Abundance in the Drought (Part 1)

Bloemfontein in South Africa is suffering a fourth year of drought. In an area where 512 mm of annual rainfall is the average, this region has averaged just 230 mm over the past four years. Most of this rain has not fallen at the right time and locals describe it as “the worst drought in living memory”.

I was in South Africa on a seminar tour recently and I visited the farm of leading local consultant, Gys Olivier. Gys has practised Nutrition Farming® for several years and in this two-part interview he agreed to share some of his findings.

The Bounty of Boron

Even in extremely difficult times, Nutrition Farming® principles can deliver. In these trying conditions, I was driven to a 7 tonne corn crop where neighbours struggled to achieve 2 tonnes. Gys described his strategy: “Many farmers in the region suffered boron deficiency this season, with the poor seed fill and empty heads that show up when you are missing this mineral.” Cereal soils are notoriously boron deficient, but the shortage really rears its head in drought conditions.

Gys used one of the most productive of all Nutrition Farming® strategies to solve the problem. “I diluted NTS Soluble Humate Granules­™ at 10:1 with water to make my own humic acid. I usually make up a 1000 litre shuttle each time. I then mix ten litres of this homemade humic acid with 200 litres of water and 1 kg of soluble boron and foliar spray this mix on each hectare, directly before flowering.”

A foliar spray of boron before flowering is a tremendously productive strategy for all crops. Boron is used by the plant to boost all aspects of reproduction. There is better pollination, a greater fruit to flower ratio and better filling of the seed head. This invariably delivers a great return, on an investment of less than $5 per hectare.

Getting Foliar Urea Right

To achieve his seven tonnes in the drought, Gys used just 70 units of N, as a combination of soil-applied ammonium sulfate and foliar-applied urea. He had some cautions to share in relation to the amount of urea to use when foliar spraying corn: “Eight kg per hectare is the maximum you can use in this region, but it must always be mixed with humic acid. Otherwise you will get leaf burn associated with runoff. You should never foliar spray urea when there are water droplets on the plant. The best time is early morning or before 10 pm in the evening. You must get in before the dew starts to form.”

Gys is describing a second, key Nutrition Farming® strategy here. When urea is foliar-applied, it enters the plant as an amine and there is rapid, efficient conversion to protein. However, when it is applied to the soil, it invariably enters the plant as a nitrate. Now an energy-intensive process is required for protein conversion. If molybdenum is not present, the nitrates remain unconverted in the leaf, where they can call in insect pressure and disease. Gys has another suggestion he calls the 30/30 rule: “When humidity drops below 30 or temperature rises above 30°C, you should never foliar spray anything. If someone tells me they didn't get good foliar response, you usually discover they didn't obey these two rules.”

Platform® and Compost – A Great Starter

Gys also used a sound biological starter program that helped him achieve abundance in the drought. He used two tonnes per hectare of his own vermicompost and planted the crop with Nutri-Life Platform® (mycorrhizal fungi and Trichoderma). Mycorrhizal inoculation increases root surface area by tenfold and provides much greater access to immobile minerals like phosphate and zinc. Trichoderma is a multi-function marvel, which increases fertiliser uptake, boosts root growth, solubilises phosphate, creates humus and boosts resilience. Vermicompost, in turn, offers the most potent biological response of any compost.

Triple Ten™ – A Sound Investment

Gys has been a fan of Triple Ten™ for several years. He uses it as a staple on his own farm and recommends it widely to his clients. He has found that maximising response with this input is all about timing. “In corn crops, if you come in on day 52 with Triple Ten™, you are guaranteed to receive a return of three to one on your investment. If it rains shortly after that date you will get much more.”

Triple Ten™ is the largest selling NTS product in 53 countries. It is a totally unique blend of over 30 ingredients, including minerals, plant and soil food. Triple Ten™ may be the most comprehensive foliar formula ever developed. It took us years to master a stable formula of this complexity and I have certainly never found anything comparable in my travels around the globe.

Exciting Changes With A Biological Program

Gys gets excited when he talks about the changes he witnessed on his current corn crop in the drought. “My brix increased from 7 to between 12 and 18. Phosphorus appeared out of nowhere on a soil analysis, which can only be attributed to microbial activity. I believe things are vastly enhanced by mycorrhizal fungi and Trichoderma.”

He cites his biggest advantage from day 1: “My crop is so much healthier. I used to have constant grading problems at the elevator with Fusarium and Diplodia. This is now a thing of the past. I also used to have problems with lodging and this is also a thing of past. There is a much cleaner and more complete harvest now due to the lack of lodging.”

Gys has also noticed obvious biological changes: “The earthworms are back. It is such a wonderful thing to walk on castings. These castings house massive amounts of antibiotics and they seem to be directly linked to my reduction in disease.” At this point, Gys held up his massive hands and said, "these hands have had a real battering from years of machinery repairs but there are no scars. I manage the rips and tears by immersing my damaged hands in liquid vermicast. It is remarkable how well the terramycin and streptomycin exudates, in the liquid vermicast, initiate healing."

Gys concluded Part 1 of my interview with this statement: “As farmers, we are constantly amazed at how little we know, but we keep receiving remarkable rewards from living soils, if we simply look after them.”

I couldn't agree more. Nutrition Farming® is a prime example of the most important universal law – give and you will receive.

To read Part 2 of this article, please click here.

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