Hoorman: Agricultural microbiological products | Local farm


This is the time of year when farmers are considering options to purchase seeds, fertilizers, various pesticides (herbicides, fungicides, insecticides) and other commodities for next year’s harvest. Now, farmers can consider purchasing agricultural microbiology products that require even more specialized knowledge. This article will try to give some basic information about agricultural microbiological products and what they do.

Microbial products have many names, including crop probiotics, biofertilizers, biostimulants, biocontrols or biofungicides. They can be applied to soil, seeds or as inoculants; with or without supports such as compost, peat or stickers. Buying microbiological products is like moving to the Old West. While almost all products work or can generally work, they are fickle and may not work every year due to various environmental conditions. Handling, storing and applying germs at the right time, in the right place and at the right rate on soil, seeds and plants can be difficult (Penn State).

Crop probiotics are living microbes applied to soil, seeds or plants to improve plant health. These microbes are usually bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes, protozoa, yeasts or viruses. Organic fertilizers have the ability to improve plant growth and provide resistance to many pests. Biofertilizers are mainly associated with bacteria or arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMCs). AMFs have around 250 agricultural species that colonize the roots. AMFs make plants available with nutrients, including phosphorus, many micronutrients, and water. Since the factory supplies the AMF with sugar, the AMF therefore has every interest in protecting the plant from insects and diseases. AMF fungi are somewhat specific to each plant species and are strongly affected by local environmental conditions and competition from other microbes. Valent’s EndoPrime © is a type of bio-fertilizer which is a combination of 4 species of AMF fungi known to improve corn and soybean yields which works about 80% of the time but has a money back guarantee.

There are several types of bio-stimulants or organic fertilizer additives. They are used in agriculture to supplement or improve existing products such as fertilizers, thus helping to improve the efficiency of nutrient use. Some examples might include humic and fulvic acids, algae, natural plant extracts, amino acids, and proteins. Most occur naturally in soils due to the decomposition of organic matter. Biostimulants improve nutrient uptake, improve crop quality, improve yield, and help plants tolerate stress.

Biological control (bio-control) products reduce pests by increasing natural enemies such as parasitoids, predators, pathogens or competitors to suppress a pest. Biological control is generally a convenient way to suppress parasites while being easy and safe to use. A common example is Bt or Bacillus Thuringiensis which is a Gram positive bacteria used as a natural insecticide to kill flies, midges, caterpillars, mosquitoes and some beetles.

Biofungicides are also living organisms used to control pathogenic fungi and bacteria. Biofungicides compete directly with pathogens by creating a dense barrier around a root system to protect the plant root from pest attack. They produce a chemical similar to antibodies which are toxic to the invading pathogen.

Many factors limit the use of microbiological products. First, while fertilizers and pesticides are highly regulated, microbiologicals are not, so regulation and safety are limited. For these products, there is no warranty, so the buyer is wary. Second, the microbes or microbial byproducts must survive in a foreign environment. Since microbes are living organisms, weather conditions affect survivability. Soils that are too dry or wet reduce microbial populations, as do soil temperatures above 800 ° F. Living organisms also need a source of food so that living roots and plants in winter can help improve plant life. soil conditions for hungry transplanted microbes.

Third, soil disturbance affects microbial populations. Different communities of microbes exist in no-till systems compared to tilled systems. Tillage generally harms sensitive beneficial microbes that need a more stable environment and habitat to survive. Fourth, there are many predators which far outnumber the small amounts of microbes or beneficial products applied. Fifth, soil microbes face stiff competition. A typical soil measuring one square meter and 6 inches deep can have 100,000 billion competitors. A ten gallon bacterial product can have 2.5 billion bacteria applied per acre, which equates to 0.0025%. In a highly competitive environment, these new microbes or colonizing products may find it difficult to survive.

If the use of microbiological products may seem crazy, it seems to be the wave of the future. Planting cover crops, using direct seeding, improving drainage, and adding moderate amounts of manure or compost can greatly increase the effectiveness of agricultural microbiological products.

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