If there’s one thing we have learnt over the years, while working with thousands of clients involved in over 100 different crops, it is this: On most occasions, poor yield, poor quality and disease pressure are related to a failure or breakdown of biology. “Soil-life governs production” – it’s a basic statement and a simple fact, but it remains the most difficult concept for many growers to wrap their heads around. Modern agriculture is now three generations into a chemical experiment, which has ignored the critical importance of soil-life. A host of man-made chemicals have replaced many of the proven, time-honoured, soil-feeding practices, which previously had sustained our soils for centuries. Why recycle and build organic matter when it is easier to fertilise from a bag? Why build root-zone protection with green manure crops when you can poison the problem with a toxic gas?
We are at war with nature, utilising an ever-increasing armoury of chemical weapons to batter our ‘foes’ into submission. However, this is an unwinnable war. It cannot be won, because we do not understand the enemy. We frantically struggle to sanitise and subdue a natural system without understanding how that system works. We have failed to grasp the fact that insect and disease pressure are ‘symptoms’ of other problems.
The Folly Of Symptom-Orientated Science (SOS)
It can never be sustainable to constantly treat symptoms while ignoring the root cause, particularly when the treatment becomes part of the cause. When root-feeding nematodes are counteracted with poisonous gas, for example, all nematodes in the soil are killed along with a host of other beneficial species. In this case, we don’t understand our enemy, because the unwanted root-feeders only comprise a small percentage of the total nematode population in the soil. The vast majority of nematodes comprise a variety of invaluable nutrient recycling species, which become ‘collateral damage’ in these misguided control programs. It is very simple to demonstrate that the repeated use of nematicides eventually creates more problems than it cures, and this can be equally true of many unbuffered fertilisers, residual herbicides and broad-spectrum pesticides.
If we accept that ‘soil-life governs production’, then it becomes blatantly obvious that we must work with nature rather than against her. When we apply minerals in a balanced form in the soil, it is not solely for the sake of the plant. A minerally balanced soil determines the efficiency of the five billion microorganisms, which inhabit every teaspoon of healthy soil. Disease protection, nutrient uptake, available nitrogen supply and mineral stability are all functions of an efficient microbial workforce. Every management decision will have an impact on this precious soil-life. In this context, the critical question, “Does nature approve?”, can become a simple guideline in the evaluation of any proposed action.
Revitalising the Workforce
If ‘soil-life governs production’, then how do we repair and replenish this ‘life-force’ to maximise productivity and profit?
All of the 300+ products developed by Nutri-Tech Solutions P/L (NTS) are designed to ‘work with nature’, feeding and nurturing the microbial workforce, while simultaneously feeding the plant. Several of these products are microbial inocula that boost the beneficials, and many are biostimulants designed to increase their numbers.
Whether you are adding huge numbers of task-specific microorganisms to the soil or introducing a comprehensive, general-purpose blend, there is often the requirement to ‘brew’ the organisms beforehand. This exercise typically involves reactivating the dormant organisms in heated, aerated water and with a suitable food source for a 24 to 48-hour period prior to application. This brewing requirement can often prove a stumbling block for growers, and, as a result, this inexpensive, yield-boosting technique is often overlooked.
The Secret Of Success
A craftsman is only as good as his tools, and the importance of tools in the plant growing craft cannot be overemphasised. Whether it involves a spray unit, a fertigation set-up or cultivation equipment, there can be tremendous gains in possessing the right tool for the right job.
Several years ago, the National Bank jointly commissioned a survey in southwest NSW, to determine or redefine the most important criteria for financial success in the farming arena. After a comprehensive study, it was concluded that one of the most important profit determinants was the level of organic carbon in the soil. Organic carbon (or organic matter divided by 1.72) is such an influential factor, simply because it is the home-base for the trillions of microbial workers who determine relative profitability. In this context, it could easily be argued that the single most important piece of equipment for any farmer should be a tool that increases the numbers of microorganisms and promotes the actual production of organic carbon. In acknowledgment of this fact, Nutri-Tech Solutions P/L (NTS), has researched a variety of options in the search for a user-friendly microbe-multiplying unit, which could offer hassle-free soil-life and leaf-life enhancement. We believe that we have found the ideal tool in the MEND® Brewstar Kit™.
The MEND® Brewstar Kit™ – A Microbe Booster
Workforce Multiplication Made Easy
There are a variety of imported microbe brewing units currently available in Australia (mostly from the US), and they retail for between $5,000 and $15,000 each. The main limitations of these units are their output potential (dependent on the size of the unit), their portability and their cost. NTS developed a brewing kit ideal for the farming industry and it is marketed as the MEND® Brewstar Kit™.
Features of the MEND® Brewstar Kit™
Heat, aeration and agitation are all necessary for efficient multiplication. The MEND® Brewstar KitTM delivers all three in a versatile, inexpensive, portable unit (pump sold separately).
The MEND® Brewstar Kit™. Microbe Booster provides an exciting tool for the microbe grower. The unit is versatile and multi-faceted. Agitation is supplied via a centrifugal pump (sold separately) capable of pumping 300 litres per minute. It is important to provide agitation to the brewing solution to prevent “dead-spots” from occurring in the tank. Heating is supplied from elements that are housed within the pump and the temperature is monitored with a supplied thermometer. Aeration is supplied by four venturi ports that are located at the end of the 50mm (2″) flex coil outlet hose. This unit features a bypass system that allows the user to fill spray rigs from the brewing unit without having to stop the aeration of the brew mix. In addition to microbe multiplication, the unit can also be used for solubilising granular fertilisers such as urea or humates for DIY recipes. Materials with poor solubility like potassium sulphate and boron products are rapidly dissolved in the heated, agitated environment of the MEND® Brewstar KitTM. The Brewstar KitTM includes the Venturi’s and all necessary plumbing equipment but does not include the pump itself which is sold separately.
- The kit can be attached to any appropriate pump. (suitable supplier listed on reverse).
- This unit can then be used for brewing volumes from min 400 litres to 2500 litres max.
- The MEND® Brewstar KitTM delivers dissolved oxygen more efficiently than most other brewing apparatus on the market and far more cost-effectively.
- The MEND® Brewstar KitTM is a valuable tool for dissolving Soluble Humate Granules to make inexpensive D.I.Y liquid humic acid.
- It is also ideal for dissolving potassium sulphate. The warmth can increase the normal solubility of this material.
- The MEND® Brewstar KitTM can also be used to dissolve urea very effectively or trace elements like boron (which are normally difficult to dissolve).
New Workforce Options
The MENDTM Brewstar promotes the multiplication of beneficial microorganisms, including:
- Nutri-Life 4/20™ biological fertiliser – contains specifically selected strains of beneficial bacteria and fungi.
- Nutri-Life Accelerate™ potent cellulose-digesting compost inoculum.
- Compost tea – A good compost tea is arguably the ultimate base for a living, liquid fertiliser.
Compost Tea – The Essence Of Biological Farming
Internationally renowned microbiologist, Professor Elaine Ingham, claims that all known soil and leaf diseases can be controlled or prevented by using a well-formulated and successfully brewed compost tea. The concept essentially involves taking a good quality compost (a good compost should contain over 15,000 different species in a single gram) and multiplying this incredible biodiversity in a brewing tank. Maximum microbe counts are achieved through providing optimum brewing conditions (heat, dissolved oxygen, etc) and supplying a good food source to satisfy hungry microbes. Beneficial microorganisms can double in number every 20 minutes if they are managed correctly. The end product is applied at the rate of 50 litres of brewed tea per hectare. The cost can be as little as $5 per hectare, and the ‘tea’ can be applied via fertigation (for management of healthy soil) or foliar spray (to restore leaf health).
NTS has developed a state-of-the-art microbe food, LMF™ which can be added to the brewing tank. This exceptional food blend combines a dozen ingredients and, in our trials to date, it has outperformed all other microbe food sources. When these components are utilised in conjunction with the MEND® Brewstar, we should be able to really test Dr Ingham’s disease control hypothesis. Large-scale growers, who have experimented with the microbe brewing concept over the past season, have reported impressive results.