The Holganix Blog

"Holganix helps build my soil chemistry" - Orchid Island Golf & Country Club

Tucked on a barrier reef island, off the coast of Vero Beach, Florida, lies Orchid Island Golf and Country Club. Originally designed by championship golfer Arnold Palmer, Orchid Island’s course features eighteen-holes of immaculate greens, tee boxes and fairways. In 2005, Orchid Island, “achieved the distinction of becoming a certified Audubon cooperative sanctuary by Audubon International Sanctuary System, the education Division to Audubon International, which recognizes environmental stewardship.”

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According to superintendent, Matthew Boyd, “Orchid Island is an atypical environment.” It’s in a microclimate all of it’s own, with sandy soils and an ever present sea wind that keeps the soil dry. It makes nurturing the course a challenge but one Boyd takes pleasure in. “Holganix helps build up my soil chemistry,” explains Boyd, something that’s crucial for a course like Orchid Island. Over all, Holganix helped Boyd improve rooting, CEC levels and carbon to nitrogen ratio.

The first thing Boyd noticed after starting Holganix in 2014 was “deeper, denser rooting on greens.” Initially, he also saw improved playability due to increased consistency on his greens, and less disease than years past (although he admits that it’s hard to quantify reductions in disease due to variability in past years).

Perhaps the easiest way to sum up Boyd’s superintendent style is data enthusiastic. He constantly monitors the course’s progress and has teamed up with an agronomist to better research and customize his agronomic program. The thing that blew Boyd away were his soil analysis results which were taken one year after incorporating the Holganix program along with other various organic profile amendments. Included in the data summary were huge improvements to Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) along with the soil organic carbon to nitrogen ratio.

“We had steady improvements in soil health both before and after Holganix, especially with our CEC,” says Boyd. What does CEC mean? Think of it this way, the soil acts as a pantry/storehouse for all plant nutrients required by the plant. The soil’s ability to hold, maintain and release essential nutrients is Cation Exchange Capacity. So, the greater the CEC, the more nutrients the soil can store and the happier the plant.

From 2010 to 2013, Boyd utilized an alternative biological supplement and had a slight, yet steady increase in CEC achieving 4.81 M.E. in 2013. One year after incorporating Holganix into Orchid Island’s agronomic program, Boyd reports an increase in CECs from 4.81 in 2013, to 7.78 in 2015! That’s over a 60% increase!

Also revealed in the soil test was a noticeable difference in organic matter. Overall, organic humus has increased from .42 to 2.8% – something that is crucial to the health of sand-based soils. Why is humus crucial to sandy soils? It increases the soils capacity to hold and store essential plant nutrients, decreases the potential for leaching, assists in the remediation of excess sodium and bicarbonate and provides a sustainable food source for both plants and beneficial soil biology. Yet, thatch has decreased. “That’s because the biology within Holganix was converting all of the old growth found in the organic matter into nutrients that are available to the plant,” explains Boyd.

Furthermore, Boyd’s soil organic carbon to nitrogen ratio increased dramatically after one year of Holganix. “My carbon to nitrogen ratios are better than they used to be,” says Boyd. “That’s awesome because all of that free carbon is food for the microbes and the microbes just take off!”

Overall, Boyd is excited by the progress he’s seen with Holganix at Orchid Island. “Soil microbiology is going to be a hot topic in the next ten years and Holganix is right in the middle of it,” says Boyd. 

Turf roots

Tags: soil health, holganix reviews, golf course, organic fertilizer, holganix review, soil amendment, orchid island golf and country club, carbon exchange capacity, soil analysis, nitrogen ratio, organic matter

Soil is home to biology!

The soil is truly a living thing, filled with millions and billions of life forms, busily working away according to Mother Nature’s plans. In fact, one teaspoon of agricultural or turf soil contains:

-       100 million to 1 billion bacteria

-       Several yards of mycelium (fungi)

-       7,000 protozoa

-       10-20 nematodes

-       Up to 100 arthropods

-       5 - 30 earth worms

What happens in the soil when everything is balanced and functioning as Mother Nature intended?

 

1. All functional soil is a balanced environment, where plants, microbes, protozoa, nematodes and worms contribute to the well-being of each other. For example, plants exude sugars, amino acids and organic acids through photosynthesis into the soil. Bacteria and fungi then eat the plant exudates. Next, the bacteria and fungi are eaten by each other, as well as by protozoa, nematodes and worms. In the end, all soil organisms die (including plants) and become organic matter. This dead biomass then becomes food for the living organisms in the soil.

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2. In a functional soil, biology contributes to soil structure. Exudates from plant, microorganisms, and multi-celled organisms serve as a glue assisting in the aggregation of soil particles. While worms, tunnel in the soil, creating air space and to facilitate drainage within the soil.

 

3. In a functional soil, microorganisms decompose organic matter. In fact, without microorganisms, dead plant and animal life wouldn’t decompose. Ultimately, soils would become putrid and compaction layers would be created. However, with microorganisms, decomposition occurs naturally. During decomposition, microorganisms provide nutrients (including carbon) to the soil and create humus (the stable form – an end product of organic matter decomposition), contributing to the soil structure.

 

4. In a functional soil, organisms (including plants) contribute to a mineralization cycle. Nutrients are immobilized when they are used by plants and soil organisms. When immobilized, minerals are tied up in the chemistry of living organisms. Immobilized nutrients are freed (this is called mineralization) to be used by all living organisms when other organisms die. During decomposition these nutrients are released from multi-cell plants and animals. When single cell organisms die, the cell walls break and chemicals and nutrients are released to the soil.

 

5. In a functional soil, nitrogen fixing bacteria (Rhizobia) and nitrifying bacteria make nitrogen available to plants.

Nitrogen fixing (rhizobia) live in a symbiotic relationship with roots of legumes (beans, alfalfa, clover). The bacteria receive sugars and other plant chemicals from the plant and in return, Rhizobia convert nitrogen from the soil atmosphere into nitrogen compounds usable by the plant.

Nitrifying bacteria live in the soil (not in direct association with plants). These bacteria change nitrogen in the soil from ammonium to nitrite and then to nitrate (a plant usable form of nitrogen).

 

mycorrhizae

6. In a functional soil, certain fungi live in symbiotic (help each other) relationships with plants. For example, mycorrhizae are fungi that live in direct association with plant roots. In this relationship the plants provide sugars, amino acids and other plant acids to the fungi. The fungi then facilitate water and nutrient uptake by the roots. There are two different types of mycorrhizae: Endo and Ecto Mycorrhizae. Endo mycorrhizae penetrate and attach to the root hairs of the plant roots. However, Ecto mycorrhizae lie in close proximity to the plant roots but do not actually penetrate the cell wall of the root hair.

 7. In a functional soil, fungi and bacteria serve different decomposition roles. Fungi have evolved to be expert organisms for decomposition of lignin, which is abundant in tree, leaf and branch litter on the forest floor. This is one of the reasons why fungi dominate in forest soil as opposed to agricultural or turf soil. On the other hand, agricultural and turf plants exude large amounts of sugars and organic chemicals. These are easily digested by bacteria. That, in addition to low lignin content in agricultural and turf litter, is why bacteria dominate this soil.

 

Want to learn more? Click the movie below to watch Dr. Bob’s webinar entitled Digging into the soil food web.

Tags: Dr. Neidermyer, the science behind holganix, Mycorrhizae, organic fertilizer, soil food web, nitrogen fixing bacteria

Turn up the heat! Using Holganix in a drought

As many of you are aware, drought and severe heat season is upon us! By increasing nutrient and water uptake, adding natural wetting agents and enhancing root growth, Holganix can do a lot for turf professionals suffering from droughts. What’s the best way to get the most out of Holganix during drought conditions?

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If you’re new to Holganix, Holganix Inventor and VP of R&D, Stephen T. Lange suggests you apply Holganix at utilize the hyper inoculation rate of 14 ounces but increase the time between applications by 25%. That means, if you normally treat your turf every six weeks with Holganix, you’ll be treating it every 8 weeks but at heavier rates.

On the other hand, if you have been using Holganix for at least a year, Lange recommends you cut your normal rate in half but apply more frequently. For example, if you usually spray at a 7 ounces per 1,000 square feet application rate every six weeks, Lange recommends you spray at a 3.5 ounce rate every 3 weeks.

In both programs, your lawn is being fed Holganix and receiving all the drought tolerance benefits possible.  

Want to learn more about how Holganix helps improve drought tolerance? Click here.

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Tags: drought resistance, holganix, the science behind holganix, fertilizer, drought

What are the components of healthy soil?

When asked “What is soil?”, Dr. Bob, Director of Plant and Soil Sciences at Holganix, LLC replied, “Soil is the source for all food and fiber consumed on Earth. It is a medium composed of minerals, organic matter, water, air and living organisms. It provides infrastructure to support and nurture plants.” Let’s take a brief look at each of these key components.

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1. Minerals

There are numerous different minerals, all charged with an important task to promote plant and soil health. Some of the key minerals include:

- Carbon – The building block of all organic chemistry.

- Calcium – In plants, calcium is a structural component of the cell wall. In plants, fungi and bacteria, calcium is a cofactor in regulating internal chemical processes. In soil, calcium shifts the pH to alkaline (vs acid).

- Manganese – An essential element of chlorophyll (think Photosynthesis)

- Nitrogen – All plant and animal proteins contain nitrogen. It is essential to life.

- Potassium – An essential plant nutrient involved in the regulation of photosynthesis and water management in plants.

- Phosphorous - an essential element in the biochemistry of photosynthesis, metabolism of sugars, energy management, cell division and the transfer of genetic material. In fact, phosphorous is essential to all life forms.

- Sulfur – An important component of amino acids and proteins.

 

2. Organic Matter

3 to 5% of soil consists of organic matter. It is derived from dead and decaying plants and animals. It contributes to soil nitrogen, phosphorous and sulfur. The end result of organic matter is humus, which is created after microorganisms break down the organic matter.

 

3. Water

Water acts as a solvent and carrier for plant nutrients. Just like all animals, microorganisms require water for their metabolic processes.

 

4. Soil Air/Atmosphere

50% of soil volume consists of pore spaces filled with air and/or water. Gases found in soil air include: oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapor. However, due to respiration of soil microorganisms, soil air has more carbon dioxide than the air we breathe (the atmosphere above the soil).

 

5. Soil Microorganisms

There are more microbes in 1/3 cup of soil, than there are people on earth! Soil microorganisms include: bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, arthropods, nematodes and worms. Often, tilled soil (soil used in agriculture and landscaping) is more bacterially dominant while non-tilled soil (soil found in a forest) is more fugally dominant.

 

Want to learn more? Click the movie below to watch Dr. Bob’s webinar entitled Digging into the soil food web.

 

 

Soil Science

 

Tags: soil, the science behind holganix, organic fertilizer, soil food web

Ready to combat drought?

The infamous California drought, “now on its fourth year, has taken its toll on water supplies and a reduction of 25 percent is now mandated,” says Denne Goldstein, publisher of Irrigation and Green Industry Magazine. In Texas, water restrictions resulted in hundreds of thousands of lost trees. But California and Texas aren’t the only drought victims, “56 percent of the entire United States, from California to New England, is experiencing drought conditions and water-related challenges,” confirms Judith Guido, contributor for IGIN Magazine.

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Lucky for you there is a weapon in your turf management kit to help you combat drought - Holganix. In fact, Holganix can help in times of drought and extreme heat in three key ways: 1) stimulating uptake of nutrients and moisture, 2) providing natural wetting agents and 3) enhancing root growth.

 

1)    Stimulating uptake of nutrients and moisture

Mycorrhizae and kelp extract are two examples of ingredients within Holganix that stimulate uptake of nutrients and moisture by the plant, ultimately aiding in drought tolerance.

Mycorrhizae are fungi that live in direct symbiotic association with plant roots. In this symbiotic relationship, the plant excretes energy sources (sugars, amino acids and other plant acids) to the fungi (from the plant roots to the soil for uptake by the fungi). The fungi use this energy to grow long mycelium (filaments) that extend well beyond the length and width of the plant roots. The mycelium transport water and nutrients to the roots. In this way, fungi facilitate the uptake of water and nutrients by plant roots. This is a mutually beneficial relationship in that both the plant and the mycorrhizae receive benefits that they cannot receive independently.

During droughts the plant limits growth or stops growing altogether, ultimately reducing photosynthesis (the process that creates the sugars for the mycorrhizae). Thanks to evolution, the mycorrhizae have learned to minimize the droughts effects on the plant in these distinct ways:

  •       By adding their own expansive network of mycelia, they are able to reach deeper into the soil for water and nutrients outside the reach of plant roots.
  •       By helping the plant better seal up their pores/stomata, the plant conserves moisture. Instead of wilting in the drought, a well hydrated plant keeps stomata closed (the guard cells of the stomata swell). As a result, they close the open space that allows evaporation.
  •       By increasing water pressure in plant tissue, mycorrhizae prevent or delay-wilting, which results in normal cell function and photosynthesis.

Kelp extract found in Holganix also boosts drought resistance. Minerals and carbohydrates contained in Kelp extract are absorbed and utilized by microorganisms in the soil. Upon death of the microoganisms, minerals are released to the soil, stimulating plant and root growth. A healthy plant with a strong root system has the vigor necessary to support active uptake of water and nutrients.

 

2)    Natural Wetting Agent

Yucca extract is another important tool against drought that is contained in Holganix. Yucca acts as a natural spreader sticker, wetting agent and soil conditioner. What does that mean? Spreader stickers and wetting agents help coverage of product on the plant and slow moisture loss. Similarly, wetting agents help reduce surface tension, allowing product to cover the plant so active ingredients can better penetrate the plant tissue. Additionally, Yucca extract (acting as a soil conditioner) has the ability to help soils hold water. These unique functions of yucca extract in Holganix each aid in drought tolerance by keeping moisture in the plant and soil, and by allowing for other products and ingredients to better penetrate plant tissue.

 

3)    Enhanced Root Growth

By having deeper, more web-like root systems, plants are better able to reach into the soil and take up moisture and nutrients. Tricoderma spp., an ingredient in Holganix that enhances root and plant growth. Additionally, as discussed previously, mycorrhizae (found in Holganix) can also help expand the reach of plant roots. Together, Trichoderma spp. and mycorrhizae contribute to a denser and longer root mass that is more efficient in obtaining the water and nutrients plants need.

Soil Science

Tags: drought resistance, summer lawn care, organic fertilizer products, the science behind holganix, organic lawn care, organic fertilizer, drought

The Muirfield Diaries: Volunteering At The Memorial Tournament

At 6:00 AM, Chris Bittles and I were seated at a table in the break room of the maintenance building at Muirfield Village Golf Club’s Horticulture and Turf Maintenance Complex in Dublin, Ohio. And we weren’t alone. Roughly 40 turf and horticulture specialists were seated around tables, sipping on coffee and listening in rapt attention as Director of Grounds Operations, Paul B. Latshaw issued the days commands. On the wall hung a clock, counting down the number of days until the Memorial Tournament. Today it read 17 days.

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When Bittles, Holganix Experience Coordinator and I volunteered to help out for Memorial Tournament preparations, we didn’t know what to expect. Bittles was three weeks into his job at Holganix, and I had barely stepped foot on a course before, let alone worked on one.

What we saw in those first few moments was a well-oiled machine, driven by a culture of candor or straight talk and hard work. And with one of the most important golf tournaments of the year being held in only 17 short days, perhaps we shouldn’t have been so surprised. After all, one blunder could kill a tee or set operations back by hours or days – with neither situation acceptable. Before tournament time, the crew is expected to work 100 – 125 hours a week depending on weather. “It’s hectic. Guys will literally sleep in the office and barely go home,” remarks one technician.

For the next 36 hours Bittles and I got to be part of the Tournament prep chaos. We had the opportunity to work with Holganix Tree and Shrub in the greenhouses, plant some 300 begonias, hostas, boxwoods, hydrangas, catmint, kalamias and knockout roses among dozens of other plants and flowers. We also weeded several beds, mulched, rolled the greens, and cleaned out bunkers.

But one of the most memorable moments during our Muirfield experience was when we were invited to walk the course with Latshaw. As we strolled across fairways, greens and tees, Latshaw made special mention to fairway number 5.

“It was at this fairway, traditionally one of our weaker ones, where we really started to see the benefits of Holganix,” explains Latshaw. In 2013, between the Memorial Tournament and the President’s Cup, the club decided to push back #18 pro tee by 40 yards in length, in addition to adding a tee and two acres of undistributed turf area. “It ended up being more complex than anticipated… and I was concerned about playability for the President’s Cup.” On August 13, 2013, 45 days before the President’s Cup, sod was installed. “The first thing we did was apply 14 ounces of Holganix Golf.”

Hanging on every word Latshaw was saying, I was really excited to hear that by September 13, the renovation looked fantastic. “As far as rooting and establishment, I’ve never been able to get sod established this quickly, especially at such a difficult time of year.” While Latshaw mentioned he had staff hand watering and monitoring the turf at all times, “Holganix really helped. We had no issues going into the President’s Cup.”

muirfield_before_HGX

Muirfield_after_HGX

In fact, since starting Holganix, Latshaw reports that, “We’ve had some of the best rooting on fairways ever.”

According to Latshaw, he begins every season with an initial load of 14 ounces per 1,000 square feet of Holganix on the greens. Following the initial application, he does monthly apps at 7 ounces per 1,000 square feet. However, “on tees and fairways we apply Holganix at a rate of 7 ounces per 1,000 square feet monthly.”

Bittles and I spent the entire Memorial Tournament week telling anyone who would listen about our time spent at Muirfield and the huge amounts of work that go into it’s preparations. Perhaps CBS Sports said it best of Lathsaw and his team, “just a genius director of grounds operations – gets this course immaculately presented every year.” We would like to send a big thank you to the entire Muirfield team for giving us a glimpse into the Memorial Tournament preparations and the golf industry in general.

Watch our tree and shrub video at Muirfield Village below.

  Got golf questions? Webinar: Let's Talk Turf with Cay DuBose, CGCS

 

Tags: holganix reviews, Holganix tree and shrub, case studies, golf, holganix golf, muirfield village golf club, Paul B Latshaw, memorial tournament

What is agriculture?

“Ag is…” Agriculture means so many different things to so many different people. But, when Yield Lab Group blogger, Stephen Fairbanks asked Holganix Director of Plant and Soil Sciences, Dr. Robert Neidermyer to complete the sentence, “Ag is,” Dr. Bob had a philosophical response. “Ag is doing the right thing for the next generation,” says Dr. Bob. “We need to put the right balance back in the soil.”

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It’s no surprise he’s alluding to Holganix and other bionutritional products as the answer. “Holganix is biology in a can,” states Dr. Bob. “It’s a probiotic.” Just like in human health, adding probiotics to a plant fertility program can have big payoffs. Probiotics are products that add beneficial microorganisms back to the soil. By adding beneficial microorganisms, Holganix puts the soil food web back in balance, naturally boosting plant health and reducing the need for synthetic inputs by up to 75%.

With fertilizer and pesticide reduction mandates existing and pending on both the federal and state level, high costs of inputs, in addition to the threat of nutrient run off into waterways, “it’s bound to be given serious consideration by farmers,” says Yield Lab.

The Yield Lab Group is an Ag Tech focused business accelerator based in St. Louis. It has selected Holganix to be among the first group of six companies for The Yield Lab program and investment. In addition to funding the businesses chosen to participate in the accelerator, The Yield Lab pairs companies with mentors in the Ag Tech space and works with the companies to succeed in their chosen field. “It’s been invaluable to our agricultural segment at Holganix,” says Dr. Bob. “It’s helping us structure how to best get the product into the hands of farmers and understand just how powerful Holganix can be for their crop production program.”

“With the attention being paid to nutrient management today, and given Holganix’ early success during their first five years in operation,” says Yield Lab, “their potential market impact is exciting to consider.”

 

Tags: organic farm, organic agriculture, holganix, organic fertilizer, agriculture, holganix agriculture, yield lab group

Grow your lawn care business through tree and shrub applications

If you haven’t already started marketing your tree and shrub program, now is the time! Tree and shrub programs not only allow you to beautify your customers’ landscapes but are also an excellent source of additional revenue from current and prospective customers. And who doesn’t like that? In fact, you can expect 10-30% of your current customers to sign up for tree and shrub applications.

When designing a marketing campaign, including elements of both inbound and outbound marketing is key. Outbound marketing includes direct mail, telemarketing and advertising. It’s designed to push customer to you. However, inbound marketing includes tactics like social media, blogging and SEO. It’s designed to pull customers to you. Including inbound marketing tactics in conjunction with your outbound marketing efforts is the sweet spot.

Don’t know where to get started? Try following this sample marketing campaign timeline for a source of inspiration (see below). Then, watch the webinar to dig into the optimal methods of marketing tree and shrub.

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In this webinar you’ll learn:

  • Why you should include tree and shrub applications in your service portfolio
  • How to determine who is your target market?
  • How to build a tree and shrub campaign including inbound and outbound marketing tactics.
  • What your marketing campaign timeline should look like.
  • About the numerous tools Holganix has available for marketing tree and shrub, including free postcard designs.

 

Soil Science

Tags: marketing, lawn care marketing, Tree and Shrub care, lawn care equipment

Turn up the Heat! Speaking with Customers About Summer Weather

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Currently, over 50% of the country is suffering from extremely dry conditions. Unfortunately, summer has only just begun and conditions will worsen as time goes on. The good news is that if you’re using Holganix, your lawns on average are looking better than your synthetic-using competitor! However, if Mother Nature decides to dish out her usual drought-like conditions in July and August, it’s important to have a conversation with your customers about what’s going on with their lawns and what they can do to help!

In previous companies, Holganix CEO Barrett Ersek always made a point to reach out to customers to address summer heat concerns before the summer heat became too much of a problem. At Holganix, we want to help you get the conversation going. Steal this ready-to-mail homeowner letter to help communicate summer heat conditions with your customers. It goes over everything from appropriate watering times to mowing techniques for the summer weather. Just copy and paste your company logo, and it’s ready to hit the mailbox! Feel free to tweak and alter the message for your region and company. If you have any questions moving forward, please don’t hesitate to reach out and give us a call. We are here to help!   

  Download your drought letter

 

Tags: drought resistance, lawn care, marketing hints and tips, lawn care companies, drought, weather stress

10X Payback on Tomatoes with Holganix Agriculture?

“Last year, I ran into an agronomist from Red Gold – a big tomato processor in Indiana and told him about Holganix,” reflects Mark Sybouts, Sales and Product Development Manager of Holganix distributor, Advanced Turf Solutions.

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Red Gold processes 12,000 acres of tomatoes from the Indiana, Michigan and Ohio regions. Sybouts proposed doing research with the Holganix Agriculture product and was offered a spot in the Red Gold demo plot. The plot contained enough space to plant and study two rows of tomato crops, each row totaling 130 feet in length.

After discussing the idea with Dr. Bob, Holganix’s Director of Plant and Soil Sciences, Sybouts decided to test a four Holganix application program on the tomatoes to look for fruit yield or quality increases. One row would be treated with Holganix and the second would act as a control however, both rows would receive the same quantity of inputs. Seven days after transplanting the tomatoes, Sybouts applied his first round of Holganix Agriculture at 1.7 gallons per acre. Four weeks later, he did a second application at half that rate. “Before I did the third application, I studied the plants carefully by randomly selecting four plants and counting and weighing the fruit to conduct a statistical analysis. There was no visual difference between those tomatoes treated with Holganix and those not treated with Holganix.” Disappointed, Sybouts applied the third application.

After the third application, Sybouts was pleased that he could now see a difference in the plants. “The foliage was greener but I couldn’t see a visible difference in the fruit" (see picture comparison above). Intrigued, Sybouts decided to forego doing the last application as harvest was only one week away.

“The next week I hand harvested the plot by selecting 4 random plots that were 5 feet long in each row," says Sybouts. "I segregated the fruit into piles of: Red, red-yellow, and green, weighed the fruit from each plot and ran a statistical analysis. Those tomatoes treated with Holganix yielded 51.3 tons per acre while the untreated came in at 46.7 tons per acre with a 90% statistical significance. That’s a 10x payback over the cost of the Holganix used per acre."

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That experiment raised some eyebrows in the industry. “As a result, we are now testing what Holganix Agriculture can do from a commercial perspective,” says Sybouts.

“The beautiful thing in the agriculture business is that there is no mistaking an increase in value. It’s objective. It’s all about the money. There’s no arguing with the money,” says Sybouts. And, with a 10x payback using Holganix, it will be interesting to see what happens during their commercial tomato testing.

Soil Science

Tags: organic agriculture, organic fertilizer, agriculture, compost tea, fertilizer, holganix agriculture, tomato, tomatoes