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This is about soil testing at NTS but info i think is very handy knowledge

part 1 http://blog.nutri-tech.com.au/soil-therapy-guidelines-understanding-your-soil-report-1/


I am currently writing new guidelines for our Soil Therapy™ reports. It occurred to me that these detailed explanations of every facet of a good soil test might be of value to Nutrition Matters readers, so I have decided to share. In this first installment, we shall look at CEC, TEC, pH, paramagnetism and organic matter, as these are the first five categories on a Soil Therapy™ report.


Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) offers an immediate guideline as to the nutrient and moisture storage capacity of your soil. A light sandy soil might have a CEC as low as 3, while a heavy clay soil might be as high as 60. This is essentially a measure of the clay component of your soil, and it can also indicate the appropriate fertilising strategy. A light, sandy soil, for example, should ideally be spoon-fed via fertigation (if possible) because it is not capable of much nutrient or moisture storage.

The term "cation exchange capacity" refers to the fact that an exchange often takes place when a cation (a positively charged ion, e.g., calcium, magnesium, potassium or sodium) is removed from the clay colloid by the hungry plant. The plant must maintain an internal electrical balance so it releases a cation whenever it takes one on board. There would be no sense in taking in one nutrient and spitting out another, so the plant releases the non-nutrient mineral, hydrogen, whenever it takes in a cation like calcium or potassium. Hydrogen is effectively exchanged on the clay colloid and this lowers soil pH, as hydrogen is the acid element.


This refers to Total Exchange Capacity. It effectively means that the percentage of the non-nutrient mineral, hydrogen, has been factored into the equation. A good soil test must always feature a TEC reading. If not, there is a risk that the relative percentages of the other major cations, that together comprise "base saturation" may be misleading. Base Saturation will be covered in more depth later, but essentially it relates to the percentage of the major cations (bases) that are "saturated" on, or attached to, the clay colloid.

Without the inclusion of hydrogen in the mix, you can be misled into thinking that you have an adequate cation balance when, in actual fact, half of your clay storage might be the acid-forming, non food mineral, hydrogen, that has not been measured. If this were the case, the slice of the pie represented by percentages of calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium becomes very different when factoring in the 50% dilution effect of all of that hydrogen. In short, your CEC might look fine but you may actually have an empty fuel tank, and it is not apparent if Total Exchange Capacity (TEC) is not included in your soil test.

Soil pH

pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of your soil. Soil pH has a major impact upon nutrient uptake. Most minerals are most available to the plant at a soil pH of 6.4, so this is considered the ideal soil pH. Acidic soils will render some minerals less available and alkaline soils will also compromise nutrient uptake. Please see the diagram below highlighting this phenomenon. An oversupply of hydrogen drives soil acidity, but hydrogen disappears from the equation when the soil pH is above 7 (neutral).


Mineral availability at different soil pH levels


If you have inherited a high pH soil, driven by an excess of magnesium, or sodium, or both, then it is a good strategy to bypass the associated soil lockups via direct route into the leaf. In this case it is always a productive strategy to foliar spray iron, manganese and boron at least twice per season, as they are the minerals most impacted by high pH soils. If your soil pH is 8.0, for example, it can be tremendously effective and profitable to compensate with foliar applications of iron, manganese and boron (in cereal crops, usually at the five leaf stage and again immediately before flowering).


This is a guideline as to the productive potential of your soil. This phenomenon was first described in the soil by the brilliant US scientist, Professor Phil Callahan. Phil identified that the productive fertility of volcanic soils was directly related to their paramagnetic quality. In fact, the higher the reading on a PCSM meter, the lower the problems and the better the outcome.


Phil Callahan and the PCSM meter


Here's how it works. Volcanic soils serve as an antennae and receiver to attract and store an atmospheric energy called Extra Long Frequency (ELF) radio waves. This energy was originally derived from lightning bolts, where that explosive energy was converted to a more subtle and stable form in the atmosphere. Volcanic soils do more than attract and store this energy, they can convert it to tiny light particles called biophotons. The release of these measurable light particles into the soil effectively provides light for the plant roots and the army of organisms that surround them. This light energy boosts root growth and nodulation in legumes, and stimulates beneficial microbes.

The good news here is that if you have a non-volcanic soil with low paramagnetism (fertility score), then there is a cost-effective way to build both paramagnetism and productive potential. Basalt crusher dust with a high PCSM reading (over 1600 cg) can be sourced very cheaply throughout Australia. This highly paramagnetic dust can be applied to your soil to lift your levels and increase your fertility. Many quarries will provide paramagnetic scores for their product but NTS also offers a free testing service for crusher dust, to help you determine if local sources are of value. Just send us 100 grams of the dust in an envelope with your email details.

Organic Matter

This may be the single most important parameter on your soil test. Organic matter, or humus, is the true essence of soil fertility. If you can work toward building organic matter in your soil, there are a multitude of profound benefits. These range from improved water and nutrient retention and reduced soil loss (through erosion) to greater crop resilience, less need for chemicals and more fun in your farming enterprise.


Organic matter is the "great forgiver". You can weather your way through all sorts of mineral imbalances and deficiencies in your soil, simply because the humus compensates for, and buffers against, most problems. The higher your humus levels, the larger your microbial workforce and the more successful your growing enterprise. Cover crops, microbial inoculums, humates, compost, minimum-till, intelligent grazing strategies and reclaiming earthworm counts are some of the humus building strategies that can make farming more profitable and so much more fun.

Next week we will continue with Part 2 of "Understanding Your Soil Report". Please feel free to email me, or our Agronomy team (agronomy@nutri-tech.com.au), if you have any queries or need further explanation. It is immeasurably important to fully understand your soil test. When we comprehend this critically important monitoring tool, we take the guesswork out of nutrition, we are more empowered, and we are less likely to suffer the joy-killing stress that can undermine our farming pleasure.


part 2 http://blog.nutri-tech.com.au/soil-therapy-guidelines-understanding-your-soil-report-2/

In this segment, we will consider the two major minerals, nitrogen and phosphorus, in relation to your Soil Therapy™ report. The goal here is to clarify the key roles of these minerals, identify their ideal levels, and to offer some brief management strategies.


part 3 http://blog.nutri-tech.com.au/soil-therapy-guidelines-understanding-your-soil-report-3/

In this third instalment of the Soil Therapy™ guidelines, we will consider the major soil-sweetening cations, calcium, magnesium and potassium.


part 4 , Coming soon 

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part 4 http://blog.nutri-tech.com.au/soil-therapy-guidelines-understanding-your-soil-report-4/



Soil Therapy™ Guidelines – Understanding your Soil Report (Part 4)  

09 FEBRUARY 2017


In this instalment of Soil Therapy™ guidelines, I will continue to highlight the key characteristics and

strategies relative to the minerals measured on your soil test. Here, we will consider sodium and sulfur.


Sodium – Friend or Foe?


Most growers think of sodium as an unwanted intruder when, in actual fact, it is a very important mineral

for healthy plant growth in halophytes and C4 plants. The "bad boy" tag relates to our mismanagement of

the landscape and contamination of underground water with excess sodium. When we strip the trees from

the farmscape, the water table rises and salinity is a common outcome. When we pour on the salt-based

fertilisers and destroy our soil life, the subsequent decline in soil structure facilitates the trapping of sodium

in the root zone and a host of associated problems.


Key Roles


Sodium is a key electrolyte that helps facilitate the thousands of messaging reactions that are part of the

electrical life of the plant. It is not an essential mineral, but it can be used in small amounts for opening of

stomata and for chlorophyll formation.


Key Characteristics


A high sodium soil will have poor soil structure, as an excess of this mineral disperses clay colloids,

making soil more prone to collapse and erosion. This dispersive effect is the opposite to the stabilising

effect of calcium on clay. The calcium ion, with its two positive charges, is a stronger flocculating

agent and is able to hold soil particles together in small clusters called aggregates, thus stabilising soil

structure. Sodium, with a single charge, can not lock clay colloids together in this manner.

When excess sodium enters the plant, it can expand in the heat and burst cell walls, resulting in the

telltale burnt margins that are symptomatic of a sodium overdose.



Ideal Levels


Ideally, we should always try to keep sodium below 50 ppm. In terms of base saturation percentages,

sodium should never exceed 1.5%. The most important consideration here, however, is to ensure that

sodium never exceeds potassium in terms of base saturation percentages. The ideal potassium to sodium

ratio is 5 parts potassium to 1 part sodium.

However, an interesting phenomenon occurs when the percentage of sodium ions attached to the clay

exceeds the percentage of potassium. In this instance, the plant becomes confused. Sodium and potassium

are similar sized ions and, for millions of years in nature, there has always been a greater percentage of

potassium saturating the clay colloid than sodium. However, in many areas, we have messed up that equation

and the plant has not adapted to our mismanagement. When the plant requires potassium, it simply selects

the most abundant of these lookalikes from the clay. If sodium is more abundant than potassium, then that

is the mineral uptaken. The end result is that our crop unintentionally absorbs an unwanted, unproductive

mineral, rather than potassium ("the money mineral"). Sugars are not moved, fruit and seed does not size up

and there will be less yield and profit as a result.


Key Considerations


If you are deficient in sodium, it must be applied. Sea salt is the very best source, however, pool salt can

be purchased inexpensively from your local hardware store to address a sodium deficiency. At this point you

may be thinking about the Romans’ use of salt to destroy the food-producing soils of their enemies. Here,

we are talking kilograms rather than the tonnes of salt involved in the Roman war crimes.

Sea salt offers more than sodium chloride. It is rich in all 74 minerals, which your soil is often lacking. When

the Maldives were engulfed by the ocean following a tsunami, it was thought that this would devastate

Maldivian agriculture. In actual fact, they experienced record yields the following season.

We have extracted the full spectrum of minerals from our soils for many decades without giving back. Ocean-based

inputs like sea salt, kelp and liquid fish can offer restitution for these withdrawals and the visual response can

often be quite impressive. The productive application rates vary from 10 – 50 kg per hectare of sea salt, depending

upon the size of your deficiency, and application method. It is always a good strategy to include humic acid

to buffer the sodium and increase trace mineral uptake.

If you have too much sodium, there is a two-pronged strategy. The first consideration is to boost potassium

to ensure that you have more potassium than sodium saturated on the clay. Secondly, you need to look at

ways to remove and buffer the sodium excess. Gypsum (calcium sulfate) can be helpful. Here, the sulfates

break free from the calcium and form highly leachable sodium sulfate. The calcium, in turn, helps flocculate

the soil to speed the leaching of this newly formed sodium sulfate. This sodium-neutralising effect can be

fast-tracked with the use of micronised liquid gypsum (Gyp-Life Organic™). Here, we can fertigate to

achieve rapid root zone management of sodium, while maximising delivery of the all-important calcium component.


The second sodium strategy involves buffering and immobilising the excess. Humic acid and soluble silica

are the most productive tools for this purpose. Humic acid changes soil structure more rapidly than any other

input and this can speed the leaching of unwanted sodium. Silica forms a gel compound with sodium and

immobilises this mineral. These two inputs have proven to be our most effective tools when confronted with

saline irrigation water. In this instance, potassium silicate is fertigated at 5 – 10 litres per hectare.

Humic acid is fertigated at 30 litres of DIY liquid humic acid per hectare. This inexpensive homemade

liquid humate is created by dissolving NTS Soluble Humate Granules™ in water at a rate of 1 kg to every

10 litres of water. The mixture is stirred vigorously and then left to sit overnight, so that the small insoluble

fraction deposits on the bottom of your tank. These insolubles should not be fertigated, as they will clog filters.

However, they should also not be discarded once you have drained the fluid. This sludge is a truly remarkable,

mineral-dense fertiliser to be added to vegetable gardens or your compost heap.


Sulfur – The Protein Essential


We used to get our sulfur for free. Sulfur dioxide billowed from industrial smokestacks and fell back to earth

with the rain. This acid rain damaged forests and waterways and was eventually banned. Many years later,

most farmers have yet to recognise that they now need to compensate for this loss of free sulfur. Sulfate sulfur,

(SO42-)the plant available form of this mineral, is also easily leached. This anion can only be stored in the soil

by attaching to the positively-charged humus colloid. We have lost two-thirds of our humus over the past ten

decades, so sulfur has suffered a double whammy. There is no longer a free supply of this mineral and there

is now much less of the storage medium in the soil (humus) to retain what we have left.


Key Roles


The single most important role of sulfur relates to protein production. The immune systems of humans,

animals, plants and microbes are protein dependent. Protein is made from amino acids, and two of these

essential amino acids, cysteine and methionine, are sulfur-based. If you are lacking sulfur, your crop will

suffer substandard protein production and your plants, animals and customers will suffer accordingly.

Sulfur seriously affects the palatability of pasture, and it is also a root-boosting mineral for all crops

(hence the popularity of side dressing gypsum on potatoes and peanuts).

Sulfur is an acidic mineral that can be used to counter high pH as the sulfate form can help leach high

magnesium and sodium. Sulfur is also a strongly reproductive mineral, so soluble forms (like ammonium sulfate)
should be favoured at the business end of the season (from flowering onwards).


Key Characteristics


Sulfur availability is affected by other anions, particularly phosphorus. It can be a really productive strategy

to try to maintain a ratio of 1:1 between phosphorus and sulfur in both the soil and plants (although individual ideal plant levels vary).

This can help ensure optimum availability of both minerals. Both of these minerals are key players in plant

immunity, so if you can balance them at 1:1 there is an associated increase in resilience.

Sulfur also seems to impart a soil warming effect, hence the popular choice of ammonium sulfate as a starter

fertiliser in cold conditions.

We have also found that if you maintain luxury levels of sulfur in your soils, there is much less likelihood of

suffering from iron deficiency.


Key Considerations


All crops require sulfur, but for some crops it is absolutely essential. These crops include brassicas and all

members of the allium family (garlic, onions, leeks, etc). Canola, for example, is a brassica that demands a

good supply of sulfur. Biodynamics refers to frilly-leafed crops as plants with a "sulfur gesture", as they a

re more sulfur dependent than other species. Curly kale is a prime example.


I often wondered why we could apply identical amounts of sulfur to the soil, as gypsum or elemental sulfur,

and yet the crop response can differ. Sometimes elemental sulfur can paint the field green more effectively

than nitrogen, while the gypsum effect is much less obvious. It seemed counterintuitive, because the sulfate sulfur

component of gypsum is immediately plant available, while the sulfur in the yellow granules must first be

converted to the sulfate form by specialist organisms in the soil. Several years back, I stumbled across research,

which finally explained this phenomenon. When bacteria, like Thiobacillus, are converting elemental sulfur to

plant available sulfates, some of the sulfur is converted to gaseous sulfur dioxide. It turns out that the tiny

breathing mouths, called stomata, on the underside of the leaf can absorb this sulfur gas. In fact, they breathe

it in just like CO2 and the plant response is instant.

Elemental sulfur can also be useful to lower pH in alkaline soils to help increase nutrient availability.

Sulfur burners can be used to add sulfur to irrigation water for this purpose.

Most soils that we test in over 50 countries are deficient in sulfur. Soil tests commonly reveal levels of 10 – 15 ppm.

This is a serious deficiency, which will always reduce resilience, crop quality and yield.

Become sulfur aware, try to improve your phosphorus to sulfur ratio and reap the many benefits.

In the next instalment, I will discuss silica and boron, as these are two more, often neglected anions that can

seriously impact your bottom line.

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Part 5 http://blog.nutri-tech.com.au/soil-therapy-guidelines-understanding-your-soil-report-5/


In this fifth installment of our Soil Therapy™ guidelines, we will look at two interrelated minerals that are so often overlooked in soils and plants around the world. Boron and silicon are anions that are stored on the positively charged humus colloid. We have lost two-thirds of our humus during decades of extractive agriculture and, as a result, these missing minerals must be addressed in all soils.


Silicon – the essence of strength and resilience


Silicon is the second most abundant mineral on this planet. It is a principle component of rocks, soils and clays. However, mono silicic acid, the plant-available form of silica, does not reflect the abundance of the mother lode. In fact, it is screamingly deficient in the vast majority of our food producing soils.

You may be unaware of the role of silica because it is not considered an essential mineral. In a few paragraphs’ time, you will understand that this has been a major mistake. All of us will benefit if our farmers can awaken to the protective potential of this neglected mineral.

Symptom-treating, modern agriculture is based on a reactive approach to crop management. You watch for the symptoms of disease or insect attack and then you bring out the big chemical stick. In less than optimum conditions, this can be a very stressful strategy, and an enterprise based upon fear is not the recipe for peace and harmony in this short life. Nutrition Farming® is all about creating a proactive approach to pest management. Silicon management is a key player in this quest for proactivity.


Key Roles



The starting point for a more proactive perspective is to consider the physical nature of a disease or insect attack. The fungal pathogen must drill through the cell wall to access the "egg yolk" food source, and the insect must also chew through this physical barrier to get to these goodies. The obvious question is, "how can we strengthen this barrier?", to buckle the invading hyphae and to wear the mandibles of the unsuspecting, chewing insects. What does this cell wall comprise? The two minerals that determine cell strength are calcium and silica. Calcium is deficient in the vast majority of leaf tests we analyse, and plant-available silica is deficient in almost all soils. This is a major oversight because the roles of silica involve more than cell strength. In fact, silica delivers an impressive range of benefits, including the following:

1) Silica strengthens the cell wall to help resist insects and disease.

2) A more robust cell wall means stronger stems, and this can prove a major tool to prevent the losses associated with lodging.

3) Xylem and phloem are the nutrient pathways into and around the plant. They are made of silica. Silica nutrition optimises these pathways and improves nutrient translocation.

4) Silica can help neutralise excesses. It is an invaluable tool to counter manganese toxicity or the cell-drying impact of too much sodium. Saline irrigation water can be rendered much less damaging though the immobilisation of sodium with soluble silica.

5) Silica can improve photosynthesis through better presentation of the leaf to the sun (the solar panel). Plants that droop at the first sign of sun stress are often silica-deficient.

6) Silica is, in fact, a stress reliever on multiple fronts. The mineral increases resistance to biotic and abiotic stress. Silica-strengthened plants are better able to handle heat, cold, drought, transplant and predator shock.

7) Finally, and most importantly, silica is an immune elicitor. Recent research has revealed that this mineral boosts the plant's immune response, so that it has more natural resistance to disease and insects. The exciting thing about all known immune elicitors is that they also boost yield, so applied silica can have a fertiliser-like response.



    Silica strengthens the cell wall and can improve photosynthesis



Key Characteristics



The reason for the universal deficiencies in plant-available silica (according to soil tests) is not yet understood. It is assumed that it is related to chemical agriculture, because soils from organic farms usually measure higher. It appears that a group of unidentified organisms responsible for solubilisation of the abundant silica found in sand and clay have been compromised by unbuffered salt/acid fertilisers and farm chemicals.

There is a tremendous silica response in hydroponics, because there is often no silica at all delivered in this soilless system. However, potassium silicate must be delivered via a C tank, as it is incompatible with the nutrients found in the A and B tanks. Powdery and downy mildew can be stopped in their tracks when silica is introduced.

Silica can be applied to the soil or through the leaf, but the response is more rapid and cost-effective with the use of foliar sprays.


Ideal Levels



We are seeking 100 ppm of mono silicic acid in the soil, but this is rarely found. Most conventional farms weigh in at 20 – 30 ppm and the levels are usually double this in organic or biological operations. Ideal leaf levels are not well researched. We have not yet seen a situation where high levels in the leaf (> 500 ppm) have proven anything but beneficial.


Key Considerations


Silica be addressed in the soil with silica-rich fertilisers like calcium silicate or diatomaceous earth, for a long-term, gradual release. When required for problem solving, there is a much more rapid response via the fertigation or foliar application of plant-available silica. There are two options here. Potassium silicate is a soluble silica source that can be applied to the soil or the leaf. Caution is required, however, because it is extremely alkaline and can burn the leaf surface if it is too concentrated, or sterilise the root zone if irrigation water is too alkaline. It is usually diluted at 1:300 for foliar application and applied at just 2 – 3 litres per hectare. In the soil, this rate can be increased to 2 – 5 litres per hectare, however care should be taken to monitor root zone pH. There is also an option for a buffered and boosted form of potassium silicate with the NTS product Photo-Finish™. Here, the alkaline soluble silica is both softened and magnified with a generous inclusion of humic acid, kelp and some proprietary ingredients.

The other choice for plant-available silica involves a liquid suspension of diatomaceous earth (D.E). Diatoms are tiny creatures that once inhabited ponds and waterways in their trillions. They were entombed by geological upheavals and all that remains now is their outer shell, which contains 85% silica. This ancient accumulation is processed to create a cream coloured powder. This material is then milled down to around 10 micron particle size, and held in liquid suspension with special gums, resulting in a very versatile liquid fertiliser. NTS was the first company to create such a liquid, with a product called Dia-Life Organic™. This unique input has rapidly become one of the most popular NTS fertilisers in 55 countries, because it is more user-friendly than potassium silicate. Dia-Life Organic™ is compatible with all other inputs so it is favoured by time-starved farmers seeking multiple inputs with every fertigation or pass of the foliar rig. Dia-Life Organic™ also has no problems with alkalinity and the micro-fine mist it leaves on the leaf can also serve as a buffer against sun damage. Dia-Life Organic™ is applied at 10 litres per hectare when fertigated, while 2 – 5 litres is sufficient for foliar application.


Silica fertilisers from NTS


Boron – critical support for calcium (Ca), reproduction and biology


Boron forms a negatively charged ion (an anion) that can only be stored on the humus colloid. In fact, organic matter is the boron storehouse. This is a problem because organic matter levels are just a third of what they used to be and boron will readily leach in low humus soils. This problem is compounded by a widespread lack of awareness of the roles and critical importance of this mineral. These roles include the following:

1) Boron is the most important calcium synergist. In fact, calcium is seen as the trucker of all minerals and boron is the steering wheel. Calcium does not deliver its host of benefits in the absence of boron.

2) Boron improves many aspects of the reproductive response, including the number of flowers, the flower to fruit ratio, pollination and the retention of flowers.

3) Boron is also responsible for opening the trapdoor that allows the movement of glucose from the chloroplasts (the sugar factories) to the rest of the plant and the roots. If this trapdoor remains closed through lack of boron, there can be dire consequences. When there is no translocation of glucose to the roots and beyond, the army of organisms beneath the roots are starved of energy. The wheels fall off shortly after.


Key Characteristics


Boron is the most leachable trace mineral, so there is tremendous gain in combining it with humic acid. The combination produces a boron humate, which can not leach. The uptake of boron is also enhanced by one-third, due to the increased permeability of cell membranes attributed to humic acid.

Boron-deficient plants will present with symptoms like misshapen, irregular fruit, die-back of growing tips, hollow stems in broccoli, split carrots and incomplete filling of seed heads and corn cobs. There will also be an associated lack of resilience due to poor calcium uptake.

Boron can be toxic to plants if over applied. The general rule of thumb relative to application rates is as follows: boron can be broadcast as borax at the rate of 25 kg per hectare in soils with sufficient calcium but that rate is reduced to 15 kg per hectare in low calcium soils. This equates to a maximum broadcast rate of 14 kg of Solubor in calcium-rich soils and 8 kg of Solubor in low calcium soils. Different rates are applicable when Solubor is fertigated or foliar sprayed, because we are applying the mineral in concentrated form directly to the root zone or onto the plant. Here, the fertigated rate is 1 – 3 kg per hectare and the foliar rate is 1 kg per hectare. In both cases, humic acid should always be included to stabilise and magnify the boron.

Excess nitrogen will shut down boron uptake and high levels of potassium and calcium will do the same. Dry soils will also slow the uptake of boron.

Several plant diseases are linked to boron deficiency and there is also a link to the presence of specific weeds.



Boron deficiency in cauliflower


Ideal Levels


Boron levels should always be maintained above 1 ppm in the soil, but they should not exceed 3 ppm.

Ideal levels in the leaf vary from species to species, but leaf analysis guidelines always provide a range that is considered "acceptable". We have found great benefit in shooting for the top end of the acceptable range and we refer to this as "luxury levels". Boron is part of a key group of minerals we call "the Big Four". The other players in this team include calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. The importance of these specific minerals is based on their link to photosynthesis and, like boron, we aim to achieve luxury levels of all four. If, for example, the acceptable range was 3 – 15 ppm for a particular crop, we would shoot for luxury levels of 14 ppm.


Key Considerations


There is an option available where boron has already been complexed with soluble humic acid in a user-friendly 2 – 5 mm granule. NTS Stabilised Boron Granules™ are a popular input in broadacre, pasture and horticulture enterprises. The granules comprise 3% actual boron, so there is ample room within this complex humic acid format for storage and magnification of other minerals with which the boron humates may be combined.

There is a link between boron and silica availability in the soil that is really worth exploring. We have found that if boron is applied to the soil in late Winter, it can sponsor the solubility of otherwise insoluble silica in Spring. This plant-available silica builds the nutrient pathways into the plant (phloem and xylem), to allow improved access of the most sluggish mineral of all – calcium.

One of the most productive and cost-effective of all strategies involves the foliar spraying of boron, immediately before flowering. This cheap, simple practice improves pollination, increases the flower to fruit ratio and ensures that seed heads fill to the top a little later in the season. Boron can be foliar applied as Solubor (disodium octaborate), at rates of 500 g – 1 kg per hectare. However, it must always be included with humic or fulvic acid to create a stable boron humate that is absorbed 33% more efficiently.

Next week, we will begin looking at the other trace minerals, beginning with zinc and copper. Until then, have fun with your farming.

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Part 6 , http://blog.nutri-tech.com.au/soil-therapy-guidelines-understanding-your-soil-report-6/#



Soil Therapy™ Guidelines – Understanding your Soil Report (Part 6)  

01 MARCH 2017


We have covered the major elements and some key trace minerals in previous postings, but here the focus will be upon the minor minerals, zinc and copper. The concept of major and minor minerals can be misleading, in that we might assume that the majors are more important. This is not the case. The major minerals are simply more abundant, as they are required in larger amounts for their structural and metabolic roles within the plant. The minor minerals typically serve as catalysts or spark plugs, and hence they are required in much smaller amounts. A lack of zinc can actually be as costly as a lack of magnesium, as you will come to understand.


Zinc (Zn) – energy, leaf size and soil-life essential


A deficiency of this trace mineral can be amongst your most costly oversights, because it will always impact yield. Let’s look at why zinc can wield such a punch.


Key Roles


There are five key roles of zinc, which include the following:

1) Zinc is often called the "energy trace mineral" because it is required for phosphorus to successfully build "the battery of life", ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate). ATP is required to transport energy to where it is needed.

2) Zinc has also been called "the drought mineral" because it is required for efficient plant uptake of moisture, particularly in dry conditions.

3) Zinc is of particular importance for Azotobacter, the free-living, nitrogen-fixing organisms that source nitrogen from the atmosphere. In fact, these creatures struggle in the absence of zinc.

4) This trace mineral is also a major player in the transformation of plant sugars into complex carbohydrates.

5) Most importantly, zinc is required to make plant hormones called auxins and these critically important substances, in turn, govern leaf size. A zinc deficiency will always mean smaller solar panels (leaves), reduced photosynthesis potential and less yield. This is why a zinc deficiency can be so costly.


Key Characteristics


Zinc deficiency is characterised by interveinal chlorosis, which means the colour drains from between the deep green veins, and this loss of sugar factories (chloroplasts) reduces production. This loss is further exacerbated by a smaller leaf size and less glucose production. This is why a zinc deficiency can often be as costly as the loss of a major mineral.

It is always wise to avoid inducing deficiencies when addressing any trace mineral shortage. If another trace mineral is marginal, it is so easy to overstep the mark with your target mineral and affect the uptake of another. Zinc, for example, antagonises the uptake of iron, sulfur and copper and, as mentioned, an excess can also impact phosphorus uptake. Ideally, these minerals should also be considered when applying zinc.


Ideal Levels


Ideally zinc should be present in your soil, according to soil test data, at 5 – 10 ppm. The "ideal" is dependent upon phosphorus levels, because we are trying to achieve a phosphorus to zinc ratio of 10:1.

In this context, there is an issue If you have oversupplied phosphorus, because this excess will limit your zinc uptake. This is a common scenario when chicken manure has been abused and misused. In this instance, it is essential to forget about the ideal phosphorus to zinc ratio of 10:1 – if you shoot for this numbers game, you will come unstuck. Lifting zinc to try to counter high phosphorus levels will only induce deficiencies of iron, sulfur and copper. If you have overdone phosphorus (P), you will be locked into regular foliar sprays of zinc to compensate for your mismanagement of P.


Key Considerations


A zinc deficiency will always be expensive because you will have a smaller than optimum leaf size and production will suffer with that smaller solar panel. Leaf analysis will help you diagnose a shortage and perfect zinc nutrition.

Zinc sulfate can be simply chelated with fulvic acid to create an inexpensive zinc fulvate that is very well absorbed.

If you can't afford to correct your soil levels of zinc, an inexpensive liquid inject with zinc sulfate and fulvic acid will provide some early zinc to help get you through the season. There is also the option to foliar spray Farm Saver® Zinc Fulvate (broadacre), Nutri-Key Zinc Shuttle™ (horticulture) or Zinc Essentials™ (Australian Organic Registered Farm Input) to provide in-season zinc nutrition.

Copper fungicides can induce zinc deficiencies. These inputs are amongst the most destructive of all farm chemicals, because copper is a biocide that does not leach. Copper levels build and build with the fungicides until they become a serious liability, impacting beneficial fungi, bacteria, protozoa and earthworms.


Copper (Cu) – natural protection and protein


Copper, when oversupplied, can become a biological liability, as it can kill most creatures in the soil foodweb. However, if it is undersupplied, you will have low protein in your produce and much less resilience.


Key Roles


A copper deficiency will present as reduced chlorophyll density and less photosynthetic potential.

Copper is also important for stem strength, so you may see lodging in field crops, or branch snapping in tree crops, when this mineral is missing.

Copper is often called the "protein mineral", because it is required to lift protein levels (particularly in wheat crops).

Another important role of copper, however, relates to its link to fungal protection. We drench our crop leaves with copper hydroxide and copper oxychloride to combat fungal pathogens on their surfaces, and we can poison our soils in the process. Copper is much more effective when delivered efficiently into the plant rather than onto the plant. The NTS favorite, Nutri-Key Copper Shuttle™, for example, is widely used to address this issue, and it can yield remarkable results.


Key Characteristics


There are usually better alternatives to copper fungicides. It is a big price to pay if you have overstepped the mark with these chemicals, because their impact upon your soil workforce can be long term. Copper stays in the soil like a heavy metal. It accumulates and does not leach.

We work with citrus growers, who have used 100 g of copper sulfate per 100 L to control black spot for decades. They apply as much as 3500 L of water per hectare each treatment, and this equates to 3.5 kg of copper sulfate per hectare, per application. When your soil test reveals copper levels beyond 100 ppm, you are effectively beginning to grow your crop hydroponically.

Beneficial soil life is seriously impacted in the presence of so much of this biocidal mineral.


Ideal Levels


Our horticulture soils need between 5 ppm and 8 ppm of copper, but broadacre soils can still be productive with as little as 2 ppm.

There are some cautions with addressing copper deficiencies. Broadcast rates should never involve more than 15 kg of copper sulfate per hectare. Higher rates can be biocidal, or they can induce deficiencies of other minerals, like zinc.

If you are fertigating copper sulfate to address a deficiency, you should never apply more than 5 kg per hectare, and even that amount should always be buffered with fulvic acid.


Key Considerations


High copper in your soil shuts down phosphorus, zinc and iron. We work with citrus growers where every leaf test reveals serious shortages of these three minerals, regardless of their respective levels in the soil. The grower might have high levels of all three of these important minerals, but the high copper limits their uptake. These growers have created a rod for their own back. They are forced into regular foliar regimes to maintain sufficient phosphorus, zinc and iron within the plant.

We have discovered a productive strategy when copper levels are this extreme. We have found that high applications of fertigated humic acid can immobilise high copper and the associated negatives. 10 – 12 kg per hectare of NTS Soluble Humate Granules™, when solubilised (i.e., DIY liquid humic acid) and fertigated, can immobilise and buffer the copper excess. This high rate of humates also stimulates mycorrhizal fungi. Interestingly, these creatures will, in turn, stimulate improved delivery of immobile minerals like phosphate and zinc. Humic acid also increases plant availability of iron, so this practice can effectively counter all of the three mineral antagonisms associated with excess copper. Humic acid offers multiple other benefits, so it is a genuine win/win scenario. Try it and you will be impressed!

Next week we will look at iron and manganese, in our ongoing exploration of more productive mineral management. I trust you are all enjoying the journey.

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Slight Detour to NTS version of EM-1

Great read if your a organic soil grower & why you should be utilizing a version of EM in your garden 




Nutri-Tech Solutions are proud to introduce Nutri-Life BAM™ (Beneficial Anaerobic Microbes),

a breakthrough multi-purpose microbial inoculum designed to:

  • Accelerate composting and residue breakdown
  • Build yields by soil and foliar application
  • Increase resilience and problem-free farming
  • Treat stagnant manure ponds
  • Revive septic tank systems


Expand your armoury with amazing anaerobes



My entire career has been spent singing the praises of beneficial aerobic organisms, in the soil and on the leaf surface. Anaerobic bacteria were always the putrefying organisms that can develop in the absence of oxygen. They were the undesirables, generating unpleasant smells in compacted, neglected soils and mismanaged compost. One of their exudates, called butyric acid, smells like vomit while another, called hydrogen sulfide, resembles rotten eggs. Both substances are toxic to plant growth at very low levels.

Over recent years, I have increasingly encountered the use of different, non-pathogenic groups of anaerobes, which can offer profound benefits in the soil, on the leaf, in manure pits, in composting, when bailing high moisture forage crops, and as an animal probiotic. These organisms ferment rather than putrefy, and they offer a truly impressive suite of outcomes. In fact, I now feel that they are essential tools in the biological armoury.


The origins of utilising beneficial anaerobes



Lacto-fermentation has been a food preserving strategy in multiple cultures for centuries. Those that have intensely embraced this technology include the longest living peoples on the planet. Lacto-fermented food is said to be vastly superior when compared with the same food that has not been pre-digested. Nutritionists suggest that all of the nutrients found in fermented food are around five times more effective.

Trillions of Lactobacilli inhabit every leaf surface and every soil, and there are no accidents in the perfect blueprint. If these organisms are so ubiquitous, there must surely be a compelling rationale for their presence.

Well, it turns out that there is, and it represents a wonderful opportunity for farmers, graziers, gardeners, and horticulturalists everywhere.

Nobel laureate Élie Metchnikoff first suggested the possibility of colonising the human gut with beneficial flora in the early 20th century. However, it was not until seven decades later that a Japanese Professor, Teruo Higa, inspired by the findings of his colleague, Dr Kobayashi from Kyoto University, kick-started the anaerobic revolution in agriculture. He initiated research that eventually led to the development of the first commercial anaerobic blend, called EM (Effective Microorganisms).

Variations on that theme have sprung up across Asia and South America. The movement has been more pronounced in subsistence agriculture because it is user-friendly and low-cost, and these societies were also less enamoured with the Western, chemical, extractive model. I am convinced that it is high time that this remarkably productive strategy was more widely accepted by the modern agricultural machine. There are no other single options available that can reduce chemical and fertiliser requirements, increase humus, cleanse water holes, sanitise sewerage, spark animal health and performance, improve the nutrient value of animal feed, and dramatically improve the sustainability and potential of composting.


What are these organisms?



These microbes involve multiple strains of Lactobacillus. Interestingly, these include many of the strains found in our best-selling probiotic drink, Bio-Bubble™Lactobacilli are found in the gut and on the skin of all living organisms. They are found in every soil and on every leaf surface and their abundance signals their importance. However, it was only when Professor Higa began researching their roles that we began to grasp their profound significance and exciting promise. Just as lacto-fermented food remains pathogen-free, the lactic acid in the soil appears to help keep disease organisms in check.

The key to the success of our new product Nutri-Life BAM™ is the synergistic nature of this blend of specialist anaerobes.

A second group of organisms found in BAM™ include several species of probiotic yeasts. These include several Saccharomyces strains known to promote plant growth and resilience. Fermenting fungi and actinomycetes are also included to enhance humus building, while improving the protective, beneficial balance.


The other major group of beneficials in BAM™ includes a unique group of photosynthesising bacteria called Purple Non-Sulfur Bacteria (PNSB). These organisms can operate on the phyllosphere (leaf surface) and the rhizosphere (area around the roots). In the soil, these organisms have been shown to boost the metabolic activity of other beneficial bacteria, while stimulating root growth. On the leaf surface, they excrete phytohormones and enhance the activity of multiple phyllosphere species.

These particular organisms have been used as bio-fertilisers for many years in Korea and China, but their mode of action has not been intensely studied until recently. They are self-supporting organisms that produce sugars to stimulate other soil life. They can also build amino acids for the benefit of plants and other organisms. Some researchers have suggested that PNSB generate carotenoid pigments (antioxidants), co-factors (substances that stimulate other organisms) and plant secondary metabolites to promote plant growth.


The short story of Plant Secondary Metabolites (PSM)



Plant Secondary Metabolites include powerful protective substances like alkaloids, terpenoids, phenolics and sulfated amino acids. These substances are amongst the most powerful plant-based human medicines, but they are actually created to assist the plant in multiple ways. The sulfated amino acids, for example, include the protective compounds found in the crucifer (broccoli) and allium families (garlic). The plant benefits of PSM are complex and diverse but they include the following:

1) They provide sunlight and UV protection. 
2) They are antibacterial, and antifungal. 
3) Induced systemic resistance – boosted plant immunity. 
4) They can either repel or attract herbivores, depending on plant intent. 
5) They can inhibit growth of competitive plants. 
6) They can increase tolerance to extreme weather events (critically important as climate change bites). 
7) They can better attract seed disseminators and pollinators. 
8) They increase photosynthetic potential and plant vigour.

This suite of supportive substances offers profound benefits to plants and the microbes that sustain them. In a recent Chinese study involving PNSBfertigated and foliar sprayed on stevia plants (the source of a popular natural sugar substitute, called stevioside), there were substantial results. Chlorophyll density increased, sugar levels increased, biological activity on the leaf and in the soil was enhanced and the yield of stevioside increased by an impressive 69.2%.

Let’s take a closer look at the composting story, as it is dear to my heart.


A different, more efficient way to compost



Composting is an essential strategy for averting global warming, as it stabilises carbon that would otherwise have entered the atmosphere, thickening the blanket and trapping the heat. However, the regular use of compost introduces more to your soil than a source of stabilised carbon. Compost delivers billions of cellulose-digesting organisms to biologically compromised soils to reclaim their humus building potential.


All composting is of immense value. However, there are some question marks about windrow composting, the most popular commercial composting strategy. Here, the compost is turned multiple times involving a substantial, often unrecognised, carbon footprint. Each turning involves a loss of carbon to the atmosphere, as CO2, through oxidation. Nitrous oxide (310 times more thickening of the greenhouse blanket than CO2) can also be lost during this disruption. The pile is dried out when turning, so much more water is required, and this can leach unstable minerals before they are stabilised by humus. Finally, the potential for creating a highly desirable fungal-dominated compost is seriously reduced when we slice and dice their hyphae with each turning.

The reintroduction of a fungal workforce in our soils is a global warming imperative because these are the creatures that digest crop residues and produce stable humus, with a soil-life of 35 years. These cellulose-digesting fungi are the creatures most missing in the majority of soils, as they have been decimated with fungicides, herbicides and nematicides.


Simplicity and conversion are the key



Aerobic composting can be labour intensive and it can involve expensive machinery. Time starved farmers will often resist what they see as "another job" in the face of these challenges. Ideally, we need an option where the composting process is so simple, it becomes much more appealing to become involved. Then, there is the secondary issue of the conversion rate from organic matter to compost.

Due to the loss of organic components during aerobic composting, the conversion rate of organic matter to completed compost is not good. Often, you can expect just 650 kg of compost from every tonne of composting materials. If there is a better way, then it should be explored.


Seven advantages of BAM™ composting



Nutri-Life BAM™ (Beneficial Anaerobic Microbes), the new, super-active, anaerobic blend from NTS, can offer much-needed solutions to all of the limitations and issues associated with conventional aerobic composting. These solutions include the following:

1) Minimum effort – the compost heap can be constructed within a few hours (depending on size) and then it is usually never touched again.

2) Much greater conversion rate – the conversion rate is typically over 900 kg per tonne of organic matter. There is no loss of CO2 or nitrous oxide and there is no nutrient leaching or excess water requirements.

3) Compost in half the time – the compost is completed within 2 months, as compared to 4 – 6 months with aerobic composting.

4) Smaller carbon footprint – there is a much smaller carbon footprint because the ongoing machinery requirements and carbon losses associated with windrow composting are avoided.

5) No biological disruption – this compost is never turned, so there is no damage to beneficial biology. The organisms flourish when undisturbed.

6) Smell-free, fly-free composting – sometimes composting components, like manure, can smell strongly and attract flies. BAM™ anaerobic composting happens under airproof covers. There is no smell or flies.

7) Powerful earthworm stimulant – BAM™ compost has a remarkable effect upon earthworms. Often they will invade the pile and they arrive from everywhere when the completed compost is applied to the soil.

Your BAM™ compost pile is constructed layer by layer, just like an aerobic compost. The "carbon" layer (straw, mulch, woodchip etc) should be at least 20 cm deep, followed by a "nitrogen" layer (green waste, animal manure etc) of the same depth. Lime, friable clay, soil and perhaps a little molasses is sprinkled on each of these layers before they are individually wet down. Immediately prior to the "wet down" process, BAM™ is diluted and applied to each layer at a rate of 1 litre per cubic metre of organic matter. The subsequent hosing down of each layer will carry the applied inoculum throughout the mix.

Upon completion of this layer cake, the 2.5 – 3.0 metre pile is completely covered by an air-proof tarpaulin, or specialist compost cover. Typically, concrete blocks are positioned on the base of the cover and tightly roped to corresponding blocks on the opposite side. This web-like network of ropes effectively keeps the cover tightly fitted and the pile free from oxygen. In this manner, the essential anaerobic conditions are created. Two months later, the pile should be checked and, typically, the composting process will be complete.


Soil and plant benefits



Beneficial Anaerobic Microbes (BAM™) can be invaluable problem solvers in the soil and on the plant. They can enhance nutrient uptake, exclude unwanted pathogens and rapidly convert stubble and crop residues into humus. During their multiplication, they exude a range of supportive substances, including plant growth promoters. They are renowned for their capacity to stimulate existing beneficial soil life, including earthworms. Trials at NTS have demonstrated a huge potential yield increase from soil or foliar applied BAM™. Six weeks after planting Bok Choy treated with BAM™ had double the shoot weight compared to the control.





The problem solving potential of "drench to drip-off"



During a recent seminar tour of Western Australia, I dined with a consultant who had spent two decades working with similar beneficial anaerobes in Asia. He shared many experiences and multiple photos of his successes using specific application techniques that we had never researched during our trial work with BAM™. Working in a diverse range of crops from vegetables to orchard crops, he has had greatest success with an application strategy involving drenching the foliage, stem (or trunk) and the immediate soil around the plant, with a very dilute application of beneficial anaerobes. He drenches each crop to drip-off with a 1:500 dilution.

This might be repeated once a month for fruit crops and more frequently with field crops. I marveled over photos of 6 kg pawpaws and previously abandoned mango orchards that had been dramatically resurrected with this strategy. Diseased trees and unproductive orchards that were destined to be pushed out were now groaning with massive fruit loads. This accomplished consultant claimed he had rarely had a failure with this strategy and he had witnessed successful management of multiple problems when applying the anaerobes to drip-off.

We have just made up a spray unit to enable the trialing of the "drench to drip-off" concept on our research farms. This involves a 1000 L shuttle that has been plumbed to accommodate a 5 hp pump and a spray wand with 10 metres of hose. BAM™ is added to a 1000 L tank of water, at a rate of just 2 L per 1000 L. The wand will allow rapid spraying to drip-off and the brief hosing of the root zone.


Turning a liability into an asset



Stagnant manure ponds are the bane of many dairy farmers. In many countries, this waste stream cannot be applied to pastures because of an unstable mineral content. The nitrate nitrogen component can contaminate waterways and phosphorous can spark algal blooms. The addition of BAM™ to manure ponds can transform putrid ponds into living liquid fertilisers that are both stabilised and biologically enhanced. These beneficial anaerobes thrive and multiply amidst this stagnation and they effectively convert a liability into an asset.

Similarly, sewerage can be transformed. You can pour BAM™ down the toilet to activate your septic tank and avoid problems.


In conclusion



The inclusion of beneficial anaerobes into your agricultural enterprise may prove to be one of your most productive decisions in 2017. I can think of no other input with this level of versatility and widespread benefit. Polluted waterways can be regenerated, salt and toxins in the soil can be neutralised, the probiotic impact on leaf surfaces and in the soil is profound, odours can be reduced, pathogens managed, and there is no better way to create a super-productive compost in as little as 8 weeks.

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Wow, thanks man, do you work for them?, also I missed your sulphur talk about bringing out ............... whatever , does sulphate of potash powder supply enough sulphur?

Nuh don't work for them but do use some of there gear & they offer some good info 


Sulphur is a catalyst to terpene production & gypsum has basically all the sulphur you need in it  

being organic i tend to top dress more things in the way of food for worm & beneficials 

& let them deliver nutes in available form to the plant , more efficient & much better made plant nutes 

from the soil dwellers than the bottle makers 


i'm sure if you follow the bottle instructions & like anything , don't over do it , it would have a positive effect  

but i've never used it so don't really have any insight 

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Thanks itchy, done a bit of digging, SOP is a powder not bottle btw, has 18% sulphur and 40% potassium, about the same % sulphur as gypsum, you can throw more sulphur on as gypsum I would think


might do a bit more research before I finish my kickarse "super soil"

main thing i think you look for is a balanced mix


you have to make your mind up weather your trying to cover the whole grow in one pot 

with your mix & water only or if bottle feeding as well 


mix doesn't need to be to heavy if adding bottled nutes as well 

& mix needs to be quite hot to support the life of the plant with water only feeds


even subcools mix needs a buffer for new transplants = a lite mix above the hot mix on the bottom 


in no till growing your pretty much keeping a large volume of soil as a pet & constantly feeding it via 

growing in it & top dressing for worms & beneficials to feed , the soil is in a constant state of motion 

alive basically & each grow you do in the same soil gets better , producers more ,smells & tastes better 


a no till soil is much more simple than a subcool type mix but does rely heavily on you feeding / maintaining it or it'll 

run out of steam B4 your grow is over , it's basically trying to be , & is when done right , biomimicry 

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