Opinion piece: sustainability gets supercharged thanks to all-new formulation designed to drive yield
As a farmer your job is as simple as it is intensely complex: sustainably produce food to feed the world.
A key component of profitable agriculture is using the exact amount of inputs to drive yields. Fertilizer, your largest expense, must be critically timed to achieve the best results.
Well, what if you could get a timely protein boost, increase yield and be more sustainable all at once? It’s possible with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. This is a next-gen biologicals solution that will soon be a must-have for your farm.
Derived from plants, these naturally occurring bacteria are now commercially available. Applied directly onto the plant as part of your spraying program, this is different than the way a traditional pulse crop fixes nitrogen, for instance. While pulses rely on nodules in the root zone for nitrogen fixation, nitrogen-fixing bacteria utilizes plant leaves. As you spray the bacteria, it gloms onto your crops’ leaves where they then pull in free nitrogen from the air directly into the plant. The result is one more nitrogen top up before harvest, adding a much-appreciated protein bump and three- to five-plus bushels to your bottom line.
A targeted approach means less time in the field
“Because of how easy it is to use, this product makes it very simple for farmers to throw in the sprayer and go,” says Garth Donald, agronomy manager with Decisive Farming. “To me, this is a super sustainable way of managing nitrogen because you’re not adding more, you’re just pulling from the air. This is the Holy Grail of looking at an overall sustainability plan, increase yield and use already available, free nitrogen.”
While a top dress of urea or UAN in-season relies on at least half an inch of moisture to activate itself, nitrogen-fixing bacteria is virtually immune to weather forecasts and begins working in seven to 10 days regardless of environmental conditions.
Already proven on corn and soybeans, the bacteria is now being applied to canola and spring wheat. Donald says farmers may reliably expect to see returns on this input. In recent hot and dry years, that is welcome news for farmers seeking advantages wherever possible.
“Due to its unique nature, there’s less chance of loss through leaching, denitrification, and volatilization,” explains Donald, who notes that your losses may easily be 30 to 40 per cent due to those factors, which is a financial and stewardship headache nobody wants.