Imagine a liquid fertiliser that has been specifically designed to nurture and promote the most important creatures in the soil, whilst also supplying a comprehensive food source for the developing crop. This dual functionality has often been promised but rarely achieved as a cost-effective liquid fertiliser. The soil organisms in question are mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). These effective root-extending fungi are the most decimated of all the soil-life stars (numbers are down to just 10% of what they should be) and yet they are our most productive allies when striving to build both soil fertility and profitability. Mycorrhizal inoculums can help replenish the missing workforce but there is a problem here. Conventional farming fertiliser and practices must also be changed to maintain the AMF.
Liquid fertilisers, injected directly into the root zone, have proven to offer the best value in cereals, legumes and cotton crops in recent years. However, their salt/acid base is harsh and their N and P component too overwhelming to be supportive to mycorrhizal fungi struggling to gain a foothold on the growing root. Liquid organic fertilisers are a softer, more supportive option to kick-start this fledgling relationship, but they have proven too expensive to be viable in large scale crop production.
NTS has spent a year developing a new fusion fertiliser, Springboard™, that cost-effectively solves this problem by boosting fungi, soil fertility and crop production. We are very excited with the results achieved with this new product.
Why Are AMF So Important?
Earlier this year we launched Nutri-Life Platform®, a hardy mycorrhizal inoculum with massive spore counts and a Trichoderma tag-on. Nutri-Life Platform® contains so many organisms it can be used to successfully colonise cereal crops for as little as $5/ha and pastures for just $10/ha.
AMF are the planet’s most powerful humus builders and it is this sequestered carbon that will become a farmer’s second income stream in the very near future. Glomalin, the sticky substance they produce, is recognised as the platform building block for over 30% of the world’s soil carbon. The decline in humus in our agricultural soils directly parallels the loss of AMF through extractive agriculture and there is an urgency to replenish our soils with these remarkably productive creatures.
Carbon building is just one of the many functions of AMF. They effectively increase the root surface area by 1000% when they colonise a plant. This gives the plant much greater access to moisture and nutrients. AMF produce natural acids that release locked up phosphorus in the soil, (usually in the form of insoluble tri-calcium phosphate) providing a constant trickle feed of plant-available phosphorus and all-important calcium, directly to the roots. These root extensions also access immobile minerals like zinc and deliver them to the plant. Potassium often becomes trapped within clay platelets in the soil and these fine fungal strands can mine this trapped mineral.
There is also a powerful link between nitrogen-fixing organisms and AMF fungi. Research has revealed a potent synergy between these organisms. The AMF solubilise phosphate, a mineral that is required to fuel the enzymic process that fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere to the soil. In return, the nitrogen-fixers provide a constant source of nitrogen that builds the protein needed to sustain this massive fungal root extension.
These creatures are like little fertiliser machines and they can make a tremendous difference to the bottom line of any crop. Some of NTS’s large strawberry growers have just enjoyed their most problem-free season ever, following inoculation with Nutri-Life Platform® at planting.
Why Do AMF Need Their Own Fertiliser?
There is an intimate relationship between soil organisms and plants and it is important to understand this relationship to avoid the traps that can sometimes be a part of embracing biological principles. The plant feeds the organisms around its roots according to its nutrient requirements. If the plant needs nitrogen and phosphorus, then it will lace its sugar exudates with specific nutrients to encourage the creatures that will supply these minerals. If the crop has been supplied with an abundant source of water-soluble N and P at planting, there is no motivation to sacrifice glucose building blocks to feed the N-fixers and P-solubilisers.
In this same manner, root colonisation of AMF can be compromised in the presence of water soluble P and N. This is why there has been a drastic need for a cost-effective liquid fertiliser that can, whilst feeding the plant, ensure production and also nurture AMF colonisation. We realised that we needed such a fertiliser to maximise the performance of our AMF inoculum, Nutri-Life Platform®. Springboard™ is our solution. It costs less than $3 per litre and it is effective at just 8 litres per hectare.
The Springboard™ Secret
Springboard™ delivers a broad spectrum of nutrition that includes a healthy dose of NPK and a heavy trace element loading. We also placed special emphasis on calcium (over 9%) and forgotten minerals like silica, sulfur and molybdenum. The phosphorus (3.8%) in Springboard™ is available, but not water soluble, and this is part of the key to promoting rather than shutting down AMF. Similarly, the calcium is not based on calcium nitrate so the plant does not feel swamped in soluble calcium and it continues to support the creatures that will ensure calcium delivery throughout the season.
AMF benefit from trace minerals just as plants do. Springboard™ is loaded with trace minerals. Zinc, for example, is present at 3100 ppm, copper at 2200 ppm and boron at 1500ppm. Manganese, the mineral most required for germination and to kick-start seedlings, is well supplied at 4400 ppm. There is also 200ppm of molybdenum in the formula to ensure that nitrogen-fixing organisms can make the molybdenum-based, nitrogen-fixing enzyme, nitrogenase. Silicon is present in a plant-available form at 3.9% and Springboard™ also contains 1.65% sulfur.
Disclaimer: Prices quoted are as at 24-10-11 and are in Australian dollars. Prices may change without notice. Prices exclude GST and delivery charges.