To excel in any field requires creativity, ingenuity and the gumption to change the status quo. The good folks at Bio Ag Management deep in Illinois corn and soybean country are humbly doing an excellent job at changing the input paradigm. They manage for soil life and in doing so have cut back on chemical inputs while improving their soil health and maintaining high yields. They implement on the ground farm research so they can be sure to get the most out of their input dollars. Earthfort Labs and Regenerative Land Solutions have been blessed by our collaborations.
Healthy soil biology is the key to successful regenerative farming. It increases efficient nutrient cycling, helps residue decompose, allows for more nutrient retention, improves water cycling and effectiveness, suppresses disease, stores more carbon in soil organic matter, and builds soil structure. Bio Ag Management’s approach to improving soil biology focuses on many soil health principles. Those include reducing tillage by using minimum till/strip till and only using deep tillage as a last resort. They introduce a balanced biology extract, key here being their ability to get good fungal counts in their extracts by calibrating their microscope work with professional testing, and put it down with Revive, a complex food source. They also use small amounts of minerals when needed, employ cover crops when possible, and are very strategic about when they use fertilizer and what types, i.e. they prefer to use high quality protein based nitrogen.
In 2018, they saw good results and samples from 2019 are looking promising despite the historically poor weather conditions. These conditions, which they can’t control, were mitigated by their soil’s resiliency, which they can control through management. They averaged 13 more bushels per acre across 40 trials while spending less money on inputs per acre.
One of my favorite trials they did in 2018 was to layer varying amounts of chemical nitrogen on top of their biological program. The amount of applied nitrogen ranged from what would be considered a normal full application to zero extra units of nitrogen. Here is a picture with their yield data:
We are all looking forward to 2019’s data and moving forward into the 2020 growing season with improvements from what they have learned. Regenerative farming can and should be exciting! It is worth putting in the extra thought and planning to achieve their kind of excellence in the field.