We sprayed biology (beneficial microbes), enzymes, microbe stimulants, and molasses onto our sorghum sudangrass and cowpeas cover crop just before we rotovated it into the soil. Our rotovating is described here, and our home made spray tank and molasses adventure is described here. Our soil has very low organic matter and is lacking in earthworms and other signs of soil life. Because we were already going to the trouble of rotovating, we applied beneficial biology while we were at it. Our goals are to help the cover crop residue break down quickly so we could plant our winter cover crop soon and also to get good microbes into the soil so the soil can start coming back to life and creating organic matter.
We attended a fantastic farm meeting at Keystone Bio Ag near Lancaster, PA this summer. They were selling many Tainio products, and we purchased Spectrum, a mix of beneficial microbes and Pepzyme Clear, an enzyme product that stimulates microbe reproduction. The cost for enough to cover 10 acres was $240. We were also in contact with AgVerra, a company I found through Acres USA. They offered to include us as one of their project farms. In return for feedback on their products, we got 50% off. Whatta deal! They sent us 20 acres worth of their Stubble Digester product, a mix of microbes that are especially good at breaking down plant residue quickly, and PTM, a mix of beneficial soil microbes plus goodies like kelp extract, fulvic acid, and plant growth regulators. The cost for 20 acres worth was $280 (half off) or $14 per acre.
Besides having a hard time keeping our farm cat away from the Spectrum because it smelled like fishy cat food and also curbing my hunger because the Stubble Digester reminded me of crushed oreos, all products were very easy to work with and get into the spray tank. All products dissolved really well in the tank.
The AgVerra products offered better visibility coming out of the spray tank. Their Stubble Digester and PTM are jet-black in color and ended up giving the spray mix a slight oily (not greasy) consistency. This allowed us to see the spray mix cling to the leaves. It reminded us of vinaigrette dressing! This is not a huge benefit, but as newbie farmers, it felt good to actually see the product landing where we wanted it, and it helped us verify that our spray tank was working.
We did not speak directly to the Tainio company, but Keystone Bio Ag had good customer service and pointers in using the products. AgVerra also had excellent customer service – they have nice product information online, and Alfred went above and beyond to help with product selection, suggestions on our home made spray tank, etc.
We started first with the Tainio products on our neighbor’s east field, which is their best field in terms of soil tilth, organic matter and mineral content. The soil in this field is much easier to shovel than their other fields. AgVerra’s products went on our neighbor’s remaining lower-quality fields and on the 2-acre slice of our pasture. We took these pictures this morning, 2.5 to 3 weeks after rotovating and 6 days after Hurricane Irene’s 10 inches of rain. Both products seem to be working really well. The residue has broken down so nicely that we could plant our winter cover crop now, except the soil is too wet for heavy equipment.
I’m excited to see what our winter cover crop looks like this fall and next spring. Maybe I’ll discern a difference in the two lines of products at that time, although the soil quality difference between the fields might explain any distinction. We’ll see!