Psst….. Farmers, are you feeding your IMO’s?

Are you feeding your IMOs

I haven’t met a farmer yet who doesn’t want to improve disease and pest resistance in their crops and/or stock.  Nor have I met a farmer who doesn’t want to lower their fertiliser rates or increase carbon in their soil and I haven’t met a farmer who doesn’t want to have healthy growing pastures or other crops.

Many farmers are starting to understand the importance of biology in improving soil health and the role soil biology plays in achieving the desired outcomes mentioned above. However, many of us are yet to fully unleash the power of IMOs – Indigenous MicroOrganisms, as the name suggests, microorganisms native to your local area.

Using a manufactured biological stimulant is one great way to increase soil biology and improve soil, plant, and animal health, but encouraging IMOs into your farming system is a long-term solution in allowing biology to do the hard yards in improving the overall health of your farming system.

Native microorganisms can outperform and outlast manufactured biological additives. IMOs are the true heavy lifters in the agricultural environment, and there are several simple DIY ways to kick start IMOs in your farming system which don’t need to cost the earth (pardon the pun!). Some of these include:

  • Plant a multispecies cover crop whenever possible – look for windows of opportunity to sneak in a multispecies cover crop. Diversity is one of the best ways to feed the different microorganisms in the soil, such as bacteria, fungi, and other soil biology
  • Good grazing management – keeps plants in an active growth phase which keeps plant roots releasing exudates into the soil and feeding soil biology
  • Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) – brew your own native biology using rice, water, and milk to capture the native bacteria in your surroundings. Make sure you choose an area on your farm which is naturally productive and as free from human intervention as possible, ie hasn’t had fertilizer or chemical application
  • IMO(1 &2) – Collect native bacteria, fungi, yeast, and other microbes from a productive area of your farm free from fungicides, pesticides, insecticides and fertilizer using boiled rice (IMO 1).  Mix IMO 1 with sugar and store in a cool dark place (indefinitely), this can be used as the basis for IMO (3,4 and 5). Brew the IMO(2) with a good quality worm juice, humic acid, fish emulsion, or other biological food source and spray out a couple of times a year to increase microbiology numbers
  • Liquid vermiwash – either produce your own in a worm composting system or a high-quality worm liquid can be purchased ready to apply. NutriSoil is a trusted vermiwash that contains plant-available nutrition, microbes, and plant growth-promoting properties.
  • Bio-stimulants – TM Ag is one of the easiest and simplest ways to increase and stimulate native biology in the soil

Stimulating native biology is the most important thing we can do in our agricultural systems. Biology and microorganisms are the heavy lifters in improving soil health, plant health, and animal health. For more information on how you can improve your native biology please feel free to drop me a line either by email at luke@re-genfarming.com.au or call 0427138100.

Stay tuned to the Re-Gen Farming website for more videos and blogs outlining the steps to make your LAB and IMO 1&2.

Re-Gen Farming Welcomes Zoe

Welcome Zoe Crouch

2022 is an exciting year for Re-Gen Farming, this year we welcome Zoe Crouch to the team. Zoe is currently studying a degree in Science through Southern Cross University, majoring in Regenerative Agriculture, making her a great fit to our role of supporting farmers in their transition to regenerative farming.

Zoe hales from a little hamlet called Landsborough West, on the edge of the Wimmera and the Pyrenees Ranges in Western Victoria. It is a mixed farming area which receives around 450mm rainfall a year.

Growing up on a farm in Western Victoria, Zoe had spent time working in woolsheds, a year in outback Qld and managing an Artificial Insemination centre in Hamilton for five years. This background has allowed Zoe to develop a large network of farmers and wool growers, along the way she has learnt a great deal about sheep fertility and the industry in general.

Having also worked on large stations and properties in senior roles managing livestock, Zoe now manages her own property with husband Luke (Crouch) which they purchased in 2007. In between all this Zoe has completed the RCS Grazing for profit course, the Nicole Masters Integrity soils 10-week course and she has an Ecotherapy Certificate (short course). Along with all this Zoe was Deputy Editor of Working Stockdog Magazine for four years.

Luke and Zoe’s children are now at school which has given them more time to concentrate on improving soil health and creating a diverse ecosystem on their farm, allowing Zoe to put her knowledge and learnings into practise.

Zoe believes regenerative/biological agriculture is like a huge toolbox, providing farmers with so much more at their disposal, providing farmers with more choices about where their journey will take them. Zoe is concerned about the cracks showing in the current farming model and the continual rise in input costs really limits the profit margin, Zoe believes re-gen ag provides farmers an alternative farming model. Zoe says we are only just starting to scratch the surface of what can be achieved within regen/biological systems, and it’s not limited to soil health; the ripple effect is far-reaching to farmer health, livestock health, community regeneration and resilience, improving the life/work balance we often crave and increasing the consumer knowledge around food and its source.

According to Zoe “Agriculture is life!! Without farmers, we don’t eat.” She is passionate about supporting the farmers out there looking for alternative farming methods. Zoe understands there are a lot of people wanting to source nutritious, wholesome, ethically and locally grown foods. But she believes the gap between the farm and the table has grown exponentially and now we need to bridge that gap, she sees regenerative/biological farming as the way forward. She says the evidence is quite clear the health of the human population runs parallel with that of our soils and wants to be part of the solution to improve soil and human health.

Zoe believes the future of farming is bright but swinging in the breeze, and feels there is a great opportunity for agriculture moving forward to ensure that its principles fulfill the regeneration of the landscape, ecology, people, communities and culture.

Zoe is looking forward to meeting many of you in the near future, working with you to set goals and aspirations and watch the landscape change as mindsets alter, a parallel which she always finds amazing!

Maximising crop yield begins at sowing

Seed treated with biostimulant on the left, no seed treatment on the right

We all know the importance of that first drink of mother’s milk to a new born baby, whether it is a new born lamb, calf or human. The protection colostrum gives a new born as a boost to their immunity so they can reach their potential has well been documented, but have we really sat back and thought how we can do the same for plants.

Every year farmers set off sowing millions of tiny seeds which they hope to protect through the growing season, ensuring the crop reaches its full potential and returns a maximum yield. There are limited opportunities throughout the growing season to prevent yield loss and sowing time is one of them.

Many farmers are starting to look differently at their cropping system, for a long time they have been encouraged to prevent failure, but what happens when our mind set changes and we farm to promote life?

A good quality biostimulant and balanced nutrition is the starting point for change, a change to promoting life instead of a defensive preventing failure approach.

A good seed dressing is a plant’s colostrum, giving the seed its initial boost of immunity as the early signs of life emerge from the seed and the first root is sent out. As with a young calf or lamb, if it does not get that initial hit of colostrum it will struggle for the rest of its life.

Conventional pickle treatments aim to prevent failure, but in the process the pickle sterilises the plants micro biome, the micro biome occurs naturally on and around the seed. Hard working microbes were designed by nature to promote plant health, immunity and protection. To me a pickle is like going to the hospital and saying I don’t have cancer but just give me a round of chemo just in case.

There are an emerging range of biological products which can be used as a seed coat / seed dressing to promote microbial activity on and around the seed and newly forming roots. These microbes promote the growth of more microbes, increasing plant health and immunity, giving your plant the best chance to reach its full potential.

Don’t hesitate to give me a call and I can start you in the right direction to giving your crop the best start to reach its full potential.

The top seeds were coated with a biostimulant, while the bottom seeds were coated with a conventional seed treatment. Photo courtesy of Grant Sims
Cover crop with a TM Germination seed treatment prior to sowing
Seeds on the left were treated with a conventional seed treatment, while the seeds on the right were inoculated with TM Germination
Left half of the photo – no inoculation at sowing, on the right seeds were inoculated with NutriSoil and NTS (Nutri – Tech Solutions) at sowing
Seeds coated with NutriSoil and NTS seed start
Seed treated with biostimulant on the left, no seed treatment on the right
Seed on the left coated with NutriSoil left, seed on right no inoculation. Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Alex MacAlpine

March Soil Health Days

March was a busy month for the Regenerative Farming community, during which two Soil Health days  allowed likeminded advocates for Soil Health to come together and pass on their knowledge and expertise about increasing soil biology.

A Soil Health day in Cowra in early March gave me the opportunity to get out on the road to visit some clients and farmers who are making a transition from conventional farming methods with the aim to reduce synthetic inputs to increase biology, improve soil health, plant health and profit margins in the process.

Calling into West Wylong on my way to Cowra I caught up with a farmer who recently purchased some lime, gypsum and soft rock phosphate, which were waiting to be mixed and spread onto paddocks to help with nutrient balance in the soil. Soft Rock Phosphate is a naturally mined Australian product, and while traditional phosphates can become locked up in the soil when they bond with other minerals. Soft Rock Phosphate is a more naturally balanced product containing calcium and silicon along with other trace elements which do not harm the microscopic life in your soil.

About 35 gathered on a property near Cowra for the Soil Health day to discuss many issues around the role microbes play in improving soil and plant health and how to increase microbial activity in the soil. We also discussed the role multispecies and cover crops play in helping improve soil structure, while at the same time providing a great feed option for stock and reducing soil erosion.

I took the opportunity to call in on some progressive farmers in Wagga and Narrandera who are doing great things in the regenerative farming space. Everyone will have a different system and will find what works for them, so it is always great to see what is working for others.

Deciding to reduce your dependency on synthetic inputs can be daunting and success will not be measured using traditional methods such as tonnes to the hectare. Instead, you will be assessing success by the quality of produce whether it is healthier stock with less disease issues, sheep with better quality wool, crops with no pest and disease management issues, or it might be wheat with better test weights.

A Soil Health day in Brocklesby later in March provided an opportunity for those further south to find out more about what others are doing and the options available to reduce farm input costs. Soil Health days can put you in contact with the right people to guide you and talk to you about your individual journey to soil health, as it will be different for everyone.

If you have ever thought about wanting to change the way you do things, then please reach out and I can point you in the right direction to find the information you need to better understand the advantages of improving the health of your soil and leaving it in a better condition for the next generation.

Halving your cost of Soil Amendments by adding Biology.

healthy soil ingredients

Sodic soils and acidic soils are a common problem in agriculture and can be expensive to address.

Sodic soils cause clay particles to swell and disperse leading to a number of problems including soil compaction, obstructed seed emergence and reduced nutrient uptake by plants. Applying gypsum to sodic soils helps improve the physical soil structure leading to more friable soils (crumblier soils) which exchange essential elements such as Calcium, Potassium and Sulphur with plants more readily. This contributes to a more balanced pH, increasing the availability of nutrients and minerals to the plants.

Acidic soils could be preventing nutrient uptake by your plants. Adding lime to your soil helps with pH balance, improves nutrient balance and availability, soil structure and reduces the likelihood of Aluminium and Manganese toxicity. The addition of Calcium to your overall soil health improvement strategy is a great start to increased nutrient availability and healthier plants, but this is only half the story. 

When the biology of your soil is activated, soil amendments such as gypsum and lime can perform their roles much more efficiently and much less is needed. This saves you money, and the benefits of having the soil alive with countless tiny microbes and biological organisms is they work around the clock to help improve every working function of your soil and plant. These microscopic work horses are essential to the interconnected relationship between how plants absorb nutrients from the atmosphere and the soil, and they play a critical role in helping plants protect themselves from pests, diseases and stressful situations. Soils which are biologically active have better water holding capacity, nutrient availability and provide a strong immunity check for your plants. Investing in healthy soil is like investing in a preventative health plan for your plants and your budget.   You will enjoy better yields, use less chemicals and fertiliser, and less soil amendments.

Re-Gen Farming can help you plan how to increase the level of biological activity in your soil. Now is the time to give me a call and discuss how we can put a strategy together to begin your journey to soil health and half your lime and gypsum needs.

2021, the year for What, Why and How!

As 2020 draws to a close for most of us it is a year we would rather put behind us, while for some the challenges of 2020 have provided opportunities to explore new possibilities.

The Christmas and New Year period allows many of us some time for reflection and planning for the year ahead.

At Re-Gen Farming we believe in the power of healthy soils. Healthy soils result in healthy plants, leading to healthy stock, a healthier planet and a healthier profit.

Healthy soils begin with activating and understanding the biology and nutrients in your soil, from all the unseen microbes and organisms through to those very important topsoil workers, worms.

Having confidence in creating healthy soils requires learning the What, Why and How of soil biology, nutrition and the benefits it can provide to your farming system.

In 2021 Re-Gen Farming look forward to providing you with easy to access and user friendly material to help you with the What, Why and How so you can enjoy your journey to soil health. Re-Gen can provide you with advice and access to a range of additives, fertilisers, amendments and biological products designed to increase your soil’s health.

Re-Gen Farming would like to wish you all a safe and festive Christmas / New Year period. We look forward to connecting with you next year as we continue to increase our understanding of how the soil works most efficiently, to provide healthier profits to your bottom line and supporting planet healthier at the same time.

Merry Christmas!