Skip to main content
Category

All

Marshalls reduce nitrogen inputs by 70% with Fish It

By All, Customer Stories

Georgie Galloway is the Farm Manager at Graham and Gail Marshall’s 160-hectare farm just outside of Invercargill, a livestock fattening operation that winters 1,500 dairy cows, raises 500 bull calves, and trade store lambs.

Before they started using Fish IT, the Marshall team applied 150 kg of urea three times per year to the kale crop, along with 450 kg of DAP.  They bought in supplementary feed for the winter.

One day, having gotten halfway through applying solid urea to a 5 hectare paddock before running out, Graham thought to himself, “Yep, I’ll notice that in 2-3 months for sure.” There should have been a big deficit in crop growth (on one side of the paddock). “We thought that it would hurt our production.”

However, 2-3 months later Georgie says there was no difference at all, the side of the paddock that did have solid urea applied had grown no more than the side that hadn’t.

Since using Fish IT our production of kale and grass has increased along with quality. We no longer need to buy in supplementary feed and the pastures have become higher in clover percentage that doesn't bloat stock.

Georgie GallowayFarm Manager

“So that was our main trigger for why we would look at something different.”

It was shortly after this that Georgie and Graham approached the team at Fish It.

The Marshalls apply Fish It in liquid form using the big spray nozzle of a Tow and Fert 1200. This system allows them to add other macro nutrients in liquid form in the same application.

The payback on the capital investment of the Tow and Fert was realised in the first year with savings achieved through lower synthetic inputs across the farm.

Less Synthetic Nitrogen

We have gone from using 450 kg of urea across the entire farm to 120 kgs in conjunction with 90 kgs of Fish IT.

Increased Feed Production

We used to make approximately 2,500 bales of hay on the farm, since using Fish IT that has increased to 3,000 bales per annum.

Cost Reduction

With the reduction in fertiliser costs from around $100,000 per annum, the Marshalls bought investment down to around $50,000 with more productivity.

“After we cut the grass for baleage we apply 30 litres of Fish It and 150kg of Serpentine Super 10K.  We no longer use urea on the grass.”

The Marshall farm has increased baleage production by an additional 500 bales per year and no longer need to rely on supplementary feed.

With the addition of Fish It we now use 70% less urea across the entire farm, we have better pastures, better crops, healthier animals and no need for pesticides.

Georgie GallowayFarm Manager

Looking ahead

The Marshall farm are an intensive farm operation that is three years into their Fish It journey.

The timing is right to conduct some further soil analysis to inform them on the soil structure and biology which will lead to further refinements in inputs to drive greater outputs.

We’ll follow these up in the next article on the Marshall farm journey.

Georgie’s Fish It journey

A shout out to our friends at Tow & Fert who captured the story of how Georgie has increased her production for wintering cows.

The Transition 3:21

Watch Georgie talk about the problem, the solution and the farms transition from synthetic fertiliser to Fish IT.

The Outcome 4:00

Georgie discusses the farms migration to a Fish IT lead land management strategy supported by smaller quantities of urea.

The Future 2:26

Georgie reflects on the future, on the lessons learned, observations and her expectations.

amino-acids

Amino Acids Part 2: The secret compound for all living things and sustainable farming.

By All, Animal Health, Productivity, Regulation, Soil Health, Sustainability

In Part 1 of this series I gave you a high level understanding of amino acids, their extraction and uses in agriculture.  In this Part 2 of the series, we will cover the importance of amino acids to plants and the benefits of amino acids to land management practices and sustainable farming. You have already heard about how amino acids help increase the health of the soil and everything that grows in it, how the proteins found in amino acids help the soil absorb and store more nutrients, but I haven’t discussed how that relates to sustainable farming and importantly reduced dependancy on synthetic fertilisers for productivity.

Let’s first start by understanding how amino acids support plant growth;

1. Amino acids help photosynthesis

Amino acids provide many different benefits to plant health, beginning with the process of photosynthesis. Without proper photosynthesis, plants will not grow. This process relies on the production of chlorophyll, which needs to absorb energy from the sun.  Amino acids help in the production of chlorophyll, which leads to quality photosynthesis.

2. Amino acids help increase nutrient absorption

Plant leaves consist of stomata, which are small pores that help plants absorb gas and nutrients. When there is no light and low humidity, the stomata will close to help to reduce photosynthesis and absorption of nutrients.  When the sky however is clear and sunny, and the humidity is higher, the stomata will then open. This will help plants to get the proper nutrition from rain, sunlight, and soil.

With sufficient concentration of amino acids in the soil, L-glutamic acid is a type of amino acid that protects stomata cells with a microscope. This encourages the leaves to remain open, allowing the plants to absorb more nutrients.

Amino acids are also known as having the ability to chelate when proteins are combined with other sub-nutrients. Plants can use sub-nutrients more efficiently. These benefits result in increased nutrient intake.

3. Amino acids reduce stress-related problems

The plant is able to withstand stress, such as from high temperatures, low humidity, and other serious problems. Amino acids help to fight stress and help plants to recover quickly and to maintain denser growth.

4. Amino acids support plant hormones

Amino acids also support the growth of plant hormones, which is called phytohormone. The Phytohormones control the development of healthy plants by supporting tissues and cells. Almost all stages of plant growth are involved in hormonal control. The use of amino acids with soil can promote production phytohormones without having to use separate supplements.

5. Amino acids help improve microbial activity

Protein is important for all living cells, including microbial cells that support healthy soil. L-methionine, one of the amino acids, can help increase the health of microbial cells, promote better microbial activity. One of the main roles of microbes is to help circulate nutrients, including carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur. The activities of healthy microbes control these components. Without microbial activity, most fertilizer is not effective. Microbes help convert organic compounds into inorganic forms, such as changing proteins from amino acids to carbon dioxide and ammonium. In general, microbes decompose compounds so that plants can absorb nutrients. Adding amino acids to the soil will improve this process.

6. Amino acids are a source of nitrogen

Adding amino acids to the soil can help increase nitrogen content by limiting the need for fertiliser with a high nutrient concentration. Plants can pick up amino acids from the soil to receive organic nitrogen. Amino acids are found naturally in the soil can provide protein with nitrogen. However, to get nitrogen, Plants must first digest proteins, which must have microbial activity in the soil. Amino acids help improve microbial activity. Soil supplementation with this substance can help the entire nitrogen cycle.

7. Amino acids increase calcium absorption

Chelating substances such as amino acids will help increase the absorption of nutrients. After plants absorb minerals, the rest will be decomposed into dissolved organic nitrogen or used directly as an amino acid.  Chelaing will have effects to help with plant health from increased calcium absorption, making plants to have more calcium and to help strengthen the vascular system, strong nutrients conveyor system. Plants will be able to absorb more water and nutrients. This calcium increase may help prevent pests and diseases. When plants are weak, there will be water in the cells which attracts the growth of mold and insects. With healthy plants, there will be more pectin in the cell wall. Thicker cell walls are less likely to be attacked. Increased calcium absorption also helps prevent pests. When these problems occur, plants release calcium and produce defenses that help repel insects.

essential-amino-acids

Amino Acids Part 1: The secret compound for all living things and sustainable farming.

By All, Animal Health, Productivity, Regulation, Soil Health, Sustainability

Amino acids, often referred to as the building blocks of proteins, are compounds that play many critical roles in the health of all living things. They are the essential compounds for life and as such are needed for vital processes like the building of proteins and synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters.

Humans may also take additional amino acids in supplement form for a natural way to boost athletic performance or improve mood.

Soil amino acids are important sources of organic nitrogen for plant nutrition, in fact amino acids serve as a key mobilisable source of nitrogen in plants, and their transport across cell membranes is necessary for uptake of nutrients from soil.

This two part blog tells you everything you need to know about essential amino acids, including how they function, sources and methods of extraction, their importance to plants and benefits to sustainable farming.

What are amino acids?

Amino acids are organic compounds composed of nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, along with a variable side chain group. When a series of amino acids are joined by peptide bonds, proteins are formed. Proteins are important macromolecules involved in all aspects of the growth and development of plants.

There are about 20 amino acids that can help plants, animals, and humans grow and develop. Though all 20 of these are important for health, they are individually required for specific functions.

The amino acids responsible for chlorophyll synthesis are Alanine, Arginine, and Glycine. For the development of the root or to delay the senescence, there are Arginine and Methionine. If we want to achieve a chelating effect on the soil and better development of shoots and leaves plants use Glycine. For the resistance systems of the plant, the best types are lysineglutamic acid, and glycine.

Sources and methods of extraction

The main sources of amino acids are extracted from vegetables, animals, fish or synthetics. Those obtained by plants are extracted from vegetable waste of soybean, cereals, fish, etc. 

Traditionally, two processes are used in agriculture to obtain amino acids. These processes are known as, acid hydrolysis and enzymatic hydrolysis.

Acid hydrolysis method is the most basic and low-cost option. It is achieved by prolonged boiling of the protein with an acid solution. The method is quite aggressive, so the resulting amino acids are of low quality, creating a high percentage amino acids destroyed during the process. 

The enzymatic hydrolysis process is much less aggressive. It is not necessary to apply extreme temperature and instead of an acid solution, an enzyme is used. The process is more expensive and complex, but the percentage of free amino acids are much higher, so in contrast to the acid hydrolysis approach the resulting composition is mostly usable by the plant.

Benefits of applying amino acids

Plants synthesise amino acids from the N absorbed as nitrate or ammonium that is in the soil. During the process of absorbing nitrogen from the soil, the plant consumes a considerable amount of energy which is diverted from the plant’s growth activities. The main reason why it is so important to applicate these products in agriculture is the energy savings that they achieve. The energy saved is diverted to other important processes such as sprouting, flowering, or fruiting. The outcome of which is an increase in the quality and the production of the crop or pasture.

In part two of this series we will look at the relationship amino acids have with synthetic nitrogen and benefits to sustainable farming.

Recent Articles

How To

Sustainable Farming: Where on Earth Do You Start?

Farmers are currently facing unprecedented pressure to change their farming systems from traditional practices towards…
aeration-let-the-soil-breathe
How To

Aeration: Let Your Soil Breathe

We all aim to set ourselves up to get through winter as best we can…
Customer Stories

Full Circle: Old Goldmine to new Goldmine

Cam and Kayleigh McKay.  Round Hill, Southland.  200 Ha – 125 Ha effective.  Dry stock…

Tane Mahuta and healthy soil, here’s the connection

By All, Education, Soil Health

Of all New Zealand’s Kauri forests, none is more famous than Waipoua Forest on the west coast, just north of Dargaville. As the largest remaining tract of native forest in Northland, Waipoua is an ancient green world of towering trees and rare birds.

This forest is the home of Tāne Mahuta, the country’s largest kauri tree, which is approximately 2,000 years old and still growing. Nearly 18 metres to the first branch and 4.4 metres in diameter, Tāne Mahuta is rightly called ‘The Lord of the Forest’. So, what’s the connection between the story of Tane Mahuta and healthy soil?

The mystery of nature

A 2,000 year old Kauri tree growing from soil that were once yellow brown earths with a high sand content, very low natural fertility, and variable drainage is a mystical process. To understand the magic behind thriving pre-historic forests and to harness that productivity for agricultural production we must understand the microbes that make up soil.

Every plant, whether a tree or flower, requires a mixture of nutrients to survive. Plants cannot, however, access the nutrients that are locked in organic and mineral forms near their root systems. Even if plant roots had the ability to break down molecules and extract soluble forms of nutrients, the roots are quite large, and although they span a sizable distance, they can only access a small fraction of the surface area of the soil. Plants need help to survive, and they rely on a trusted evolutionary pathway that has formed over millions of years to do so.

Nutrient cycling – Bacteria and Fungi

The process of unlocking nutrients from otherwise unwieldly materials is called nutrient cycling. The least accessible of these materials is the mineral component of soil, but if the nutrients locked in rocks, sand, and clay can be made plant available they contain a massive supply of invaluable food sources. To gain access to these nutrients, plants rely on bacteria and fungi that utilize a combination of chemical and physical factors to free ions from there

crystalline forms. As natural weathering cracks and crumbles stones, they extend their surface area revealing untouched faces ripe for microbial migration. Once the microbes have colonized this new frontier, they begin the process of enzymatically wearing away at the rough carapace of stone. Over hundreds of years these organisms consume nutrients from minerals, slowly increasing a soil’s capacity to harbor life.

There are, however, more efficient ways to make nutrients available to plants from stable organic matter. Species of bacteria and fungi that specialise in breaking down plant and animal organic matter have a much higher proficiency for cycling nutrients. The organic matter that is added to soil through animal and plant wastes can rapidly be integrated into stable organic acids called humus in the O-horizon, or top layer of the soil. Some portion of the biproducts of that degradation will be utilised by the plant immediately but the rest will be stored as humus that can be leveraged later to provide a readily available nutrient pool. In this way humus is like a battery for the soil, storing charge until plants need a boost, and bacteria and fungi are the charger filling that battery.

There are also species of bacteria and fungi that take a more unique approach to increasing available nutrients in the soil. These species rely on symbiotic relationships with the plant’s root system to increase the efficient acquisition of nutrients from their environment. One of the best examples is a species of bacteria called Rhizobia which can store atmospheric nitrogen in an organic from. In doing so, Rhizobia give plants access to a supply of Nitrogen that traditionally would be just outside their reach. In exchange for the assistance, the plant delivers sugars and compounds that the organisms need to thrive. In exploiting these ancient affiliations, plants can rapidly gain access to nutrients in even the most inhospitable of conditions.

The interplay between bacteria, fungi, plants, and the soil comprise the lowest level of interaction in the soil. While these interactions are critical to soil health and are the block on which vegetative life must be built, they are only the first step on the journey to a balanced microbial ecosystem. To fully realize the potential of nutrient cycling,  predatory populations and their role in regulating soil ecosystems must also be a consideration.

Better results with better nourished pastures in a sustainable way

So, we now know soil microorganisms, through their metabolic activity, secrete a series of substances that serve as a source of energy for plants. In addition, they degrade complex molecules to form humus that promotes aeration, water storage and fertility.

Microorganisms also solubilise soil minerals (K, Ca, Mn, Mg, etc.) so that they can be assimilated by plants. On the other hand, there are groups of organisms that fix atmospheric nitrogen and others that favor root growth.

In short: nature at the service of nature, allowing plants to be better nourished. And what does a better nourished plant mean? It means that production will improve in terms of quantity and quality.