Darryl has just under 15 years experience helping growers build value on their farm in order to increase profit through the smart purchase of crop protection products, fertilisers and biologicals. Darrly grew up on a small farming operation in Canada and has owned and run a liquid fertiliser company and ran a biologicals business, which adds to his incredible depth of knowledge in the Australian ag industry.
Feb 15, 2022
Biological products were originally thought of only as an organic practice. Over the last 30 years, this attitude has changed considerably and biologicals are widely used in mainstream farming both chemical and organic systems. Biologicals encompass a wide range of products and practices to help enhance soil fertility, biological activity and plant growth. These include soil amendments in both solid and liquid forms, foliar treatments and phyto stimulants among others. Over decades, we have improved our farm practices to: Reduce soil erosion from wind and rain; Increase nutrient levels in the soil; Reduce fallow acres; Increase water infiltration into our soil; Increase yields; and Decrease weed pressures. Unfortunately, many of these practices simply looked at the chemical or physical properties of our soils. They paid little or no attention to the real workhorses of our soil, the living biology. These organisms both small and large help to aerate soil, feed plants, cycle nutrients, balance pH levels, protect from root disease and supply water. Soil biology has a symbiotic relationship with plants. They help to bring all the things required for healthy growth to the growing plants. In return, the plants produce substances that the soil biology can readily use as a food source. The problems associated with live biological products is that science does not understand 90% or more of what happens in our soil. This brings on inherent problems with trying to identify different strains of biology and then trying to add them to our soil in quantities that will be beneficial to both the soil and to the growing plants. A lot of work and money has been spent by 1000’s of companies around the world to identify certain strains of biology and put them to work, such as Bacillus Thuringiensis in corn and cotton this bacteria has many insecticidal benefits for these crops and has reduced the use of insecticides immensely in corn and cotton. What to look for in your soil or plants to see if a biological product could help: Hard tight cloddy soil; Surface crusting of soil; Compaction; Powdery or silty soil; Root systems not growing properly; Areas of paddocks with poor plant growth; Root disease increasing in paddocks; and/or Water puddling on the surface for extended periods. There are a myriad of products on the market so choices must be made on what product or products to use. Many choices can be eliminated by simply looking at cost or application methods including return on investment. Most of the biological products come from the horticulture industry which in the past has had a larger ability to pay for high biological products. What works on a small acreage type situation will not likely work on a larger broadacre operation simply due to cost and application methods. Tips to finding good biological products: Will the manufacturer give you a list of ingredients; Does the manufacturer have contacts you can call to verify any claims or results; Will the manufacturer supply any product to trial on your farm; Do the stated claims sound too good to be true or the list too long to be believable; Is there any verifiable science behind the product; Will the manufacturer stand behind the product; Will the product fit into your current farming practices; If the product is a live biological product will it affect your native biology; Is the product rate clearly defined or is it a wide rate range; Will the manufacturer or representative be back to crop check and look at results with you in crop; Be clear with the representative with what you are trying to achieve if you have sought them out; and Ask if there is a guide to possible return on investment with the product. Most biological products really shine when there is stress in the growing crop be that too much water, drought, temperature etc. Think of soil applied biological products as a way to supercharge soil to make better conditions for your crop to grow in. The one thing that will be here long after we are gone is the soil. If you are running a family farm you will likely be handing the land down to the next generation, biological products can help to increase your soil productivity. With the current development curve in biological products and most of the big major crop protection companies developing biological products this area has huge potential to be the next “Green” revolution in agriculture. The best situation in my opinion is that we can use the best of both worlds. We can use biological products to improve soil and plant health. This should let us use chemical products more sparingly therefore we all benefit from this reduced chemical use. Please remember healthy vigorous growing plants have natural defenses against disease and insect pressure. Learn more To find out more about our biologicals range of products available to help your farming operation, please visit fbn.com/en-au/direct .
Feb 11, 2022
Being a transplanted Canadian, I have been living and working in Australia for the past 16 years, mostly in the agriculture field. I am originally from a small farm in central northern Saskatchewan. Pulse crops played a large part in rotations, mainly field peas starting in the mid-80’s. With 1980’s technology this was a struggle due to lodging, disease and the short growing season. An Australian Canadian perspective on pulse crops My area had approximately 93 frost free days. This makes for a very compact growing season. So harvesting pulse crops was very challenging and they soon lost favour amongst growers and Canola started to become the main crop other than wheat and barley. Canada has gone on to become the world's largest exporter of Canola. Field peas made a resurgence in the mid-90’s as better varieties became available that resisted lodging and disease. Most of the field peas were/are grown in the northern and Eastern Saskatchewan grain belt that has poorer soils than central Saskatchewan but has better rainfall. Central Saskatchewan was always the hotbed of pulse growing, especially lentils, chickpeas and dry beans. Most of this lentil production is exported to India and Turkey. Chickpeas and dry beans’ main market is the USA. Central and southern Saskatchewan were ideal to grow lentils and chickpeas and durum wheat as they have quite hot summers with lower rainfall in most of central Saskatchewan which has an average rainfall of 200mm per year. Southern Saskatchewan this total is even lower at 120 to 150mm per year. Snow does help this somewhat but with 300mm snow equalling 25mm rain it is not the answer to their moisture needs (dry beans include black, navy, faba, pinto). Lupins are a very new crop in western Canada with trials just starting in 2019/2020 to see the agronomic benefit of this crop into the western Canadian feed market. They have a ways to go to prove any benefits over the traditional barley or corn rations. Eastern Canada, mainly Ontario, grows lots of corn and soybeans as their climate is better adapted to these crops than western Canada. Wheat is also a large crop in Ontario along with dry bean pulse production. Ontario has not been as affected by the extreme dry conditions experienced in western Canada in 2021. We’ll focus on western Canada as that is the area that has the most relevance to what we grow in Australia. The 2021 crop in western Canada was one of the worst on record with many of my mates recording the lowest yields they have ever seen since the 1930’s. Yields were in the 100 to 200kg per ha over large areas. Fortunately, they have a well established crop insurance program that has helped them remain viable. Normally, these kinds of drought conditions come in two or three year lengths, the last one being in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Their outlook for the 2022 growing season looks to be dry as many paddocks were harvested extremely low to the ground which has made any capture of moisture extremely limited. The confidence of a good season in 2022 among all the people I talk to in Sask. and Alberta is not optimistic of a good year. Below average year is their expectations. They have the lowest carryover of crop in near history. This bodes very well for us here in Australia as we are all aware that the grain markets price the Australian crop after the North American harvest is underway. Even with the expected increase in pulse crop seeding hectares in Australia due to high fertiliser prices, the pricing should stay very firm in 2022. As always many factors play into this scenario. In pulse crops, plant stand is very important as most pulse crops do not compete well with weeds. Seeding rate plays a huge part in this; a typical seeding rate for lentils in Saskatchewan Is 85 kg/ha. Farmers that I have worked with in Australia have upped their lentil seeding rate to 65/70 kg/ha with very good plant stand numbers and increased yields over the lower seeding rates they were using previously. Most pulses we grow in Australia fit into a similar scenario. It can be very advantageous to try different seeding rates on your farm to see if a different seeding rate can pay benefits in your farming system. In pulse crops, inoculant plays a huge part in the growing of these crops as pulse crops once established can provide not only their own nitrogen but can also provide extra nitrogen to the following crops. Inoculation is the process whereby bacteria are coated onto the seed; this bacteria then infects the roots to create the symbiotic relationship with roots to allow nitrogen from the air to be absorbed by the plant to not only be used for growth but also to supply an excess that is left in the soil for the following crop. All pulse crops should be inoculated with the correct strain of bacteria to help the plant produce this excess nitrogen and maximise the benefits of the pulse crop. Most soil contains small amounts of the correct strain of bacteria for nitrogen production but inoculation ensures that there will be enough to infect the roots. This is why these crops have become instrumental in our modern farming system rotations. Learn more To find out more about our range of products available to help your farming operation, please visit fbn.com/en-au/direct