Why Integrate Biological Products?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

I get a lot of questions from growers about integrating biological products and the cost of organic and sustainable products relative to conventional products. Today, our ability to measure the impact of about everything in agriculture is validating why we need to start to move away from conventional fertilizers and introduce products that begin to build soil health. Whether the grower is organic or still uses some chemical fertilizers and pesticides, farms that have adopted this transformational suite of practices are reporting harvests that consistently match or exceed those from neighboring conventional farms after a short transition period. Farmers who restored their soil use fewer inputs to produce higher yields, which translates into higher profits. This is a key point: supplementing biological products will require fewer conventional inputs over time. In addition, the results are going to only get better ultimately as soil biology improves, producing superior yields and quality and reduced insect and pathogen pressures.

Conventional fertilizers really haven’t been around all that long. Around 1947, the U.S. government had a huge postwar surplus of ammonium nitrate (the main ingredient in making explosives). Ammonium, it had been known for some time, is an excellent source of nitrogen for plants, which helps them convert sunlight into carbohydrates. So the government instructed an Alabama munitions plant to make chemical fertilizer from its bomb material, and modern-day fertilizer was born. Similarly, modern pesticides were derived from poison gases first developed for wartime use.

With today’s food politics, the chemical fertilizers and pesticides that increased agricultural yields in the 20th century aren’t getting a lot of attention. Companies aren’t synthesizing new chemicals but instead are investing in products with plant extracts, soil microbes, chitin, enzymes, etc. Going “natural” might sound unrealistic, but these biological products are far more advanced than throwing compost on your soil. Whether fungicides, pesticides or growth stimulants, carefully-designed, naturally-derived products are the current agricultural favorites attracting both startups and heavyweights like Monsanto, Bayer, and DuPont by the billions of dollars. Also, regulations are discouraging the use of synthetic fertilizers, limits have been put in place and therefore, farmers need viable options that work!

Ag companies have spent decades synthesizing chemicals, and they know how those chemicals work. Similarly, there is a discovery process taking place in the microbial world. There are still a lot of unknown soil bacteria out there but, on plus side, they may hold the key to all kinds of advancements in agriculture.

Andaman Ag offers an array of organic and sustainable fertilizers, soil amendments, biostimulants and biological solutions, including water and drip-line treatments. We have experience in supplementing and combining these materials to deliver exceptional results.