There is an obvious opportunity here to stop the pathogen in its tracks. What happens if we strengthen that cell wall so that the hyphae buckle? It’s simple – the disease cannot gain a foothold and will not spread. Similarly, why would a leaf eating insect choose to wear out his eating gear on silicon-strengthened rock cakes when it can go elsewhere for sponge. Many published papers have now confirmed the exciting potential for increased disease and insect resistance through good silicon nutrition. In one paper presented at the South African conference, soluble silicon used as a soil drench had the equivalent inhibitory effect as phosphorus acid in the management of phytopthora in avocados. However, the silicon-treated plants had much more vigorous roots and canopies. In another case silicon was shown to offer effective management of dreaded black sigatoka in bananas. Other papers reported efficacy against brown rust in sugar cane, powdery mildew in cucurbits, fusarium wilt in potatoes and leaf blast in rice.

Interestingly, the plant understands the protective potential of silicon, even if we don’t. When a disease begins, the plant directs all available silicon to the attack site, to strengthen the surrounding cells and stop or slow the spread of the pathogen. There is a problem here, though, because silicon is immobile once incorporated into the cell wall. It must be in constant supply so that the plant can utilise it at these times. Most soils contain less than half of the soluble silicon required so there can be significant benefits in foliar spraying silicon at the first sign of a disease. This can stop the spread of the disease and many growers are successfully using this strategy.

Silicon and Sun Power
Photosynthesis is the most important process on the planet. The green plant is the only source of food and the management of chlorophyll, the green pigment where all the action happens, is the chief role of the farmer. Silicon is a gold sponsor of the sugar factories within the plant as it supports this process in several ways. The leaf is essentially a solar panel, the underside of which also serves to capture the CO2 gas as it rises from the roots and soil life. The better that panel is presented, the more efficient it will prove in capturing sunlight, water and CO2 (the three components of photosynthesis). Silicon strengthens the stem and holds that panel in perfect position. The plant is less likely to droop in warm conditions and more likely to maximise photosynthesis.

Minerals are the major players in the photosynthesis equation. Blotches, stripes and pale colours, from shortages of minerals, represent the mismanagement of chlorophyll. Sometimes it’s not just the lack of these nutrients but their delivery into the crop that is the issue. Silicon can have a big impact upon mineral uptake. Phloem and xylem are the pathways that govern mineral absorption and the translocation of minerals within the plant. These nutrient highways are built from silicon and their performance will suffer in its absence.

Calcium is an example of a poorly translocated mineral that will be utilised more efficiently when the nutrient highways are broad and true. Boron is a calcium synergist, which can improve the performance of calcium, but it has recently been recognized that boron also boosts silicon uptake. Boron solubilises insoluble silicon and it is a good idea to combine boron, calcium and silicon in your program to maximise the synergistic potential of the trio. One popular strategy involves the application of boron to the soil in late winter to trigger the release of silicon. The soluble silicon will be used to build the super highways that will improve the sluggish uptake of calcium (needed for cell division during the spring flush).

Silicon – The Stress Savior
There are two types of stress that affect production negatively. Abiotic stress involves the negative impact of environmental factors upon living organisms and biotic stress is about pest pressure. Abiotic stress is the single most harmful factor impacting crop growth and productivity on the planet and it can only have more impact as global warming progresses. However, biotic stress is not far behind. Every year since we began the chemical experiment in agriculture there has been an increase in the total amount of chemicals applied on a global scale and every year there has also been a marked increase in pest pressure. The current path is not sustainable; in fact it is not working! There is an obvious relationship between abiotic stress and biotic stress in that environmental factors will increase pest pressure. We are seeing this in all of the countries in which we work. Even in the local ginger industry, right on our doorstep, growers are experiencing pythium pressure unlike anything they have previously experienced. This destructive fungus has found a new niche in the wettest growing season ever. This does not represent a deficiency of fungicides but rather it highlights the desperate need for a more holistic approach that will offer a greater level of inherent protection during times of stress.

Silicon can reduce the impact of both abiotic and biotic stressors and it represents an essential component of a program designed to create a disease suppressive soil and stress resistant plants. The stronger the cell wall, the more stress resistant the plant, whether that stress is from pathogens or non-living factors.

Part of the climate change forecast is an increase in extreme weather events. Wind can be particularly destructive in that it can promote lodging, which can render the crop unharvestible. At the most recent silicon conference, Iranian researcher, A. Fallah, presented a paper reporting a reduction of silicon within the plant associated with high nitrogen usage. It is already understood that over application of nitrogen has a nutrient diluting effect and that the mineral most affected is potassium. Now we understand that mismanagement of nitrogen can also impact silicon nutrition and the associated protective effect of this mineral. In this instance, weaker stem strength and increased susceptibility to lodging were noted in the rice crop studied. Fallah reported much stronger stems and resistance to lodging in silicon treated crops.

One of the stressors that is becoming more of an issue in many soils is the oversupply of heavy metals, salts and some trace minerals. In all cases, silicon has been shown to mitigate the stress. Copper (Cu) can build up in the soil due to the overuse of fungicides. We have found humates a valuable tool to neutralise the negatives associated with this excess. Silica has been effective in mitigating the effect of a variety of heavy metals but recent US research suggests that silicon may be a viable management tool in high copper soils. J. Li, J. Frankz and S. Leisner working in flower crops in Ohio, found that silicon could very effectively mitigate Cu toxicity stress and the improvement was measured on multiple levels.

Swedish researchers working in cadmium contaminated soils found that the higher the silicon level in the plant, the lower the cadmium level. In fact, there was 60% less cadmium in the silica treated food grains.

In some exciting Russian research involving wheat, silica was shown to alleviate salt stress quite dramatically. Wheat is notoriously sensitive to high salinity and the salt created a major decrease in photosynthesis. The addition of silicon to the soil resulted in increases in photosynthesis ranging from 158% to 520% depending upon the salt concentration in the soil. This is one of several studies highlighting the silicon link to salt management. We always recommend the inclusion of small amounts of humic acid and potassium silicate with every irrigation, to manage saline irrigation water.

A South Australian study reported reduced drought stress and an associated reduction in pest pressure following silicon treatment. This study found that applied silicon mitigated the increased insect pressure that was a direct effect of high levels of nitrogen. Not only does high N shut down silica uptake but applied silica can also compensate for this nitrogen mismanagement.

Cold stress can even be addressed with silicon. South African scientists working with bananas have shown that silicon protected the plants from cold damage and that an associated increase in vigour decreased the banana’s susceptibility to Fusarium Wilt.

This enhanced protection from disease has been well researched. A recent Japanese study entitled “Silicon in the Control of Diseases in Rice, Sorghum and Soybean”, found reductions in brown spot pressure that varied between 35% and 75% in rice studies. They found significant reductions in anthracnose in silicon-treated sorghum and the results were quite dramatic when foliar applying potassium silicate to manage soybean rust. They concluded their paper with the following words; “The results of these studies underscore the importance of Si to increase plant resistance to foliar disease”.

This increase in disease resistance was originally thought to be related to the “barrier effect” linked to increased cell strength, but it is now understood to be also related to increased plant immunity.

Silicon-Based Immunity
One of the most dynamic research streams in agricultural science relates to the investigation of plant immunity and the triggers that activates the plant to fight its own battles. It is now understood that the plant has an immune system, which can be both monitored and magnified. Salicylic acid, for example, the biochemical upon which aspirin is based, activates the plant’s immune system. Aloe vera is the richest natural source of this compound and many of our growers benefit from the inclusion of this plant extract in their programs.

Recently, silicon has been found to trigger the production of a suite of compounds that fuel immunity. This mineral is now seen as an integral tool in proactive pest management as it offers both protective cell strength while also fuelling a robust defense system.

Phenolic compounds are one of the biochemicals that are part of this defense system and these compounds are now recognised as key players in the protection of avocado trees from Phytopthora cinnamoni. T.F Bekker, et al, from the University of Pretoria, conducted research which demonstrated that soil applications of potassium silicate to soils affected by this disease, increased the total phenolic content of the avocado root tissue.

It is interesting to note that this silicon-based, immune response is most pronounced when there is existing disease pressure. It’s almost like the plant calls in the heavy artillery when the going gets tough! A Canadian paper presented at the South African conference involved the study of 30,000 genes. The researchers reported that unstressed plants appeared to be minimally affected by silicon feeding with the associated up regulating of only two genes. (Note: upregulation is the process by which a cell increases the quantity of a cellular component such as RNA or protein in response to an external variable.) However, in stressed plants (affected by powdery mildew) there was an up regulation of a number of genes. A Spanish paper also covered the Powdery Mildew control potential of silicon and they found that the inclusion of amino acids with the silicon fertiliser enhanced the response.

Russian researchers have hypothesised that the plant immune system requires mobile silica compounds and if there is luxury levels of silica available to the plant there will be additional synthesis of stress protection molecules. A co-operative research effort between American and Japanese scientists showed that silica related resistance involves multiple pathways and that silica amendment clearly alters plant defense signaling, increasing the plant’s disease resistance.

But There’s More
Not only does silicon offer increased pest and stress resistance. It can also provide a major fertilising response and substantial yield increases. In a paper by J Bernal, involving research with rice and sugarcane in Columbia, just 100 to 200 kg of magnesium silicate per hectare achieved yield increases of 14.63% in sugar cane and the increases in rice ranged from 21% to 33% (depending upon the application rate). Iranian research with rice mirrored the South American findings but in this case the yield increase was 22% after applications of 500 kg of silicon. Rice and sugarcane have been most researched, as they are recognised silicon accumulators. In fact, rice has the highest levels of silicon of any crop. However, we have found that most crops respond to silica and research is now quantifying our in field experience. Brazilian researchers trialed six different application rates of potassium silicate on potatoes and found that the1% rate was most effective. In fact, 6 litres of potassium silicate in 600 litres of water, sprayed each week during the crop cycle, produced an impressive yield increase of 22.4%.

Australian, M. Lynch, a champion of silica fertilisers for over a decade, presented a paper at the SA conference where he suggests that silica fertilisers have consistently outperformed high analysis fertilisers in cereal production. This has included increased protein levels, increased yields, decreased screenings and increased grains/heads. He contends that silica fertilised grapes have superior skin quality, higher brix values, uniform bunch size and a virtual absence of fungal diseases.

At NTS, we have often found unexpected benefits when including silicon in programs. An avocado grower from North Queensland found that he no longer lost up to 15% of his crop to wind abrasion. The increased skin strength created fruit that did not mark when the fruit rubbed against the branches in windy conditions. Golf courses often report that the greens are wearing better following applications of liquid, micronised diatomaceous earth (a rich silicon source).

Silicon and You
If plants respond so favourably to silicon, what about humans? One could assume that if most plants are silica deficient then most people would also suffer from a shortage of this mineral. The Japanese Government has certainly recognised this problem and have strongly encouraged the use of soluble silica on rice crops.

H M Laane from the Netherlands, presented a research summary of human health research into silicon. The human body contains 7 grams of silicon, which is more than all the other trace minerals put together. High levels of this mineral are deposited in bones, nails, tendons and the walls of the aorta and substantial amounts are found in the kidneys, liver and lungs. Silica intereacts with several minerals but important research has highlighted the use of silicon as a means of inhibiting aluminium toxicity. Aluminium has been strongly implicated in the plague of Alzheimers disease which now sees 1 in 4 Westerners over 65 succumb to this disease.

Silicon is also a calcium synergist and should be included in all good calcium supplements. H M Laane concluded that dietary levels in Western diets are too low and there is a coincidence with increased skin, hair and nail problems, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease. There are also obvious benefits in silicon-strengthened arteries.

Fertiliser Sources of Silicon
Silica fertilisers are available in liquid and solid form and the liquids offer the most rapid response. Silicon is found in good levels in rock mineral fertilisers and in rock phosphate and guano products. However, this is not the plant available form of the mineral and, depending on the particle size, it may take many years for the mineral to become available. This is not the case if the fertiliser is a calcium silicate or magnesium silicate but you need to ask about the solubility of any silica fertiliser you may be considering. This is also not the case if these materials are micronised.

Diatomaceous earth in the amorphous form is a very rich source of insoluble silica. The material is basically the exoskeletons of tiny prehistoric creatures called diatoms. These remains contain up to 85% silica dioxide and the silica shell is sharp and jagged under a microscope, almost like a broken razor blade. Diatomaceous earth has been used as a natural insecticide for decades, as the jagged, little razor blades can cut up the offending insect’s exoskeleton causing the creature to dehydrate and die. This material is also used internally as a natural means to control intestinal parasites. The rich silica lode fromdiatomaceous earth can be made plant-available by micronising the material right down to a tiny particle size of 5 microns. It can then be held in a liquid suspension and applied via boom spray or fertigation. As little as 5 litres of liquid, micronized diatomaceous earth per hectare, applied through fertigation on a regular basis, can lift leaf levels of silica into the luxury zone, with all of the associated benefits.

Potassium silicate is a good soluble form of silica but it is not compatible with many other fertilisers and must often be applied as a standalone or with boron. One way out of this limitation is to use a pre-formulated potassium silicate-based fertiliser which includes other synergists.

In Conclusion
Proactivity is the essence of the biological approach. If you understand how plants protect themselves, then you provide the necessary components to maximise that process and minimize the need for chemical intervention. In this context, silicon is an essential pre-requisite for proactive pest and stress management and should be an integral part of every good nutrition program.

#431942 Another take on Organic Fertilizers

Posted by Sandgroper on 20 March 2011 - 07:20 PM

I like using organic fertalizers because there cheap if not free. I try and emulate nature as much as possible because its not subjected to price inflation and limited availablity. I grow stuff because its fun and i dont have to rely on others to provide me with my peppers as much as possible, so it doesn't make sense for me to rely on others for my soil either.

A lot of it is a judgement call and also common sense. I use commercially available organic fertilizer but I usually add it to my compost and feed my plants that way. I also use commercial Fish and seaweed fertilisers. There is a reason rganic certification bodies produce lists of approved inputs and that is that they are deemed safe for the consumer and the earth.
It is great to see people who are passionate about their beliefs on this forum, the world is a better place for it and if we all said what can I do about it I am only one person then we WILL be over-run by big companies (govmint included) who want to control and regulate everything that we eat, say and do.

#431049 Another take on Organic Fertilizers

Posted by Sandgroper on 18 March 2011 - 12:54 AM

The claim of the antifertilizer cult that insects and diseases tend to ignore crops grown their "natural" way, and concentrate on chemically fertilized crops, I leave to your imagination. No reputable scientist has yet reported any such observation. But H.E. Myers, head, department of agronomy, Kansas State College, observed this spring on an experimental field in Southern Kansas that green bugs were exceedingly numerous on non-fertilized wheat, while only a few were present on adjoining wheat receiving nitrogen and phosphorus as chemical fertilizers.

The indictment that mineral fertilizers destroy earthworms and beneficial soil bacteria is without foundation. At the Rothamsted Experimental Station, it has been found that earthworms are just as numerous in the soil of the fertilized plots as in the unfertilized - but those in the fertilized area are larger and fatter. Many experiments in this country show that application of superphosphate to soils at rates commonly recommended will increase the population of beneficial soil bacteria. The use of mineral fertilizer will, in general, result in an increase of the organic matter of the soil and thus promote bacteria and earthworms. Organic matter is, of course, a by-product of plant growth; one of the quickest ways to increase it in a soil is to use chemical fertilizer to grow luxuriant green manure crops that will be turned back in the soil, or heavy crops that will leave a large residue of organic material. Without the use of chemical fertilizer it is impossible on some soils to grow legumes that are so essential to good soil management in humid sections. On the gray silt loam soils of South-eastern Kansas, farmers could not grow alfalfa successfully, even though they used large quantities of manure. Fertility experiments on these soils showed that over a 24-year period, the average annual yield of alfalfa on untreated land was only .59, of a ton per acre, while the addition of lime and superphosphate enabled the land to produce an average yield of 2.29, tons. On this land the lime and superphosphate treatment increased the average yield of wheat from 14.6 bushels per acre to 26.3 bushels. Although the purely organic manure was beneficial on these soils, manure alone could not solve the problem of a definite lack of lime and phosphorus.

To sum it up, there is nothing to substantiate the claims of the organic-farming cult. Mineral fertilizers, lime and organic matter all are essential in a sound fertility program. Chemical fertilizers stand between us and hunger.

There is no anti fetiliser cult. There are just informed individuals that do not feel the need to be brainwashed and browbeaten into using chemical fertilisers when there ARE plenty of practical and worthy alternatives.
I could attack every part of his article but I cannot be bothered other than to say " the catalyst used to bind the phosphate and to enable its release is sulphuric acid and I am yet to find beneficial garden microbes that thrive on that".
He hasnt read or doesnt want to read the numerous studies that have been conducted into the nutritional content of genuine organic foods.
The big problem now is big business seeing organics as the next cash cow and watering down the standards and ethics of organic growing to suit them and the shareholders.
Organics should be local food for local consumers, not food that travels thousands of miles to get to its markets.

#426582 The Seven Biggest Soil Blunders

Posted by Sandgroper on 04 March 2011 - 10:03 AM

Following on from the good reception to The Top Seven Plant Blunders I have decided to post

The Seven Biggest Soil Blunders

Biological agriculture differs from conventional organics in that organics is often about a great list of what you are not allowed to do but there is very little emphasis upon what you should be doing to increase crop quality and yield. The biological approach, however, is all about things you can do to improve productivity and profitability. In this context, my articles usually focus upon positive strategies and their rationale. However, this is the first in a series of three articles where we will look at negatives in the hope that this information may serve to help you avoid some of these mistakes. We will look at blunders in soil and crop management and we will also consider business blunders in your sustainable farming enterprise. There are obviously a whole suite of potential mistakes, but I have identified the most costly of these. Here are seven soil scenarios to avoid where possible.
1. Don’t Drive Blind

Fertilisers represent a major investment and, in this context, anything that improves nutrition efficiency will reduce costs. The simple strategy here is to apply only what is needed, when it is needed and nothing more. Monitoring is necessary to achieve this efficiency. Fertilising without soil tests is like electioneering without opinion polls. With what do you “feed the chooks?” (as Joh Bjelke Peterson (former Queensland Premier) called press conferences), if you do not know what food they are seeking? The nature of mineral interrelationships is such that the application of a mineral that is not actually required can cause more problems than undersupply of this nutrient. The message here is “don’t drive blind”. Use a good soil test and supply exactly what is needed.

Soil Tests and Minimalist Magic
You may be involved in broadacre production, where there is such a limited fertiliser budget that you are not able to correct many deficiencies, but soil tests still have a critical role to play. There appears to be considerable benefit in applying a small amount of nutrition, directly into the root zone, in accordance with nutrient requirements and maintaining the desirable balance. I have seen good results where soil test requirements have been addressed, via liquid injection, at rates of just 1% of what was recommended. For example, if your soil needed one tonne of lime, 250 kg of potassium sulfate, 20 kg of zinc sulfate and 10 kg of soluble boron, then your liquid injection might involve 10 kg of micronised lime, 2.5 kg of potassium sulfate, 200 grams of zinc sulfate and 100 grams of solubor (soluble boron), per hectare. These minerals should be combined in 30 litres of water per hectare but ideally that water should be substituted for a microbial inoculum, like our Nutri-Life 4/20™ blend. Then you are effectively putting the microbes behind the minerals. This minimalist, root zone balancing approach can prove a cost effective, and highly productive alternative. This blend, for example, could be put together for less than AU$30 per hectare!2. Miscalculating Calcium

Calcium is the most important mineral in the soil and it is also the number one mineral for microbe, plant, animal and human health. Balance is a core concept in mineral management but it is particularly critical in relation to calcium nutrition. Each soil has a unique capacity to store a specific amount of calcium, based upon it’s clay component. A light sandy soil may require a maximum of two tonnes of lime per hectare to fill the fuel tank while a heavy soil may require two or three times that amount. The miscalculation in relation to calcium may be linked to a misunderstanding of the role and application rates of this mineral.There is also often a failure to factor in the role of synergists, like boron, to achieve optimum calcium performance.

Calcium – Much More Than a pH Modifier

I attended a field day for the dairy industry recently and I was stunned to see a bunch of soil scientists standing in a soil pit passionately debating the pros and cons of pH management with lime. There was conflicting research data in relation to the benefits of lifting pH in acid soils and the farmers present were left scratching their heads when trying to decide what to believe. I was surprised at the need for debate because the pasture was so obviously calcium deficient and so were the livestock. Calcium is a critically important nutrient and calcium nutrition is much more important for plant, animal and microbe health, and weed pressure, than for pH management. If you correct calcium as a nutrient, and balance it with the other core cations (magnesium, potassium sodium etc), then pH takes care of itself. Calcium is called the “trucker of all minerals” because it is intimately involved in the movement of nutrients in and out of the cell. This applies to microbes as much as to plants and animals. Calcium is also a key mineral determining cell strength as, in combination with silica, it is built into the cell wall. Shelf-life, resistance to disease and reduced insect pressure are all benefits of increased cell strength.

In the paddock where the soil pit had been prepared and the scientists were locked in combat, I counted over 25 different species of broadleaf weeds. These are indicator weeds that germinate where calcium is lacking. This alone should have been enough to indicate the need for calcium but there were several other signposts. The brix levels in the pasture were low and the indicator line, when looking through a refractometer, was sharply defined. A refractometer offers a reliable guideline to calcium levels in the crop. If the plant contains good levels of calcium, the indicator line is fuzzy and indistinct, but it sharpens and becomes more defined as calcium becomes deficient. The sap pH was also low in this pasture and this also helped to confirm a calcium shortage. It is obvious that if you are exporting calcium off the farm twice a day as milk (dairy farming), you do need to compensate for this removal. A penetrometer revealed a tight, closed soil with a hardpan at 20 cm, yet another indicator of a soil screaming out for the flocculating force of calcium.
3. Premature Nitrogen (N) Reduction

It is common to encounter growers, enthused by the potential of the biological approach, who decide to reduce their nitrogen inputs. This can be a trap for young players in some soils and the subsequent yield reductions can serve to dampen the ardour of even the most passionate biological convert. This problem of premature nitrogen reduction is most pronounced in high magnesium soils and this costly blunder can be avoided if you understand the mechanics of nitrogen utilisation in the soil.

There are three reasons why it may not be a good idea to reduce nitrogen inputs in high magnesium soils. The first of these relates to the alkalising effect of high magnesium. This mineral has 1.4 times more impact upon soil pH in comparison to calcium and high pH sponsors the instability of nitrogen. There is increased outgassing of ammonia in these soils, so more nitrogen is required to achieve the desired response.

The second and third reasons are both linked to the role of microbiology in the whole nitrogen equation. Many growers assume that most of their nitrogen requirements are addressed with applied N and this is not the case. The majority of the nitrogen needed for high production horticulture comes from natural sources. Electrical storms oxidise nitrogen gas in the atmosphere and, the nitrate nitrogen that results, charges raindrops with a bounty that greens all that it touches. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the soil and on the leaf creatively combine molybdenum and iron to manufacture nitrogenase, an enzyme that mines the massive reserve of atmospheric nitrogen (74%) to fuel plant growth. If we understand these natural processes, then we are more likely to create conditions conducive to their success. Free-living nitrogen-fixing organisms, for example, are highly aerobic. In fact, Azotobacter are the most aerobic creatures on the planet. Tight, closed, high magnesium soils are those that struggle to breathe and their lack of oxygen spells a lack of free nitrogen delivered from the atmosphere.

Similarly, the potential for nitrogen recycling reduces in high magnesium soils and this signals a greater need for applied nitrogen. Plant protein contains 16% N and this is a recyclable reserve that is there for the taking (assuming you have the aerobic biology present to do the job).The 2.5 tonnes of bacteria per hectare found in a good soil are also a bountiful supply of harvestable N. Bacteria store seventeen percent nitrogen in their bodies and this can equate to over a tonne of urea per hectare if it can be successfully released. This release process is the role of other creatures in the soil including beneficial nematodes. These blind, microscopic worms have a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 100:1. In the process of consuming 20 bacteria with C/N ratios if 5:1 (20 x 5 =100) to satisfy their carbon requirements, they spew out the 19 units of nitrogen not required.

In high magnesium soils, the lack of all important oxygen means less nitrogen-fixation, less recycling and more nitrogen from a bag. If you can improve your calcium to magnesium ratio in these soils you will sponsor more oxygen delivery and thereby reduce your reliance upon applied nitrogen that is destined to constantly increase in price in line with rising oil prices (Peak Oil).
4. Mis-managing the Window

It often seems that it is human nature to procrastinate in everything but matters of the heart. Even lovers would be best advised to adopt a little more watchful waiting in light of the 40% failure rate that currently marks their leap into the unknown. However, soil management is not well suited to fence sitting. It is critically important to allow enough time to benefit from soil correctives before planting your crop and all too often, the last minute rush compromises fertility performance. It takes 2 to 3 weeks to receive the results from a soil test and then your mineral requirements must be sourced, delivered, applied, incorporated and mineralised before you put a plant in the ground. Similarly, there must be enough time for the residues from the previous crop (or your green manure crop) to have broken down, or you risk the expense of more nitrogen than you may otherwise have required. It all comes down to better management of the small window that comprises crop rotation, if you are to avoid this costly blunder. Even if you are trying to delay the expense, it is poor economics to compromise your upcoming season to save a few dollars in interest. Plan and budget to allow sufficient time to achieve the maximum bang for your buck from soil correctives.
5. Don’t Spread and Pray With NPK

The mismanagement of these three minerals has created more problems than any other mineral trio including mercury, sulfur and uranium. This may sound like a big statement considering the mess generated by amalgams and thimerisol (the mercury-based stabiliser erroneously used in vaccinations that’ has been linked to the autism plague). Sulfur delivered acid lakes which rendered many European waterways lifeless and uranium produced Chernobyl, but NPK mistakes have been even more destructive.

Nitrogen has been the most destructive of the three. It is the major player in the loss of humus in our soils and it is also the chief source of the greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide which is 310 times more thickening than CO2. Acid phosphate fertilisers are major players in the destruction of beneficial soil fungi including the Mychorrhizal fungi responsible for one third of the humus formation on the planet. Potassium is often overused leading to inhibition of calcium and magnesium. Calcium is involved in nutrient density and soil structure and excess potassium impacts upon both of these.

Here’s five ways to improve NPK management:

a) Don’t apply NPK unless it is needed - It is common to see potassium still applied in high potassium soils. Not only is it the most expensive mineral but it is counterproductive to apply it when it is not needed as it will reduce uptake of calcium, phosphorous and boron. Similarly, phosphorous is often oversupplied. You may still need a little starter P in high phosphorous soils because the oversupply has sponsored a shutdown in the plant’s capacity to stimulate soil organisms to release phosphate as required. However, the P requirements for the rest of the season can be easily supplied by stimulating biology to solubilise locked-up phosphorous. If you have excess N according to tissue tests, why on earth would you apply more. It is so common to see growers locked into maintenance doses that are not needed and are often the cause of costly imbalance.

b) Always stabilise NPK inputs – Nitrogen can become a highly leachable nitrate that drains your bank account, pollutes our waterways and poisons our people, if it is not stabilised. Phosphate can tie up within days and become part of an estimated 10 billion dollars of “frozen phosphate” locked within Australian agricultural soils. Potassium is also easily leached in low carbon soils, particularly following high rainfall, and this is an expensive loss. The key to stabilising all three minerals is to combine them with humates. Just 5 kg of NTS Soluble Humate Granules™ is sufficient to do the job with all three, but 10 kg works better. Urea can be combined with humic acid in liquid form to create a stable urea humate and this is probably the best way to apply nitrogen. Humic acid can also be applied with liquid potassium nitrate but it is not compatible with potassium sulfate. Fulvic acid can be used to stabilise potassium sulfate but it is more expensive than humid acid.

The combination of nitrogen and potassium, with a mineral called zeolite, is another highly effective stabilising strategy. This mineral serves as a storage system for these two minerals. Zeolite features a honeycomb structure which offers a massive network of hiding places for soil foodweb creatures seeking sanctuary in that dog-eat-dog world. There are pore sizes present in this honeycomb that correspond exactly with the size of the potassium and ammonium ions. These minerals slot into these pores like hands into a glove and are held there more effectively than when stored on the clay colloid.

c) Use biology to reduce NPK inputs

Although many growers assume that most of their nitrogen requirements come from a bag, this is not the case. A large percentage of the nitrogen utilised in crop production is supplied by biology and if we acknowledge and understand this fact, then we can work to optimise this natural supply. Similarly, the release and delivery of phosphate and potassium is a biological process. If we introduce and/or nurture these creatures, it can seriously reduce NPK inputs. Nitrogen-fixing organisms can be introduced as Nutri-Life Bio-N™ or Nutri-Life 4/20™. The former is simply applied as a liquid at 1 litre per hectare while the latter must be brewed for 24 hours. The success or failure of these inoculums is often determined by the presence of molybdenum in the soil. If you don’t have 0.5ppm of molybdenum in your soil, you may struggle to achieve significant nitrogen-fixation. Molybdenum is required for bacteria to build nitrogenase, the enzyme required to convert atmospheric nitrogen gas into ammonium nitrogen in the soil.

Another way you can reduce nitrogen inputs is by ensuring that you have a fully functioning nitrogen recycling system. Protozoa play a big role here. Bacteria have a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 5:1 which means that their body contains almost 17% nitrogen. There can be two and a half tonnes of bacteria per hectare in a good soil and this equates to over a tonne of urea locked up in their bodies and not available to the plant. Protozoa eat 10,000 bacteria a day and recycle their nitrogen to make it plant available. Many soils lack protozoa but they can be inexpensively reintroduced using lucerne teas. For some reason, all three forms of protozoa are found in large numbers on lucerne (assuming that they have not been killed off with pesticides used to kill lucerne flea). They can be easily multiplied and introduced to restore nitrogen recycling and they have an added bonus of firing up your earthworm populations. Protozoa is a favourite food source for these dynamic fertiliser machines.

Phosphate solubilising organisms can be introduced with inoculums like Nutri-Life 4/20™ or Bio-P™ or their numbers can be boosted with simple additives like molasses or fulvic acid. Another highly productive strategy involves stubble digestion programs. Cellulose-digesting fungi release organic acids that can release locked up phosphorous in your soils. Soil-life testing reveals the decimation of these creatures through tillage, fungicides, herbicides, nematocides, acidic phosphates and high salt fertilisers. It is a simple, inexpensive process to brew up these organisms and apply them to crop residues to speed the breakdown of organic matter. Not only do you build carbon (for which you will soon be paid carbon credits) but you have also improved your fungi to bacteria ratio and now have a soil full of fungi that solubilise phosphate, protect from disease and promote plant growth with their unique exudates.

There are also inoculums available that can solubilise potassium and they are particularly productive in clay soils where potassium can become trapped in the clay platelets. In these soils the small potassium molecule can be set free by organisms that fancy potassium. If you are brewing compost teas you can encourage these brews to become potassium generating by combining a little potassium sulfate as a food source during the brewing process. This encourages the multiplication of potassium solubilising organisms that are present in all compost teas, as they now have a food source specific to them.

The bottom line here is that we need to reduce our reliance on NPK inputs as they are destined to dramatically increase in price in line with peak oil and peak phosphate. BHP are currently trying to buy up the world’s largest potassium producer because it is good business. They know that this non renewable resource will rise and rise in price as population and demand for food increases. The message for primary producers is to work more closely with a natural system to reduce your requirement for these increasingly expensive inputs.

d) Understand the NPK synergists

No mineral works in a vacuum. Mineral interrelations influence fertiliser performance and if we understand these relationships we can reduce NPK inputs. The father of soil science, Dr William Albrecht, paid the price for maximising NPK performance when, at the peak of his career, a consortium of fertiliser manufacturers successfully shut down his career. It had become obvious that when farmers throughout the US began to adopt Albrecht’s soil balancing approach, their need for NPK reduced considerably and Albrecht became a liability to the fertiliser industry.

So what are the key minerals and ratios that affect the performance of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium? The most important ratio is the calcium to magnesium ratio. If there is too much magnesium in relation to calcium there will be an inhibitory effect upon nitrogen and potassium and you will need more of these minerals to create the same effect. If you have overdone your nitrogen you will require more potassium. If you over apply lime you will also negatively impact potassium uptake. If you apply too much zinc you can shut down some phosphorous and if you overdo potassium, phosphorous is also negatively impacted. Finally, if you can balance potassium and magnesium in terms of ppm on your soil test (work toward equal numbers of ppm – i.e. 200 ppm of magnesium and 200 ppm of potassium) then you will achieve maximum uptake of both minerals and, interestingly, you will discover that you have significantly improved your uptake and utilisation of phosphate. The reason for this relates to the fact that magnesium is a phosphate synergistic while excess potassium can be a phosphate antagonist. If you get these two minerals in balance you will see the best uptake of both magnesium and potassium and you will also see optimum uptake of phosphorous.

e) Timing, rates and application methods

It matters when and how you apply NPK and application rates can also have a big influence upon the performance of these minerals. Recent research with urea, for example, revealed a huge difference in response based upon rates of application. In this study, looking at the effect of split applications, urea was applied in a single application of 100 kg per hectare compared to two applications of 50 kg per hectare contrasted with three applications of 33 kg per hectare and so on, right down to ten applications of 10 kg per hectare. It was determined that four applications of 25 kg per hectare produced a 108% yield increase over the single application of 100 kg per hectare. There are many times when we simply apply much more nutrition than a tiny, new plant requires.

It is more cost effective to apply NPK in the root zone rather than broadcasting and, contrary to common practice, it is not a good idea to apply nitrogen months before you plant the crop. Urea can be foliar sprayed at ten to twenty kg per hectare with a kilogram of NTS Soluble Humate Granules™ and you can quadruple the efficiency of nitrogen delivery (20 kg of urea foliar sprayed is equivalent to 80 kg as a side dress). There is also a rarely recognised potential to address potassium via the foliar route. Potassium sulfate can be foliar applied at up to 20 kg per hectare with 250 grams of NTS Soluble Fulvic Acid Powder™ to provide a substantial potassium response.

Foliar applications of NPK at low rates can begin at the three leaf stage for field crops and this can provide a big response as the young foliage can absorb and translocate nutrition more efficiently.
6. Not Adjusting to Changing Climatic conditions

There are few farmers who now deny that a changing climate is impacting their operation. In all of the 42 countries in which we work, we see conventional agriculture challenged with a multitude of problems associated with climate change. In intensive horticulture, where precision programs have been painstakingly developed over decades, the rule books are been thrown out in the face of this change. Soil temperatures are different, sunlight hours have changed, rain is falling where it never used to fall and drought is persisting beyond anything previously experienced. In South East Queensland, where NTS is based, we have had a horror year for horticulture where macadamia growers have experienced unparalleled Phytopthora pressure, strawberry growers have prematurely ended their season in the face of paralysing grey mould pressure and ginger farmers are seeking new farms to escape the Pythium plague. The problem here is that many of the fungicides seem to have become ineffective with this level of pressure. Interestingly, the growers that have best survived the onslaught have been those utilising biological approaches. This really is the shape of the future because it has become obvious that it is more productive to work with a constantly adapting natural system than working against it. The chemical industry will simply not be able to develop new products fast enough to account for resistance that occurs through overuse during extreme pest pressure. Although this will prove painful to many who are forced to adjust to this brave new world, the end result will be positive. There will finally be a widespread recognition that we need to address the root cause of these diseases rather than relying upon short-term chemical solutions and our farmers, our food and our planet will all be the benefactors.

One other painful change may involve an acceptance that the writing is on the wall and farming will only become more difficult in some areas. I personally believe that we have seen the trends for some years and the smart operators are now making the hard decisions and moving to areas less troubled. This can be difficult for farmers who have inherited family farms. They are often wracked by guilt at the thought of selling land soaked with the blood sweat and tears of their parents and grandparents and they feel that they have failed. This is understandable but it is not real. The best approach here is to imagine what you would feel if your own children were involved. Imagine one of your children farming with exceptional skill but failing year after year in the absence of moisture. Would your prefer them to maintain the misery in the name of a piece of land or would you prefer them to move on and enjoy their short life in a more hospitable area?

7. Using Counterproductive Inputs

Sometimes we can shoot ourselves in the foot while attempting to provide protection or nutrition and it is worthwhile understanding how to avoid this self inflicted pain. If you have reached the point of recognising that your success is intimately linked to the health of your microbe workforce, then you will understand that you should reconsider the use of any input that compromises that workforce.

CSIRO scientist, Dr Margaret Roper, has determined that the Triazines are contributing to serious damage of soil life. In fact, she suggests that Simazine and Atrazine may cause permanent damage to your workforce. There are other options to these soil poisons and they should obviously be considered if you would like to tap into the multiple benefits of beneficial biology.

Perhaps you have wondered how and why potassium chloride was demonised while soft rock phosphate was canonised in the folklore of biological agriculture. Here’s how it happened. Charles Walters, the founder of the influential bio-ag publication, Acres USA, was researching a book on weeds. He decided to use a radionics scanner to investigate the influence of various fertilisers upon crops in contrast to their effect upon weeds. In the process, he discovered that Muriate of Potash actually reduced the General Vitality (GV) of the crop while increasing the GV of weeds. It is obviously not desirable to give weeds a head start but this is what this popular input appeared to create. This research also led to the discovery that soft rock phosphate was an input that had the opposite effect. This soil food lifted the GV of the crop while seriously reducing the GV of the weeds. This was one of the reasons that these two inputs became seen as negative or positive influences in sustainable crop production.

Potassium chloride has the highest salt index of any fertiliser and this can be detrimental to soil life. The late Bruce Tainio, a leading American consultant, claimed that potassium chloride is poorly absorbed through the leaves even though it is the basis of many foliar fertilisers. Although chlorides are sometimes required from a nutrient perspective, it is much more likely that sulfur will be needed. Potassium sulfate is well absorbed as a foliar, particularly if it is combined with a couple of hundred grams of NTS Soluble Fulvic Acid Powder™, so it is the preferable K source for those concerned with sustainability.

Acid phosphate fertilisers are a particularly poor investment as you will access just 27% of your phosphate investment before the remaining 73% becomes part of the massive frozen reserve of this mineral locked within Australian soils. You can reduce this loss factor considerably by combining soluble humate granules with your DAP/MAP but, depending upon your crop, it is often a better idea to opt for soft rock phosphate or granular guano, where phosphate is released throughout the crop cycle. Cereal crops, legumes and vegetables are really the only crops that justify the use of unstable, “fast food” phosphate. Even here there is a better response if the acid fertilisers are combined with guano as the combination of soluble and slow release will always be more productive.

The last of the counterproductive inputs we will discuss is probably the worst. Nematicides are amongst the most dangerous of farm chemicals, killing more farm workers worldwide than any other “corrective”. These chemicals are a perfect example of the double edged sword that lops off more than intended. When we look beyond the extractive approach at a more holistic solution we discover that many of the chemical “solutions” are anything but. The natural control of root knot nematodes involves three creatures which are all impacted by nematicides. Predatory nematodes, Mychorrhizal fungi and nematode trapping fungi are all affected by these chemicals and, ironically, the first creature to return to the fray is the root knot nematode and now he has no competition. This is why nematicides breed more nematicides and are a classic case of the bankruptcy of this system!
In Conclusion

An open mind is an essential prerequisite to survive and thrive in a world where the only thing certain is change. One aspect of this flexibility is the capacity to learn from our mistakes. Ill informed nutrition, nitrogen mismanagement, misunderstanding of mineral interrelationships, mistiming and miscalculating fertility inputs and a failure to adapt, are some of the key blunders that make farming less fun. I trust that you are now better equipped to weave your way through these potholes as you strive to minimise pain and maximise pleasure in the planet’s most important profession.
This article was written by Grahan Sait from Nutritech Solutions http://www.nutri-tec...m.au/index.html

#426509 The Top 7 plant blunders

Posted by Sandgroper on 04 March 2011 - 04:46 AM

I keep referring to this article by Graham Sait from NTS so I thought I would post the whole article.

The Top Seven Plant Blunders

In part one of this series I looked at some of the costly mistakes associated with the soil. In this second installment, the emphasis is upon the growing crop and how to avoid those profit sucking shots in the foot.
1) Forsaking Foliars

Foliar fertilisers are twelve times more efficient than soil-based nutrient delivery and this promotes more effective chlorophyll management. Chlorophyll is the green pigment where all the production happens within the plant. This productive capacity diminishes as stripes, blotches and pale colours reduce chlorophyl density, so the more rapid the correction the bigger the gain. Foliar fertilising increases in popularity each year as growers discover that you get more than just a nutrient correction. When chlorophyll density is increased with foliars, there is more sugar production and an associated increase in the sugars the plant donates to the army of microorganisms surrounding its roots. These creatures return the favour by fixing more nitrogen, solubilising more phosphate and releasing more beneficial exudates to stimulate their host. The end result commonly exceeds expectations.

It is common to see growers choose the easier option of fertigation to deliver nutrition but this can be a mistake. If you have mineral excesses (which is more often than not in intensive horticulture), their antagonistic effect can nullify the benefits of mineral correction in the soil. For example, if you have a soil containing 250 ppm of phosphorus, due to the extended over application of inexpensive chicken manure, then you will often see crop shortages of zinc, copper or iron induced by this excess. Addressing these shortages via fertigation will often not do the job because the excess P continues to impact the uptake of these minerals. The answer is to bypass the soil and deliver the minerals directly into the leaf. Timely foliars will always offer more effective crop nutrition, even if they require a little more effort than fertigation.
2) Shutting Down the Freebies

There are two key minerals that are supplied free of charge when mineral and microbe balance are in place. These minerals are amongst the most expensive inputs so it is never productive to shut down these freebies. Phosphorus and nitrogen together account for the majority of the average fertiliser budget but their cost can be minimised if natural delivery is optimised. In both cases, microorganisms can generate and deliver these minerals but the plant plays a major role in the equation. The plant varies its root exudates depending upon its requirements. If phosphate is required to initiate reproduction, then the plant will add some extras to the 30% of its glucose production that is allocated to soil life in the root zone. In a process not unlike a fisherman changing bait, the plant attracts phosphate solublilising organisms to supply P when it is needed. Nitrogen-fixing organisms are similarly stimulated when extra N is required. If we over supply N and P in fertiliser programs, the satiated plant has no motivation to encourage the natural supply. As a result, the grower misses his share of 74,000 tonnes of nitrogen gas in the atmosphere and access to ten billion dollars of locked up phosphate in the soil.

There is a fine line between a shutdown based on over supply and a balance that maximises production with the best of both worlds, but it is a line worth walking. Starter fertilisers, for example, are often over supplied. No tiny plant requires hundreds of kilos of DAP/MAP flooding the soil with soluble N and P. Growers are better advised to reduce the amount of this early nutrition and to include slow release fertilisers with their soluble inputs. Granular guano has a great role to play here as phosphorus and calcium are released throughout the crop cycle rather than all in one rush. Manures can offer a similar benefit in relation to nitrogen but a good N stabilising strategy using soluble humates or zeolite can be equally productive.

Understanding nutrient requirements in relation to the crop cycle can also be helpful. The major drawdown time for phosphate, for example, occurs during the reproductive stage and applied P has often locked up by then. Stabilising soluble phosphate with soluble humate granules reduces the lock up potential and minimises the flood of P which can otherwise cripple the biological supply of this mineral.
3) Missing Out Monitoring

Precision nutrition is the key to maximum productivity and profitability and there is little room for guess work. A combination of regular leaf analyses and the use of in-field monitoring tools ensures insight into nutrient requirements at any given time. If you have reached the point where you can accurately read your crop without these tools then you have achieved master grower status, but even then there will always be a need for your footsteps in the field. We need to be part of the growing process to pick up changes rapidly. Check the roots for mychorrizal colonisation. Check legumes for nodulation and pinch the nodules to test for the inner pink that signals good nitrogen fixation. Check leaf size and thickness and stem strength and learn to recognise the missing minerals linked to stripes, blotches and pale colour. When your leaf test reveals a zinc deficiency, go to the crop and photograph that deficiency with your mobile phone. You now have a record of that specific chlorosis and the next time it appears you won’t need to wait till the leaf test data comes back.

It is a common excuse to miss out the monitoring due to other priorities but this can be a serious mistake. I always recall a visit to a corn farm in Kununurra, in Western Australia, during a national tour with American author/consultant, Gary Zimmer. The grower complained of repeated poor pollination and was intending to introduce bee hives the following season. Gary and I both recognised a boron deficiency and alerted the grower to the problem. He insisted that his starter fertiliser contained boron so this could not be the problem. However, the small amount of boron in the starter had leached out in these low carbon soils by the time the plant had moved into the reproductive stage and this is the time that boron is desperately required to fill out the cob. We suggested a leaf analysis to confirm this diagnosis, even though it was too late to correct the problem that season. The tissue test revealed the lack of boron and the grower realised the enormity of his oversight. He had lost 20% of his yield in 1000 acres of corn for several seasons for the sake of a $60 leaf analysis. This simple test, taken before flowering would have identified the problem at the start. A leaf analysis before flowering is a critically important strategy to make sure that everything is right for the business end of the season.

The key in-field monitoring tools include a refractometer and a pH meter that allows sap analysis. The refractometer is a guide to your skills as a chlorophyll manager (the central role of all growers). High brix levels mean less pest pressure, higher nutrient density, greater shelf life, more frost resistance and less weed pressure. Brix levels also offer a guide to nutrient balance within the plant (there should be minimum variation from top to bottom), calcium and boron nutrition and specific gravity.

Sap pH is also a guideline to yield, quality and potential pest pressure, but it offers more insight into the likely culprits when things are not right. If sap pH is lower than 6.4, then the likely deficiency will be either calcium, magnesium or potassium of a combination of these. Low sap pH spells an increased likelihood for fungal disease. Conversely, if the sap pH is higher than 6.4, then it is often related to an excess of nitrate nitrogen within the plant or it could be a shortage of the acid-forming minerals, phosphorus or sulfur.
4) Messing Up the Timing

Timing is everything when it comes to comedy and the same thing applies to crop production. There is a right time to test, plant, fertilise, protect and harvest, and messing up the timing can be costly.

Leaf tests should be conducted in conjunction with soil tests. It is important to consider them together as it gives a far better idea of how mineral balance (or lack of it) is impacting the crop. Often the leaf test will highlight lockups where you may need to bypass the soil and use foliar nutrition. The other important time to leaf test is immediately before flowering to ensure everything is right.

There are several ideal times to foliar fertilise. Young tissue is particularly responsive so it is a good plan to apply the first foliar as early as possible. There are also issues about the time of day that is best suited. Early morning or late afternoon is considered best. The early morning slot ties in with increased stomatal opening when the plant is accessing dew. The middle of the day is unsuitable because the stomates close in the heat of the day.

There are also critical crop stages where nutrition is most needed. In the corn crop, for example, there are two stages that will be most productive. They are linked to a decision making process where the plant audits its chlorophyll content to determine the sugar making potential during seed formation (the time of greatest sugar requirement). At five weeks after spiking the corn plant determines the number of rows of kernels on the cob. Chlorophyll density in this crop is often determined by nitrogen, so there can be considerable gain in foliar spraying urea at four and a half weeks after spiking (when the first leaf spike emerges). This involves a foliar application of 20 kg of urea with 1 kg of NTS Soluble Humate Granules per hectare. At nine weeks after spiking another decision is made. This time it involves the number of cobs per plant. An astute grower, aware of this timing, can literally double yield with another foliar application of urea and humic acid, at the same rate, at eight and a half weeks after spiking.

A recent innovation in relation to the timing of foliar sprays involves environmental conditions. Delta T involves temperature graphed against relative humidity and it relates directly to droplet life time and target accuracy. Many tractors are now fitted with equipment to monitor Delta T so growers can optimise their spray performance.

There is also a strong argument to plough, plant, prune and fertilise in accord with appropriate moon cycles. Farmers have worked by the moon for centuries and there really was no evidence to abandon this practice other than a belief that science could solve all of our problems. Biodynamic growers grow by the moon but there is no reason why anyone can’t gain by utilising lunar cycles. I have seen a tremendous difference in on-farm trials where growers have foliar sprayed one patch on any of the 6 days leading up to a new moon and compared response in a second patch that was sprayed on any of the six days leading up to a full moon. There was a huge difference over time, where the full moon timing proved vastly superior. If you are an orchardist conducting one foliar spray each month, you would be well advised to mark your calendar to coincide your timing with any of the six days leading up to a full moon. These are simple, free strategies that can be profoundly effective.
5) Meddling with Plant Immunology

It is now understood that the plant has an immune system not unlike ours. Plants produce phytoalexins that equate to antibodies in the human immune system. The higher the production of phytoalexins and similar compounds, the greater the protective potential of the plant, the lower your chemical bill and the healthier your working environment. There are various promotants that sponsor production of phytoalexins and several factors that reduce their production. It is important to understand this process to avoid a major plant blunder where you actually help generate increased reliance upon expensive chemicals. A small amount of pest and disease pressure is desirable as this activates the plant’s defence mechanisms. There are two systems involved. Systemic activated resistance (SAR) is like a fight or flight response based on a direct cue. An insect attacks, the plant sensory system identifies the invader and there is a rapid production of foul tasting chemicals to discourage the pest. Similarly, if a fungal disease is the invader then biochemicals are immediately produced to ward off the attack. There are signalling molecules that can trigger a SAR response and these include salicylic acid and chitinase. Aloe Vera is the richest plant source of salicylic acid and hence its increasingly popular use in agriculture.

The second protective system in the plant is called Induced Systemic Resistance (ISR) and this is a vaccination-type response where beneficial microorganisms produce biochemicals responsible for inducing a systemic response. Two of the most researched organisms in this regard are Trichoderma harzianum and Bacillus subtillus. However, cytokinins can also produce this systemic protection. This is one of the many benefits linked to the regular use of kelp.

The problem is that chemical protection regimes involving regular applications of fungicides and pesticides, regardless of the level of pest pressure, can backfire. When all of the insects, pathogens and beneficials are regularly poisoned off the leaf surface there are no longer any cues. Plant immunity no longer works and you have effectively increased your requirement for toxic chemicals. Interestingly, many of the protective biochemicals are also responsible for flavour and they also serve as powerful antioxidants for humans so not only do chemicals beget chemicals but we get to eat contaminated, substandard food into the bargain. Winemakers have become the first industry to fully understand this phenomena and hence the plethora of international awards for biological and biodynamic wines in recent years. Hopefully food producers will also come to understand that it is not possible to grow nutrient dense, medicinal food with a full-on chemical regime. Perhaps this recognition amongst consumers will help drive the necessary change.
6) Ignoring the Brix Builders

Brix is a measure of dissolved solids within the plant and it is a direct measure of photosynthetic potential. Photosynthesis is the most important aspect of crop production as it is responsible for 95 % of plant growth. The key minerals involved in photosynthesis are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and boron. We often refer to this quartet as “the big four” due to their critical importance. It is a major blunder to ignore these nutrients and yet over 30% of the thousands of leaf tests we analyse each year, are deficient in all four minerals. Ideally, these minerals should be maintained at luxury levels in the leaf but over one in three tests reveal that all are lacking.

Calcium is directly responsible for the uptake of seven other minerals and boron determines whether calcium does this job. Phosphorus is the main mineral involved in sugar production and magnesium is a phosphorus synergistic. Magnesium is also the centrepiece of the chlorophyll molecule and is to this green pigment what iron is to blood.

The best way to build plant levels of calcium and magnesium is to use high analysis, Micronised Mineral Suspensions (MMS) which deliver the target minerals without the tag-ons associated with calcium nitrate or magnesium sulfate. Even phosphorus can be addressed with this technology, using micronised guano. This ancient bird manure is also an exceptional source of calcium (25 – 30%) and a rich source of plant available silica. Boron is best addressed with soluble sodium borate (Solubor or Dissolvabor) combined with a little humic acid to form a much more stable and effective boron humate.
7) Jumping To Conclusions

There are several faulty conclusions linked to misinterpretation of leaf tests and monitoring tools and they need to be understood to be avoided. It is common to assume, for example, that low levels of magnesium in the leaf spells a similar situation in the soil, but this is not always the case. High soil magnesium can generate low levels of this mineral in the leaf and in this case there is no point in applying more magnesium to the soil to exacerbate the lockup. This situation calls for foliar application of magnesium, usually as magnesium sulfate combined with a little fulvic acid.

The battle to build luxury leaf levels of calcium can actually be linked to a lack of beneficial fungi in the soil. These are the creatures that have been most hammered by conventional agriculture and they are sadly lacking in most soils tested for soil life. You can watch your levels of calcium in the plant increase in line with the fungal counts in your soil. Fungal dominated compost is invaluable in this context as are the two most powerful fungi promotants, humic acid and kelp. It is a great idea to include humates or compost with lime for this reason.

A lack of phosphorus and zinc in the plant can sometimes reflect a lack of mycorrhizal fungi rather than missing minerals. The chief role of these creatures is to deliver these otherwise immobile minerals to the plant and if you have killed them off with herbicides, fungicides and nematicides, you will struggle with delivery of phosphate and zinc, regardless of your soil levels of these minerals.

If you test your brix levels following a prolonged dry period, you can jump to the conclusion that you are an amazing grower because you have achieved such good levels. Unfortunately, the moisture stressed plant concentrates solids within the sap and this is called a “false brix”, reflecting stress rather than health.

If your leaf analysis reflects a lack of zinc and an excess of manganese and these imbalances are not reflected in soil tests then you may have detected a potassium deficiency and no amount of zinc or manganese antagonists will correct the situation. When you apply some potassium you will see the zinc come up and the manganese will fall.

There is one further faulty conclusion that is also linked to potassium. If your nitrogen levels are high on your leaf test and potassium levels look OK, this may not necessarily be the case. Potassium is such a mobile mineral that it may have moved up to the area tested (the first fully developed leaf) and the leaf test is not a reliable guide. An undetected potassium deficiency will always be costly as this mineral governs size so it is a huge player in determining yield. The best way to monitor potassium involves a Horiba Potassium Meter. When you test and compare the K levels in the lower leaves with those in the upper leaves there should never be more than 10% variance. If the lower leaves exhibit significantly less potassium then you have detected a deficiency that can be immediately addressed to avoid yield loss.
In Conclusion

Food production is fraught with pitfalls and if we understand these problems we are more likely to avoid them. The successful management of the plant involves regular monitoring, timing and the nurturing of soil life. It also requires an understanding of the profound role of nutrition in plant health and associated disease resistance. I trust than you may now be better equipped to avoid some of these problems and that you will enjoy greater profitability and find more pleasure in your journey towards sustainable farming.

#426478 whats wrong with my plants??

Posted by Sandgroper on 04 March 2011 - 01:34 AM

The wood chip mulch can rob nitrogen and make the soil very acidic. Try a little bit of dolamite to sweeten it up and maybe even gypsum to break up the clay. If you ground is too clayey it will give your plants wet feet which they dont like. maybe you should build a couple of raised beds to help with drainage.

The old septic pit should only help your plants unless it hasnt decomposed.

#422741 What's the best fertilizer for peppers

Posted by Sandgroper on 20 February 2011 - 03:38 AM

I used compost and dynamic lifter with a drink of fish emulsion and seaweed every week.

#421390 Multi replies

Posted by Sandgroper on 14 February 2011 - 11:47 PM

Then if you cut and paste you can have fun with it. :lol:

Cool Thanks

Thanks Log Chief, I'll have to try that.

Up until now I've been doing it on two windows: one window to cut and paste the replies from the desired thread, and the other Master window to paste in the copied replies and then edit them if need be and make my own reply to each comment.


Got it now

Thanks for asking this. I couldn't figure it out either.

Thanks everyone else for the answer! :D

Now wasnt that easy.Doh!:crazy: :rofl:

#417421 Sandgropers 2010/2011 Growlog

Posted by Sandgroper on 28 January 2011 - 03:52 AM

A couple of the seedlings in the pictures above look wilted but at 43C+ I wilted a bit when I was out there too. I gave them water and I gave me :beer:

#416960 Coyame

Posted by Sandgroper on 26 January 2011 - 10:25 AM

i'm on the other side of the card here. i'm one of those odd gardeners that actually thinks that what montsanto is doing is actually, in the end, beneficial to mankind as a whole, and very much natural.

I heard that there was one of them around.

#416182 I like my chooks (chickens)

Posted by Sandgroper on 22 January 2011 - 10:36 AM

Last night one of my sons left the door to the chookyard open and 3 chooks escaped. We managed to get two back in but one eluded us. This morning I went on my morning chilli inspection and to my horror two of my chilli plants had the centers nipped out and two more were missing a few leaves. That was it, out came the 12 gauge and on and off I spent the best part of the day stalking said chook through the bush around our house. It was crafty and a worthy adversary and I caught many fleeting glimpses of it dissappearing into the scrub but in the end it lingered and the 12 gauge finally won. The good news is that the chillies defiled were only semi commons, a red hab, a hot paper lantern and the ones that lost a few leaves were a guadalope and a cancun and they will survive.

#416110 Heavy Metal Thunder....

Posted by Sandgroper on 21 January 2011 - 11:08 PM

Is it home made or a bought one. It is wicked

#415428 Sandgropers 2010/2011 Growlog

Posted by Sandgroper on 19 January 2011 - 10:51 AM

good luck to you SG...hope everything works out well for you...

Thanks mate its all going to plan so far botanically, medically and hopefully realestatically too.
Weve got our eye on 10 acres down south by the beach, ahh the good life growing chillies, fishing, more chillies, more fishing. What more could a man want.

#415383 Sandgropers 2010/2011 Growlog

Posted by Sandgroper on 19 January 2011 - 08:20 AM

Ok so I have finally got around to documenting some of what I have in. I will go through bed by bed what I have in the ground first.

Nth Bed

Tasmanian hab X1
Thai super hot X1
Hab yellow pointed X1
Red sav X1
Scotch Bonnet red X2
Scotch Bonnet yellow X1
Mystery superhots X3
Mystery Naga X3
Craigs 2X hot X2
Fatalii X1
Fatalii Yellow X1
Madame Janette X2
Arrivi Gussano X1
Antilaise Caribbean X1
Trinidad Scorpion large X1
7 pod orange X3
Green Harold St barts X2
Chocolate habalokia X1
Fatalii Yellow X4
Donne Sali X2

Gym Bed North

7 pod Yellow X 4
Brazillian Starfish X2
Yellow Scorpion Cardi X 10
Maui purple X2
Peter Pepper red X1
7 pod Brown PRF X1
7 pod Primo X3
Red Savina Original strain X 12
Goats weed X3

West Gym Bed

Chocolate Habalokia X 2
Paprika X3
Peach hab X2
Tabasco X1
Meltdown Hab X1
Red Congo X3
Chocolate Bhut Jolokia X1
7 pod long LG Strain X6
Trinidad Scorpion Butch T X4
Trinidad douglah X3
Black Naga X6
Bahamian Goat pepper X 14
Trinidad Scorpion X Giant white hab X4
7 pod yellow X 5
Trinidad Scorpion FG Yellow X3
Yellow Bhut Jolokia X2
Devils tongue White X2
Douglah X Giant White Hab X4
Datil X Limon X3
Hab Guadalope Black X2
Trinidad Scorpion Morouga Yellow X1
Naga Morich X3

Verandah garden West

Thai Superhot X1
Douglah X24
Harold St Barts X3
Velarde X5
Hab White jellybean X3
Trinidad scorpion X 2
Hab Manzano X2
7 pod Barrackpore X2
Trinidad Scorpion FG Mustard? X3 ( it is just labelled FG Mustard so I presume its a scorp)correct me if Im wrong
Fatalii Red X1
Fatalii Yellow X1
Cardi Red X2
7 pod Jonah X2
Datil X1
7 pod Long X1
Bhut jolokia X1
Hab Cappuchino X1
Fatalii chocolate X1
Devils Tongue White X1
7 pod Strain2 X1
7 pod yellow

Pond bed

Jalapeno X3
Scotch Bonnet red X3
Caribbean red X4
Scotch Bonnet Jamaican Yellow X2
Corno di Toro X2
Harold St Barts red X1
7 pod Unknown X2
Naga Morich X2
Donne Sali X1
Mem Jolokia X1 c. frut
Congo Trinidad X2
Madame Janette red X3
Hab chocolate X5
Mourouga red X3
7 pod Brain strain X3
7 pod THSC X2
Red Savina OP X4
Naga Jolokia X Tabasco X1
7 pod Extra large X1
Golden Hab X1
Bhut jolokia Orange X1
Hab Mustard X2
Hab red X3
Datil Red X2
Hab paper lantern x3
Hab Guadalope X1
Hab Cancun X3
Trinidad Scorp X3 THSC
Bih Jolokia X1
Velarde X1
7 pod Yellow X1
Bhut Jolokia X2
Bahamian Goat pepper x4
7 pod Jonah strain2 X4
7 pod Brain Strain Strain 2 X3
Jalapeno Dreamboat original strain X2
Trinidad Scorpion Strain 2 X1
Chimayo X2
7 pod Douglah strain 2 X2

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Posted by Sandgroper on 11 January 2011 - 08:47 PM

While seaweed and fish emulsion are great and I use them too, they are not a complete fertiliser. If that is all you use then you will notice your plants lacking over time.

This definately sounds like advertising blurb.
I never said just give them seaweed and kelp.
Good compost, chicken shit, seaweed and fish emulsion have more than enough nutrients. Plants that are force fed with chemical fertilisers make look stronger and lush and green but they are in fact weaker and more susceptible to pests and diseases.
Insects see in the infrared spectrum and that enables them to identify sick or weak plants. Chemical fed plants give out a wavelenght that says to them eat me. I am lush, watery and weak. More insects= more diseases, i.e aphids spread all sorts of diseases.
Make or buy some good quality compost and do your health and your plants a favour.