Soil isn’t just an inert growing medium; it’s a complex ecosystem teeming with life. Billions of organisms live in the soil, including bacteria, fungi, nematodes and earthworms. In fact, one tablespoon of soil has more organisms in it than there are people on earth, according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
“Viewing soil as a living ecosystem reflects a fundamental shift in the way farmers care for the land,” said Jennifer Riggs, BASF Seed Solutions Product Development Manager. “Taking steps to enhance that ecosystem not only improves soil health but improves crop health.”
Limiting tillage. Reduced tillage means less erosion and runoff, which helps hold nutrients in place for crops to access. The idea of less tillage is a difficult change for some farmers. They grew up plowing fields regularly. However, many farmers have found benefits to tilling less often, such as saving money through decreased fuel usage.
“Healthy soil created by less tillage can also help buffer the crop against weather extremes,” said Riggs. “From drought to flooding, healthy soil offers an extra layer of protection from a variety of other stresses. This helps the crop maximize its genetic potential.”
Building organic matter. Organic matter levels are critical to successful crop production. Dead plant material is the largest component of organic matter, followed by living plant tissue and soil-inhabiting microbes, animals and insects. Organic matter improves soil health, aids in reducing compaction and surface crusting, and increases water infiltration into the soil.
“For example, cover crops offer a way to help build organic matter,” said Riggs. “Each additional percentage point of organic matter in the soil releases 20 to 30 pounds of nitrogen, 2 to 6 pounds of phosphorus and 2 to 3 pounds of sulfur per year.”
Using biologicals. More organic matter in the soil benefits soil microbes, which are nature’s invisible workforce. Harnessing the power of these beneficial microbes is one of the biggest innovations in seed treatment technology today.
Microbial soil amendments contribute to soil health by enhancing organic matter decomposition and nutrient cycling. This process helps improve soil structure, which limits soil erosion, increases water availability and helps plants withstand challenging weather conditions more successfully.
Modern technology is unlocking the secrets of microbial growth and survival. This is leading to new solutions for growers, including the Poncho®/VOTiVO® 2.0 seed treatment, a next-generation corn seed treatment from BASF. The seed treatment provides broad-spectrum insect and nematode protection while boosting the root-soil environment for higher corn yield potential.
“Poncho/VOTiVO 2.0 is unlike any other seed treatment,” said Riggs. “It still brings all the advantages of the original Poncho/VOTiVO, plus the proven benefits from increased microbial activity.”
Unlocking these secrets to soil health is the key to maximizing productivity and profitability. To learn more about Poncho/VOTiVO 2.0 and the BASF seed solutions portfolio, please visit www.agproducts.basf.us.
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Poncho and VOTiVO are registered trademarks of BASF.