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The Importance of Microbial Communities in Agriculture

The elements of crop production can be dissected into three distinct yet overlapping sectors: (i) Chemical (crop protection and nutrition), (ii) Physical (mechanical activity), and (iii) Biological (seed and plant physiology; microbiology). 

Holistically addressing these components is crucial to ensure plant vigor and to maximize economic yield. However, production practices are often negligent and detrimental to one biological element – the plant/soil microbiome. 

Microbes (e.g., bacteria and fungi) are ubiquitous in nature – there are more microorganisms in one gram of soil than there are humans on Earth [1]. Many of these soil-colonizing microbes have a mutualistic symbiotic relationship with their host plant, meaning both organisms benefit from the interaction.

In the context of agriculture, an abundant, diverse microbiome has been demonstrated to affect crop health in the following ways:

  • Enhanced nutrient mineralization and uptake
  • Resilience against biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) stress
  • Boosted plant immunity
  • Production of hormones and other signaling molecules (by both the plant and microbe)
  • More robust germination 
  • Stimulated plant growth 
  • Improved soil health

AgriGro® is a prebiotic technology leader for agricultural use, providing a line of products that boost the soil’s native biological activity up to 5,000% within 72 hours of application. As a result, plants treated with FoliarBlend®, IgniteS2®, and other prebiotic formulations reap the benefits of a healthy microbiome. They can allocate more energy to primary metabolic processes (e.g., photosynthesis and reproduction). This phenomenon is studied extensively from the molecular level to field-scale and consistently demonstrates healthier soils, higher-yielding crops, and enhanced plant-microbe symbiosis following treatment with AgriGro® technology. Research on specific crops or products can be found here.

According to a recent publication from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, many within the scientific community believe that the next Agricultural Revolution will entail microbiomes’ usage to improve plant growth and development [2]. At AgriGro®, we help initiate that revolution by employing cutting-edge scientific tools to boost crop yield in an all-natural, sustainable manner. Environmental stewardship in this fashion benefits not only the present-day grower but protects the livelihood of future generations.

To learn more about AgriGro®, click here.



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Cover Crops for Enhancing Soil Health and Crop Production

While there is still plenty of the growing season ahead of us, it is never too early to start thinking about maintaining the health of your soil in the offseason. This is especially true if you went the route of prevented planting versus late planting due to the flooded soil conditions that plagued much of the Midwest earlier in the season. Diverse, rich soil and cover crops are two important components to success and in today’s blog, we’ll take a closer look at each of them. Let’s get started. 

 

The Importance of Biodiverse, Rich Soil Life

As a primary function of agriculture operations, soil biodiversity is necessary for successful and sustainable growing seasons. This careful balance of natural ecosystems within the soil can have a large impact on yield and so it only makes sense that you’d want the best soil life possible. So how do you gauge the biodiversity of your soil? The following conditions could indicate something is off: 

  • Increased pest infestation
  • Increased weed pressure
  • Evidence of plant diseases
  • Slow seed germination
  • Plants with stunted growth
  • Changes in the soil structure itself
  • Crop residue buildup 

Tips for Achieving Biodiversity and Richness

 

Encouraging biodiversity might seem like a monumental undertaking, but there are a few things you can do to help ensure optimal soil health. Three of these include:

Rotate the Crops You Plant

If possible, avoid continuous crop production of the same plants year after year. Growing different crops prevents excessive nutrient depletion and reduces soil erosion while increasing soil health and crop yield. Additionally, alternating between deep-root and shallow-root crops can improve soil stability and prevent recurring pest infestations.

Use Prebiotics and High-Quality Crop Products

In the absence of sufficient food, soil microbes are unable to build up resources and reserves during the fall and winter for optimal soil health in the spring. Using prebiotics and fertilizer treatments like  IgniteS2® and IgniteS4® to feed microbes allows you to:

 1) increase soil porosity and expedite soil aggregation, and

 2) stimulate microbial activity in order to breakdown crop residues in preparation for the next seedbed. 

 

Plant Cover Crops

Cover crops are those plants that are grown with the specific intent of protecting and enriching the soil. This is especially recommended for those growers who were impacted by the unprecedented flooding in the Midwest in Spring 2019. When paired with high-quality prebiotics and fertilizer treatments, cover crops are a great way to sustainably and effectively revitalize nutrient-lacking soil.

Why Plant Cover Crops?

There are several benefits to planting cover crops. A few of them include: 

Reduced Instances of Fallow Syndrome

Letting your field be fallow in the offseason might be tempting, but it can prove problematic and result in Fallow Syndrome. This condition is caused by reduced amounts of certain fungi which can impact a plant’s ability to take up nutrients like phosphorus and zinc. In turn, this can cause stunted plant growth. Planting cover crops can help reduce the likelihood of future crops being affected by Fallow Syndrome.

Enhance Soil Health and Fertility

Cover crops help to improve the quality of your soil in many different ways. First, the physical and biological health of the soil is improved, as is water availability. Planting cover crops is also an excellent way to suppress weeds that would otherwise take over fields that are left fallow. Some cover crop roots can even break up compacted layers of soil, which makes it easier for the roots of subsequent crops to develop to their full potential.

Provide Nutrients for Subsequent Crops

In addition to enhancing soil health and fertility, cover crops also increase levels of organic matter in the soil. This is a sustainable means of providing nutrients for subsequent crops, further enhancing the quality of the soil by providing residues that are readily available to be used by soil organisms. Selecting the right type of cover crop based on subsequent crops needs is important to maximizing the benefits of this planting practice.

Prevent Soil Erosion

Soil is more prone to erosion when there are no crops planted in it. Land that is allowed to be fallow in between planting cycles or growing seasons is especially susceptible to washout. Not only does erosion change the layout of your land, but it also robs the soil of essential nutrients that plants need to thrive. Planting cover crops reduces the severity of erosion and can even enhance soil health when crop fertilizers include treatments and additives like IgniteS2® and IgniteS4®

Break Pest Cycles

Crop pests can cause incredible amounts of destruction and financial devastation to even the most established commercial agricultural operation. These infestations may be more likely to occur when the same crops are planted over and over again, as they supply an almost endless food source for the problem pest. Planting cover crops can help break the cycle of troublesome insects, birds, rodents, and other pests that plague your crop production.

Seasonal Cover Crop Tasks

What can you do each season to ensure your cover crop planting endeavor is a success? The checklist below offers helpful insights and tips.

Spring

  • Consider which crops will facilitate early seeding for your fall cover crop
  • Perform soil tests on pH level, organic matter, and biodiversity to serve as benchmarks for later comparisons
  • Determine how and when you will terminate your cover crop

Summer

  • Test water for nitrite levels and record findings for later comparison
  • Test soil for compaction and water filtration, recording your findings

Fall

  • Plant cover crops as soon as possible after harvest
  • Record crop yields during harvesting

Winter

  • Educate yourself on cover crops, soil health, and soil biology
  • Identify the worst erosion areas and set long-term goals
  • Fine-tune your cover crop plan
  • Line up seed, equipment, and other necessities for planting cover crops
  • Check into cost-sharing with the Natural Resources Conservation Service

Boost Soil Health and Crop Yields

Are you searching for ways to enhance soil health in the offseason after harvesting your cash crop? Maybe you have noticed a decrease in yield and suspect that soil health is to blame? AgriGro® offers prebiotics, fertilizer treatments, and other crop products that can help enhance your cover crop efforts while boosting the soil’s biodiversity. Locate an AgriGro® dealer or contact our team to learn more about the science behind our products.

 

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Considering Prevent Planting? Push Yields With AgriGro

There’s no doubt that this spring has been cold and wet. Historic flooding has had much of the Midwest’s farmland underwater since April, leaving many growers holding their breath as they wait for drier soil conditions to return. As a partner in your commercial growing operation, AgriGro® is here to provide products that can help you enhance soil and plant health and its microbiology, effectively allowing you to close the gap between actual crop yields and their true genetic yield potential. Today, we’ll review how this spring’s weather patterns have affected our nation’s corn growers and how AgriGro can help push crop yields to increase profits.

Mother Nature’s Impact

We don’t have to tell you that soil health is one of the biggest factors in profitable yields, and cold, wet soil conditions are simply not ideal growing conditions for crops. However, much of the agricultural sector underestimated Mother Nature’s effect on the corn planting season until the most recent Crop Progress Report was released by the USDA yesterday, June 3. The report estimates that, as of June 2, only 67% of the nation’s corn crop has been planted and that just 46% of the crop has emerged. That means farmers have 31 million acres of corn still to plant.

To add some context to these figures, it helps to compare this season’s planting and emergence rates to those of last year. Reports indicate that, while our nation’s corn crop had a bit of a rough start, 96% of it had been planted and 84% of it had emerged as of June 2, 2018.

Additionally, this year’s planting rates are well below the five-year average for many states:

  • Illinois: 45% planted
  • Indiana: 31% planted
  • Ohio: 33% planted
  • South Dakota: 44% planted
  • Michigan: 42% planted

This data, along with that of years past, reveals the shocking truth that 2019 may go down as the slowest corn planting season in history.

To Plant or Not to Plant

Soil moisture conditions remain at 50% or greater and there is more rain in the forecast for much of the Corn Belt. Some places are so waterlogged that even an inch of rain will keep some growers from planting. While those who planted early are committed to seeing the growing season through, other growers find themselves considering prevent planting as a viable alternative if their final planting date has not yet arrived.

Many growers are tempted to contact their crop insurance agent to file a claim due to abysmal soil health and growing conditions following the widespread spring flooding. However, experts and analysts predict that adjusters and underwriters are going to be somewhat picky this year about approving crop acres eligible for indemnification. Additionally, the price of corn is on the rise thanks to basic supply-and-demand. In fact, some estimate that the price of corn could be as much as $2 per bushel higher than a month ago because of market conditions and several other factors.

With the risks involved in prevent planting and the market conditions being what they are, a unique opportunity exists for growers who decide to wait it out and plant their corn crops — they could see increased profits that are greater than what their insurance policy could potentially pay out.

Improving Soil Health for Greater Yields

Growers in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan have until June 5 to decide whether or not they are going to plant their corn crop. That means that you only have a few days to make a critical decision as a commercial grower in one of these states. If market conditions have convinced you to forgo prevent planting while you allow your land to dry out, you want to do everything you can to enhance soil health and soil microbiology to give your crops the best start possible once you are finally able to plant.

Discover Enhanced Soil MicroBiology with AgriGro

When that time comes, AgriGro products will be there to help you every step of the way. Our crop products are specially designed to provide a wide range of benefits that can help you push crop yields to their full genetic potential to take advantage of current market conditions. From helping seedlings withstand cool, damp growing conditions to encouraging better germination, more even emergence, and improved soil health and microbiology, our products add life to your growing environment, allowing your operation to flourish in a time when others may not be so fortunate.

Ready to get started? Contact AgriGro today to learn more about our biotechnology products or locate a dealer near you.

AgriGro® Meets with Compo Expert to Discuss Soil Health and Prebiotics

At AgriGro®, we are passionate about producing sustainable soil health and prebiotic products that help growers maximize their return on investment while reducing their dependence on traditional agricultural inputs. Whenever possible, we partner with other reputable biotech companies to broaden our reach in the commercial agricultural sector. These opportunities allow us to introduce and provide technical information on our products so that we may distribute them to a wider audience.

On April 25, 2019, we had the opportunity to meet with Compo Expert®, an international producer of special fertilizers and biostimulants, at their Mexico head offices in Guadalajara. Stephen Smith, Co-Owner and President of AgriGro Marketing, Inc., and Tim Tesreau, VP of Agronomy and Technical Support were in attendance, along with AgriGro’s Latin American Representative, Fred Helwig and William Olyslager, owner of Fertilizantes Naturales AgriGro’s distributor in Guatemala.  The gentlemen participated in MSc. Mauricio Navarro Garcia’s three-day biostimulant course, bringing more than 70 combined years of experience to the table.

Mauricio Navarro Garcia has been an Agricultural Independent Technical Advisor for nearly 25 years and he is an invaluable Research Associate who has dedicated his work to helping companies like AgriGro develop effective high-quality bio-stimulant products. His work and research have helped revolutionize areas of plant nutrition, soil health, and bio-stimulation. Needless to say, our team was honored to have a booth at the event so that we could share our knowledge of soil health, yields, and profitability.

Whether on a global scale or a much more local scale, AgriGro is here to support local growers in all of their sustainable crop production needs and we would love to speak with you about how our prebiotic products can enhance your soil health. Contact us today or get in touch with a local dealer to learn more about all of the ways we can help you take your commercial agricultural operations to the next level.

 

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Prebiotic Nutrition for Increased Crop Production and Profits

 

As a grower, you understand the critical connection between the health of your soil and the quality of your crop production. Throughout the years, numerous probiotic soil treatments have been incorporated into the agricultural marketplace in order to increase plant strength, enhance growth rates, and help crops be more resistant to disease. While probiotics may be an effective means of enhancing plant nutrition, they are not without their shortcomings.

If you are searching for a natural way to decrease inputs while increasing your crop yields and profits, AgriGro® has a solution for you. We offer several prebiotic products that can help you achieve your production goals while enhancing soil health and increasing crop production. Let’s take a look at what makes our prebiotic formulations so effective.

Probiotics vs. Prebiotics for Crops

To understand the fundamental difference between probiotics and prebiotics, we must review the makeup of each treatment.

Probiotics

Probiotic formulations rely on live microbial strains to provide the majority of crop production benefits. Many of the numerous probiotic products available on the market today are not well suited for commercial agriculture applications. Probiotics are somewhat unstable because they contain live microorganisms. Additionally, they:

  • Only contain one to four strains of effective microorganisms
  • Have a very short shelf life
  • Are difficult to mix with fertilizers, pesticides, and other inputs
  • Don’t feed native microbial populations in soil

Although probiotic treatments have become common in agricultural production in recent years, it is difficult to determine exactly the benefit they provide. For example, the Oregon Department of Agriculture evaluated 20 probiotic products in 2015. All of these products were well within their label-displayed expiration date, and all claimed to contain four commonly guaranteed bacterial strains: Bacillus, Glomus, Pseudomonas, and Trichoderma.

The evaluation detected no live bacteria in at least one or more of the bacterial strains that the manufacturer claimed on the label. What’s more, only 25 percent of the products tested actually met its guaranteed label analysis. This information can be difficult to process, especially for growers who invest their hard-earned money on potentially unreliable products.

Prebiotics

Here is where AgriGro can help your agricultural operations: unlike probiotic products that contain live bacteria, our exclusive formulations delivers an advanced prebiotic concentrate that contains no live bacteria. These innovative prebiotic formulations contain more than 400 different biomolecules that are naturally produced, making them some of the most complex in the industry today. Our prebiotic formulations have many advantages over probiotic formulations because they are:

  • Stable. Our prebiotics have a long shelf life — four years or longer — because they do not contain live bacteria.
  • Versatile and convenient. Our prebiotic products can be applied with fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides without concern.
  • Environmentally beneficial. Prebiotics in our products significantly increase the thousands of beneficial native microbial species already residing in the soil.

Choose Prebiotic Plant Nutrition From AgriGro

Here at AgriGro, we understand the importance of the biological component of crop production, and we have been a leader in the field of prebiotic technology for agricultural use for more than 40 years. Our innovative prebiotic products are designed to help you grow higher quality, better yielding crops while lowering your production costs and reducing dependence on chemical inputs. It is our mission to provide sustainable, cutting-edge technologies that help farmers improve soil quality and crop production by maximizing biological performance by enhancing what nature has already provided, and we would love to do the same for your commercial agricultural operations. To learn more about SeedMaxx®, Ignite S2®, FoliarBlend®, Ultra®, and our other products, or to locate a dealer near you, contact the AgriGro team today.

 

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