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The Holganix Blog
If you are interested in receiving our exclusive podcasts, content, and Q&A's on a regular basis, visit Farm Tank's site, and simply enter your e-mail address. It's that simple! No spam, ever. Just great stuff.
We are all feeling the pressure to do more with less. Each state is talking about restricting fertilizer and phosphorus, and although these things are great for the environment it can also make it difficult to reach our needs when it comes to plant growth. What can we do to help both our plants and ourselves?
Read our blog article below for information about (1) how much fertilizer actually goes to the plant and (2) the role microbes play in fertilizer. If you’d rather dig deeper into this topic, skip the text and watch our webinar featuring Holganix President of Agriculture, David Stark Ph.D. If you're reading this blog via email, click here to watch the video.
How much fertilizer actually goes to the plant?
Did you know that only 40 to 60% of the fertilizer we apply actually goes to the plant, the remaining is lost to run off into our waterways, volatilization to the air or is tied up in the soil. This is why soil health is such an imperative piece of plant health. Functional soil is a soil embedded with organic matter and soil microbes that work together to hold onto nutrients in the soil and convert nutrients locked in the soil.
Beneficial soil microbes form symbiotic relationships with the plant. In fact, the plant will exert as much as 30% of its energy to the root zone to make food for microbes. In return those microbes not only protect the plant from stress, but also feed the plant by converting and holding nutrients in the soil.
What are the different types of soil microbes?
There are five different types of soil microbes: bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, protozoa and nematodes. Each of these microbe types has a different job to boost soil and plant health.
Bacteria is the crucial workforce of soils. They are the final stage of breaking down nutrients and releasing them to the root zone for the plant. In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization once said “Bacteria may well be the most valuable of life forms in the soil.”
Actinomycetes were once classified as fungi, and act similarly in the soil. However, some actinomycetes are predators and will harm the plant while others living in the soil can act as antibiotics for the plant.
Like bacteria, fungi also lives in the rootzone and helps make nutrients available to plants. For example, Mycorrhizae is a fungi that facilitate water and nutrient uptake by the roots and plants to provide sugars, amino acids and other nutrients.
Protozoa are larger microbes that love to consume and be surrounded by bacteria. In fact, nutrients that are eaten by bacteria are released when protozoa in turn eat the bacteria.
Nematodes are microscopic worms that live around or inside the plant. Some nematodes are predators while others are beneficial, eating pathogenic nematodes and secreting nutrients to the plant.
Want to keep digging into soil science?
Within the natural world there exists a complex balance among soil microbes known as the soil food web. Plants, animals and microbes are all instruments in an orchestra; each plays a crucial part in the natural symphony of life. If even one of the players is out of tune, the whole soil food web suffers. However, when everything is in order, the results are beautiful.
Download our Digging into Soil Science ebook to explore:1. How the soil food web supports healthy plants
2. The power behind soil microbes
3. Soil types and how to improve the health of your soil
Lately, human probiotics seem to be all the rage. It’s seen as a hip, new science found in the form of yogurt and pills that restore your body’s health. Human probiotics is the idea of introducing beneficial or benign microorganisms to our gut to naturally boost gut health.
Just as with human probiotics, plants need probiotics too! Soil microbes help the plant carry out daily functions and can lead to optimized plant resilience, increased yields and a stronger more web-like root system.
Perhaps one of the most common methods of incorporating plant probiotics into a plant health program is by applying compost tea.
Plant’s “Tea of Choice”: Compost Tea
Named for its murky brown tea-colored resemblance, this brewed, water extract of compost works to increase the amount of nutrients and soil microbes available to the plant as well as extending numerous other benefits that come from traditional compost. There are both pros and cons for incorporating compost teas; see below for some of our highlights.
Advantages of Compost Teas
Inexpensive – By applying compost tea to your plants, you reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides, ultimately driving down the cost to keep plants healthy.
Aids in Producing a Healthier Plant – When applied, compost tea suppresses foliar diseases and speeds up the breakdown of toxins. Compost tea increases the amount of nutrients available to the plant through microorganism processes, resulting in an overall healthier plant.
Organic – Because it’s made up of natural components, crops nurtured with compost tea are organic, giving you a competitive edge in the plant health/organic world.
Easy to Make – With the right tools and components, compost tea can be made by just about anyone who has good organizational skills.
Disadvantages of Compost Teas
Inconsistent Products – There are many variables in producing compost tea including: compost, water, food materials, time of processing, good record keeping and sourcing materials. In order to ensure consistent results, brewers need to be exact in their recipe-building and production process. Even when brewers are organized in their production and recipe, each batch differs slightly from the last.
Inconsistent Results – Though they might be the same kind of plant, not every plant is exactly the same. As a result, the benefits from applying compost tea can differ slightly per plant.
Lack of Scientific Proof – Compost tea recipes are mostly made up of “he said, she said” gardener testimonials rather than actual scientific proof; therefore, following these recipes can generate unreliable results.
Time Consuming – Because of the “brewing” process, producing compost tea can often be time consuming, and once produced, compost teas must be applied shortly after for best results.
Holganix Can Help!
Brewing your own compost tea is tricky, but Holganix can help! Holganix’s flagship product Bio 800+ is a plant probiotic derived from a compost tea base that contains over 800 species of beneficial soil microbes. Because of our manufacturing process, we ensure product consistency and DNA fingerprint each batch to understand which species of soil microbes are present.
To learn more about Holganix Bio 800+ visit: http://www.holganix.com/blog/what-is-bio-800
At Holganix, we are self-appointed soil geeks. Learning about new trends, research and theories that are happening in the field makes us tick. We bet it gets you excited too!
Here are our top 5 favorite plant and soil science TED Talks. Warning! Some of these are crazy, unique ideas that will make Holganix almost seem ordinary! If you know a good TED Talk we are missing, post it in the comments of this blog. We’d LOVE to check it out!
If you are reading this on an email, video function will not operate. Click on the link to watch each TED Talk.
Humus – The Essential Ingredient
Humus is what is left after soil microorganisms have decomposed organic matter. It holds nutrients and moisture and provides a great structure for planting in. Humus is essential for food production and is being gradually depleted. Learn more in Graeme Sait’s TED Talk.
Healthy Soil, Healthy World
If you pick up a handful of soil, you will be holding more microorganisms in your hand than the entire number of people who have ever lived on earth. Think about that for a moment. Can you imagine the quantity of living things in your grasp? Soil is FULL of life. In this TED Talk you’ll have the opportunity to explore the soil from a microorganisms’ point of view.
Putting Carbon Back Where It Belongs
Good news! Plants can quite literally change the face of the earth. By growing more plants, we can capture more carbon dioxide, water, production, biodiversity and profit? In fact, a 1% change in soil organic matter across just one quarter of the world’s land area could sequester 300 billion tons of physical C02. Check out Tony Lovell’s TED Talk here.
Stop Treating Our Soil Like Dirt!
Healthy soil is not dirt! Healthy soils are critical for keeping water clean producing food and buffering the effects of extreme weather. Soil plays a fundamental role in our lives in three key ways… Watch Karen Wynne’s TED Talk here.
Soil – From Dirt To Lifetime
Did you know there are more living organisms beneath the soil then there are above it? Soil scientists can’t even come to an agreement about how many microbes are actually in the soil. Check out Fred Kirshenmann’s TED Talk here.
Sustainable agriculture plays a big role in today's farming industry and it's shaping the way the world grows organic, low input or holistic crops.
Check out our slideshare below for seven key facts to know about sustainable agriculture. If you're reading this blog via email and having difficulty viewing the slideshare, click here: What You Don't Know About Sustainable Agriculture
Sustainable agriculture is becoming increasingly important. However, farmers looking to improve sustainability at the farm are faced with the overwhelming challenge of producing high-yield, high-quality crops without undermining the natural systems and resources that crop productivity and environmental sustainability depend on. That challenge is becoming even more crucial when faced with today’s growing world population, which is forecasted to reach 9.7 billion by 2050.
We’ve compiled a collaboration of some of the most popular sustainable agriculture techniques employed by farmers today. These techniques help farmers increase yields and crop resilience, gain control over weeds, pests, disease, erosion, and aid in producing high-quality soil.
#1 Using big data to create field-specific applications
Instead of treating a field uniformly, precision agriculture uses big data to prescribe site-specific treatments utilizing technology like GPS and GIS. This micromanagement of a farm allows farmers to (1) provide the ideal recipe for growing the best crops possible on a specific location based on the needs of the soil and crop and (2) minimize their environmental footprint by using fertilizers and pesticides only when needed.
#2 Adding microbial products to boost yields and crop resilience and reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides
Instead of adding nutrients, microbial products add living, beneficial microorganisms that naturally increase crop and soil health the way Mother Nature intended. While seen as a new technology, data from microbial products demonstrate that soil microbes have the power to affect big change in the agriculture industry.
For example, Holganix Agriculture (aBio 800+ product) is a 100% organic microbial product, infused with over 800 species of diverse microbes to optimize your soils. Studies have shown that Holganix Agriculture increases yields and crop resilience when faced with stress, and reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides.
Want to learn more about results seen with Holganix Agriculture? Check out our case study “Boosting Yield and Degrees Brix at Alfalfa Farm Winery”: http://www.holganix.com/blog/boosting-yield-and-degrees-brix-at-alfalfa-winery
#3 No-till/soil enrichment enhances soil health and decreases erosion and runoff
No-till farming helps prepare the land for crops without mechanically disturbing the soil. There are countless benefits that come with adopting no-till farming including a significant decrease in soil erosion, an increase in water infiltration and retention by the soil (resulting in less runoff of water that is often contaminated with fertilizers and pesticides) AND because the soil is not being frequently agitated, no-till farming promotes biodiversity in and around the soil.
#4 Cover crops alleviate compaction and protect from erosion
Planting cover crops such as clover, oats, or radishes help alleviate compaction so oxygen and water can sufficiently flow in the soil. It also adds organic matter to the soil when tilled under for the next farming season and helps hold soil in place, reducing crusting and protecting against erosion from wind and rain.
# 5 Crop rotation naturally curbs pest problems
Crop rotation allows farmers to curb pest problems naturally. Many pests have preferences for specific crops; therefore, the continuous growth of the same crop guarantees pests a steady food supply. By growing different crops in succession in the same field, you help break that food supply and control pests.
Plants aren’t as vulnerable as they appear. Soil microbes form symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationships with the plant, offering to boost plant defenses and plant growth in return for food sources.
Plant Growth-Promoting Bacteria (PGPB) is a special class of bacteria that occupy the rhizosphere (root zone) of the plant and have the ability to promote plant growth and plant defenses.
PGPB directly affects plant growth
PGPB directly affects plant growth by facilitating the availability of nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and iron. These nutrients are critical to plant biochemistry, and without them plant growth is limited. While nitrogen, phosphorus and iron may be abundant in the soil, they are often found in a form the plant can’t utilize. PGPB convert those nutrients to the form the plant can use.
PGPB can also produce plant hormones like auxins, gibberellins and cytokinins that stimulate plant root and shoot growth in exchange for food sources from the plant.
PGPB protects the plant
PGPB has the ability to protect the plant from pathogens through microbial antagonism. PGPB out-compete pathogens for nutrients and produce antibiotics and anti-fungal metabolites.
PGPB also have the ability to help the plant defend itself from pathogens through Induced Systemic Resistance (ISR). ISR triggers a signal in the plant that activates the plant’s defense system such as reinforcing plant cell walls, producing anti-microbial phytoalexins and synthesizing pathogen-related proteins.
PGPB found in Holganix Bio 800+
Holganix Bio 800+ is our product line of plant probiotics containing over 800 species of beneficial microorganisms, microbe food and nutrient enhancers to promote optimal plant health with less fertilizers, pesticides and water needed.
One of the important ingredients in Holganix Bio 800+ is PGPB. In order to ensure that each batch is teeming with PGPB, Holganix uses DNA fingerprinting as a critical function to its manufacturing process.
Watch our video below to learn more about Holganix Bio 800+. If you are reading this blog via email, click here to access the video.
At Holganix, we are self-appointed soil geeks. Learning about new trends, research and theories that are happening in the field make us tick. We bet it gets you excited too! Here are our top 5 favorite articles on soil microbes (to be fair, some are videos).
Healthy Soil Microbes, Healthy People
The Atlantic Magazine reports that the microbial community in the ground is as important as the one in human guts. According to the Atlantic Magazine, “The greatest leverage point for a sustainable and healthy future for the several billion people on the planet is arguably immediately underfoot: the living soil, where we grow our food.”
Read Healthy Soil Microbes, Healthy People by Atlantic Magazine: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/06/healthy-soil-microbes-healthy-people/276710/
Microbes Help Grow Better Crops
Scientific American explores research from Virginia to Colombia that has been conducted on microbes to boost plant health and crop yield. “Microbes act as sentinels of food safety and furnish an environmentally sound alternative to massive inputs of fertilizers and pesticides,” says Scientific American.
Check out Microbes Help Grow Better Crops by Scientific America: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/microbes-help-grow-better-crops/
The Soil Biology Primer
Consider this short read the "Bible of Soil Science". Written by Dr. Elaine Ingham – the godmother of the soil food web, in partnership with the USDA, The Soil Biology Primer introduces soil health and soil biology and how it contributes to agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability.
Access The Soil Biology Primer PDF Version by Dr. Elaine Ingham: https://books.google.com/books/about/Soil_Biology_Primer.html?id=AgQUAAAAYAAJ
Healthy Soil, Healthy World
If you pick up a handful of soil, you will be holding more microorganisms in your hand than the entire number of people who have ever lived on earth. Think about that for a moment. Can you imagine the quantity of living things in your grasp? The soil is FULL of life. In this TED Talk, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the soil from the microorganisms’ point of view.
Watch Healthy Soil, Healthy World from TEDx: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTgH16omrJg
Modern Marvel’s: Fertilizer
While not an article, this TV series from the History Channel digs into fertilizer. From synthetic N-P-K to sewage-based solutions to vermicomposting and compost, Modern Marvels provides both an entertaining and factual documentary on fertilizer and the history of growing plants.
Hint: If you don’t have a subscription, you can stream the video online for $1.99 on Amazon.
View Modern Marvels: Fertilizer on the History Channel: http://www.history.com/shows/modern-marvels/season-13/episode-19
Purchase the episode on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Fertilizer/dp/B0050WFI2S/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1
Within the soil exists a complex balance between the soil microorganisms and larger organisms such as earthworms, insects, small vertebrates and plants. All of these organisms live all or part of their lives in the soil.
Soil Food Web Diagram from the USDA
To steal a line from Walt Disney’s The Lion King, it’s the circle of life! The larger organisms consume smaller organisms; those smaller organisms consume even smaller organisms and so on. When complete, the soil food web nurtures healthy plants, healthy habitats for those plants and an overall healthier environment with less pollutants. When the soil food web is out of balance, plant health is compromised.
What are soil microorganisms and why are they important to plant health?
Soil is abundant with living microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes, protozoa, algae and nematodes. Of the microorganisms present in most soils, roughly 95% of the total population is bacteria.
These microorganisms carry out important functions in the soil to nurture plant health including but not limited to: converting and releasing nutrients (plant food) to the plant; promoting plant tolerance from stress including weather, disease and traffic; fighting pathogens in the soil; and stimulating plant growth.
Reducing inputs when using microbial products
New products that contain microorganisms have been gathering market support. Turf professionals, horticulturists and farmers report needing less fertilizers and pesticides when using microbial products in combination with their traditional fertility program.
One example is Broken Sound Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida. Shannon Easter, Director of Golf Maintenance, has reduced fungicide use by 30% and fertilizer by 20% when using Holganix Bio 800+ in combination with his fertility program.
Holganix Bio 800+ is a microbial or plant probiotic containing more than 800 species of active microorganisms to nourish plant health.
Jimmy Cox of Picture Perfect Lawn Maintenance has reduced fertilizer use by nearly 50% with Bio 800+. Jimmy is using 2.2 pounds of nitrogen, down from his usual 4 pounds annually.
At Holganix, one of our core values is Evolution & Revolution. What does that mean? (1) we want to create a revolution in the green industry and (2) we believe in continually evolving our business and products to make them better and better.
With a focus on biology as the solution to plant health, Holganix is continually pioneering (dare we say, revolutionizing…) new methods of incorporating biology to build resilient plants and healthier soils. After all, fostering healthy plants begins by fostering healthy soils that are teeming with beneficial soil microorganisms.
As our industry evolves, we are excited that plant probiotics are becoming steadily accepted by the industry. However, as competitors emerge, we felt the need to evolve our brand and rename our flagship product line (the liquid, refrigerated products like Holganix Lawn, Golf, Tree and Shrub and Bloom) to differentiate it from the competition.
That is one of the reasons why Holganix is channeling its core value of Evolution & Revolution to re-named its flagship product line as Bio 800+.
Why Bio 800+?
Bio stands for life; 800 stands for the number of microbe species present in the product line; and + stands for more than or beneficial. In other words, Holganix Bio 800+ contains over 800 species of beneficial, living microorganisms (click to access the ingredient list). That’s a lot of bugs in our jug!
In fact, if you compare Holganix Bio 800+ to the competition, you’ll notice that all other products contain 2 or 3 or maybe 6 species of microorganisms that target specific plant problems.
When it comes to microbial products, the microbe count is important, yet diversity can be even more crucial. By having a product filled with a diversity of life, the soil and plant is prepared for whatever hurdle it needs to face.
Think of it as your equivalent to a multi-vitamin. Instead of a magic bullet, Holganix Bio 800+ products parachute in an army of specialists, each of which is capable of filling in gaps to balance the biological requirements of the soil.
Consider the environment you are asked to grow plants in. Are the soils the same from property-to-property? Do the climate conditions change day-to-day or hour-by-hour? Are the pathogens and stresses that are attacking your plants changing? Don’t you want to give your plants every possible advantage to adopt and respond to all of these changing challenges?
Whereas a single microbial strain would be able to assist with one single, targeted problem, a microbial product with a huge diversity of species is better equipped to handle problems in a changing environment.
Just as a car can’t be fixed with a single screwdriver, Holganix Bio 800+ is an entire toolbox of microbes adept to handle numerous problems.
In a nutshell, Holganix Bio 800+ is a complete ecosystem in a jug that harnesses the power of over 800 species of beneficial microorganisms to:
1. Increase the plant's tolerance of stress from weather, disease and insect
2. Stimulate healthy foliage and root growth
3. Reduce inputs including fertilizers, pesticides and water
4. Many other benefits!
How can Holganix stuff so much life into a jug of Holganix Bio 800+?
When looking at microbial products, like Holganix’s Bio 800+, it’s not uncommon to be stumped by the ingredients. After all, the product is living and changing; how can you really be certain that you are applying a viable product?
Because Holganix is committed to producing quality product, Bio 800+ is:
1. Field and university tested
Holganix spends six-figures annually on university testing to learn more about our product and to validate claims. To read the cliff notes from our University Studies click here. Holganix also has recorded 70+ case studies across America. To access our favorite case studies click here.
2. DNA fingerprinted for product consistency
Each batch of product is DNA fingerprinted to ensure that each batch produced is living (literally) up to Holganix’s quality standards.
3. Refrigerated to keep the life dormant and fresh for use
At the end of the day, you can keep a couple or a few microorganisms dormant without refrigeration. But, to keep the diversity and quantity of microorganisms present in Bio 800+ fresh and ready for use, refrigeration is key.
4. 100% organic
To keep our product safe for people, pets and the environment, Holganix Bio 800+ is 100% organic.