In Part 1 of this article, we discussed the confusion that can follow comprehensive training. There seems so much to remember and without ongoing guidance, it all seems too hard. In that case, I suggested a simple, low cost, fail-safe program for broadacre crops. In this issue, we will talk about options to kickstart your Nutrition Farming® venture in more intensive horticulture.
Don't Drive Blind
There really is no excuse for not using soil and leaf testing in vegetable, vine and fruit crops. The cost is minuscule in relation to the value of those crops and the potential benefits from the added nutrition insight are immense. The key, of course, is to use a good soil and leaf testing service. The soil test and associated recommendations should be based upon an understanding of mineral balancing and the productive mineral ratios. The leaf test should be based upon conventional dry leaf analysis rather than plant sap. Dry leaf analysis has forty years of research behind the recommended ideals.
The NTS Soil Therapy™ service has now been adopted in many countries and it continues to grow in popularity because it provides such a clear, easily understood summary of your soil requirements. Similarly, the NTS Plant Therapy™ service is a superior leaf analysis and nutrition programing service based upon a vast database of proven ideals for more than 140 different crops. Your pre-plant and planting blends can be determined from your Soil Therapy™ results and your ongoing foliar or fertigation requirements are clarified with regular leaf tests. Test, don't guess!
Observe your Farm and Crops
The second step in your move towards Nutrition Farming® involves your relationship with your crop and soils. It has been said that "the most powerful of all fertilisers is the farmer’s footsteps in the field". The power of observation can override most other management skills, if you can master it. You need to be a part of the growing process. Your seat in the office, the ute or the tractor will not yield the benefits of hands-on interaction in the growing process. You need to understand variations in your soil, and your crop's response to those differences.
The need to understand the day-to-day impact of climate variability on your farm has never been more important. Dig around the roots and check their health. Are there nematodes present, have your legume roots nodulated and are those nodules reddish/pink inside (a reliable sign of successful nitrogen fixation). Leaf tests will help you familiarise yourself with the blotches, stripes and pale colours, which represent signs of specific mineral deficiencies, relative to your crop. Stem strength, heat resilience and leaf size and colour can all be visually monitored and this inside knowledge allows rapid response.
Magnify and Stabilise your Fertilisers
Fertilisers are an increasingly expensive input and they are notoriously unstable. It is estimated that 73% of your phosphate inputs are lost to lock-up. Around half of your nitrogen volatilises or leaches and potassium is also notoriously unstable in wet conditions. There is a strategy to secure maximum benefit from your fertilisers and it is essentially free-of-charge. This involves the addition of 10 kg to 20 kg per hectare of NTS Soluble Humate Granules™ with your granular fertiliser (as compared to just 5 kg in broadacre). The cost of this addition can be reclaimed from savings in your fertiliser bill. Humic acid has a unique capacity to increase fertiliser performance by over 30%, through a well-researched phenomenon called cell sensitisation. Here, the cell membrane becomes more permeable, allowing much better uptake of fertilisers (1). In this context, you can safely reduce your fertiliser amounts by the equivalent value of the humate investment.
Your gains from the humate inclusion, however, equate to much more than this increase in fertiliser performance. Humic acid is a plant growth promoter in its own right. It bonds with phosphate and forms a stable phosphate humate that cannot lock up. Humic acid is a powerful bio-stimulant and it also binds to urea to form a stable urea humate. This remarkable material is also a soil conditioner and improves moisture retention.
Your third step, then, in your move into Nutrition Farming®, is to always include NTS Soluble Humate Granules™ in your planting program. The mechanics of this inclusion can involve blending in the humate granules as you fill your spreader or fertiliser box from a one tonne bag. Slow the flow from the chute of the bulka bag and fan in two 25 kg bags of NTS Soluble Humate Granules™ per one tonne of fertiliser, for example. It is only a minor inconvenience, but when you have done it once you will always do it!
Add Fulvic Acid to Everything you Fertigate and Foliar Spray
Fulvic acid is also a cell sensitiser that increases the uptake of everything with which it is included. In this context, small amounts of NTS Fulvic Acid Powder™ should be added to everything that you fertigate or foliar spray. Again, you can cover the cost of this inclusion by slightly reducing the amount of liquid fertiliser you are applying. Typically, you might include 300 grams per hectare of powder when fertigating and 200 grams per hectare when foliar spraying. It is a very small investment for a substantial result. Fulvic acid is also the most powerful natural chelating agent and, like humic acid, is a plant growth promoter. It can be used as a rescue remedy during times of stress and it can even serve as a substitute for sunlight, to allow photosynthesis to continue during long periods of cloudy weather (hence the name, "the second sun") (1).
Perhaps you are now beginning to understand why humic and fulvic acid are core components of the Nutrition Farming® approach. However, there is a third component of a trio that, when combined, can make a real difference in your production, profitability and problem-solving ability. That third component involves the regular use of seaweed fertiliser.
Understanding Kelp Help
Most good operators in intensive horticulture have discovered that seaweed (kelp) is a good investment, but they do not necessarily understand why it delivers such a punch. Here's how it works: kelp contains good levels of the full-spectrum of minerals found in the ocean and they are all in chelated form. This natural chelation occurs due to the presence of good levels of a powerful chelating agent called mannitol. This chelation effect also extends to any minerals with which kelp is added. Kelp is also a very rich source of vitamins, which are now known to be of benefit to plants, and it is a rare source of the trace mineral, iodine.
However, perhaps the most profound kelp benefit relates to luxury levels of another group of nutrients. Kelp is the richest known source of phytonutrients called cytokinins, gibberellins, auxins and betaines. These nutrients are required for every stage of plant growth and reproduction. They can also be missing links in some programs because these substances are manufactured by the crop using a broad range of trace minerals that are often missing in intensively farmed soils. Soil microbes also produce these materials and donate them to the plant. Soil biology has also been compromised in many chemically farmed soils. Kelp can refuel the plant with cytokinins, gibberellins, auxins and betaines and the results can be dramatic.
NTS has developed a blend of three kelp species that appears to outperform single species products. Tri-Kelp™ is a potent, soluble powder that is diluted at at just 1 gram per litre. It is remarkably cost-effective at this dilution rate and you are not paying to transport water around the country.
Discover the Foliar Twin-Pack Solution
The fifth and final point, when starting with Nutrition Farming®, involves recognising the potential for building yield, vitality and resilience using foliar fertilising. It is not just an issue of increased fertiliser efficiency (foliar fertilising is 12 times more efficient than soil fertilising), fingertip nutrition control or more rapid response. The increase in chlorophyll density linked to a good foliar fertiliser means there are now more sugar factories pumping 30% of their production into the soil to feed beneficial microbes and build humus. Foliars are, in effect, powerhouse biostimulants and soil life is of immeasurable importance in problem-free crop production.
Leaf analysis will determine precise requirements, but we have found that a complete nutrition package, applied regularly through the leaves, can deliver a remarkable response in all crops. This twin-pack involves the NTS products, Triple Ten™ and Trio™. Triple Ten™ is a uniquely complex formula involving many components. The NPK (10:10:10) component is derived from a hot mix process, which creates greater availability of these minerals. The six cations in Triple Ten™ are chelated with the proprietary Shuttle® Mineral Delivery System. This comprehensive formula is also jam-packed with cutting-edge inclusions like triacontanol, B group vitamins, saponins, humates, kelp and amino acids.
The only minerals missing in this formula are calcium and magnesium, because they are not compatible with phosphate. Trio™ contains these missing minerals, along with some extra boron, as this mineral is lacking in most leaf tests we analyse from across the globe. When we alternate Trio™ with Triple Ten™, we have basically covered all bases and the response is exceptional.
The fog of indecision that can come from too much information is common after an extended NTS training session. Hopefully, this article will help to simplify your starting options. If you embrace these five strategies, you are ensured of an exciting initiation into a more productive approach.
(1) Jackson, William R. Humic, Fulvic and Microbial Balance: Organic Soil Conditioning. 1st ed. Evergreen, Colorado: Jackson Research Center; 1993.
To read Part 1 of this article, please click here.