The record high price of fertilizer is pushing growers to explore alternative ways to achieve maximum productivity. While soil health is an important player in achieving high-yields and optimizing fertilization management, many of the foundational soil health practices such as cover cropping and composting, are impractical to implement at this point in the season. However, one practice is still feasible that can recruit the use of microbes to both access and make available nutrients and water in the soil– Bio-fertilizers.
Biofertilizers are substances containing variety of microbes having the capacity to enhance plant nutrient uptake by colonizing the rhizosphere and making the nutrients easily accessible to plant root hairs (1). Terra Thrive PRO Vermi-Extract is an example of a biofertilizer. To make this product, fully composted cow manure passes through the gizzard of the earthworm, is grounded into a fine powder, after which the digestive enzymes, micro-organisms and other fermenting substances act on them further aiding their breakdown within the gut, and then finally passes out in the form of “casts” which are then acted upon by earthworm gut associated microbes converting them into mature product, the “vermicomposts”. Our extract “extracts” the microbes, plant growth promoting hormones, humic and fulvic acids from the remaining organic material and ships it to you for direct application. Unlike other biofertilizer products which are made in the lab or not via soil-based methods, our microbes are adapted for soil and thrive in soil.
A study by Dr. Cale Bigelow at Purdue University, found that when TerraThrive PRO Vermicompost and Extract were combined with the standard fertilizer practice, the amount of fertilizer could be reduced by 50 and 75% without reducing yields.
DNA sequencing analysis conducted by Biome Makers identified more than 400 microbial species in TerraThrive PRO Vermicompost and Extract. Of those sequenced, 35-70% are microbes that fix or solubilize macro and micro-nutrients. Most nutrients require microbial processing mineralize or catalyze processing to make nutrients available to plants. As such, many soils have hundreds of pounds of unavailable nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium etc. These nutrients are in the soil either from years of applying these materials, naturally-occuring sources or bound up in soil organic matter. Microbes are the key to accessing nutrients that are sitting in the soil but are not in a form available to plants. By augmenting the soil with these microbes, this increases the potential for nutrient availability.
Plant roots are also a player in accessing roots. Roots must encounter the nutrient in order to use it. More roots means more ‘mouths’ to access the nutrients and water. Vermicompost and vermiextract are rich in plant hormones and plant-growth regulating (PGR’s) substances which directly result in more root length, root branching and fine roots.
Skyrocketing fertilizer costs may be the catalyst to integrating a biofertilizer into a nutrient program, but the resulting improvements to water and nutrient efficiency may be what keeps it in the program.
Solution: TerraThrive PRO Applied in May
Applying a natural bio-fertilizer could be a big help. A bio-fertilizer colonizes soils with abundant beneficial microbes that open nutrient pathways and increase root development, increase nutrient uptake efficiency, and improve plant response to abiotic stresses including transplant shock, drought, high soil salinity and above average temperatures.