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“If you really want to increase yields, you got to have a lot of enzymes in your plants. Unfortunately, we may be limiting how many enzymes and how much production we can get out of them simply because a lot of these elements are tied up.”

— Jim Hoorman, Soil Health Specialist, Hoorman Soil Health Services

Micronutrients and humates are critical to soil fertility and plant nutrition, but their effects aren’t widely understood. That’s where independent soil health specialist Jim Hoorman comes in.

Jim teaches farmers how proper nutrient balance in crops fights disease and insect infestation, and how humates in the soil can increase efficiency of applied nutrients. He studies a lot of new and often overlooked ideas, recommending little changes that together result in exponential improvements to plant health that can boost your bottom line.

Jim is joining Strip-Till Farmer for an exclusive pre-conference workshop July 27 ahead of the 2022 National Strip-Tillage Conference, and he’s giving us a preview of his presentation in this episode of the Strip-Till Farmer podcast, brought to you by SOURCE by Sound Agriculture.

Listen in as Jim explains why micronutrients may be the best opportunity to boost your yields this year, what to look for when buying biologicals and more.

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The Strip-Till Farmer podcast is brought to you by SOURCE®️ by Sound Agriculture.

Wake up your soil and unlock more per acre with SOURCE®️ by Sound Agriculture. SOURCE is a biochemistry that activates microbes in the soil to provide more nitrogen and phosphorus to corn and soybean crops. It’s simple to use with a low use rate, tank mix compatibility, and flexible application window. Use the Performance Optimizer tool to determine where SOURCE will work best to increase yield or reduce nitrogen - either way you win. Visit Sound.Ag to learn more.

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Full Transcript

Michaela Paukner:

Welcome to this episode of the Strip-Till Farmer podcast series. I'm Michaela Paukner, associate editor of Strip-Till Farmer. Thanks to SOURCE by Sound Agriculture for sponsoring the Strip-Till podcast series. Wake up your soil and unlock more per acre with SOURCE by Sound Agriculture. SOURCE is a biochemistry that activates microbes in the soil to provide more nitrogen and phosphorus to corn and soybean crops. It's simple to use with a low use rate, tank mix compatibility and flexible application window. Use the Performance Optimizer tool to determine where SOURCE will work best to increase yield or reduce nitrogen. Either way, you win. Visit sound.ag to learn more. That's S-O-N-D.ag.

Michaela Paukner:

Micronutrients and humates are critical to soil fertility and plant nutrition, but their effects aren't widely understood. That's where independent soil health specialist Jim Hoorman comes in. Jim teaches farmers how proper nutrient balance in crops fights disease and insect infestation, and how humates in the soil can increase efficiency of applied nutrients. He studies a lot of new and often overlooked ideas. Recommending little changes that together result in exponential improvements to plant health that can boost your bottom line. Jim is joining Strip-Till Farmer for an exclusive pre-conference workshop, July 27 ahead of the 2022 National Strip-Tillage Conference. Today, he's giving us a preview of his presentation in this episode of the Strip-Till Farmer podcast series. Listen in as Jim explains why micronutrients may be the best opportunity to boost your yields this year, what to look for when buying biologicals and more.

Jim Hoorman:

My name's Jim Hoorman and I have my own company called Hoorman Soil Health Services. But first, I worked as county extension educator for 24 years for Ohio State University. Worked mainly in no-till, cover crops and water quality. I left extension and worked for USDA NRCS as a regional soil health specialist. I did that for three years and in 2019, I started my own company, Hoorman Soil Health Services. I'm working on a number of grants and I have some clients that I work with, consult with and also sell crimper rollers and do some things like that.

Michaela Paukner:

Okay. What are the soils like in your area of Ohio? Can you describe what people are growing and the precipitation?

Jim Hoorman:

In our area, we're pretty much heavy clay soils. That's predominant. We used to get about 36, now we're up to about 40 to 42 inches of rainfall per year. So it's a little higher rainfall.

Michaela Paukner:

You're joining us to kick off the National Strip-Tillage Conference on Wednesday, July 27th with a pre-conference workshop presentation. It's called Boosting the Bottom Line with Mineral Nutrition and Humates. What will be the focus of this workshop?

Jim Hoorman:

Well, let's start with the mineral nutrition. We've spent a lot of time talking about N, P and K nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Those are very important, but we don't spend a lot of time, especially in looking at the biology with maybe that other 1%, the micronutrients. If you really want to boost your yields, maybe the best place right now, especially with high fertilizer costs, are to look at those micronutrients. Because most of the micronutrients are the central element performing enzymes. Enzymes are what really increase biological activity in the plant, and that's going to boost your yield. If you've got any one of these micronutrients that's lacking, it kind of shuts the whole plant down. It really can't go too far. I mean, you can do a few things, but if you really want to boost yields, you're going to have to make sure you've got enough micronutrients there. So I'm going to spend quite a bit of time talking about the micronutrients in the soil.

Michaela Paukner:

Okay. What ways are you using to test the micronutrient levels?

Jim Hoorman:

Usually, when we start testing, we're looking at soil test and also tissue test. The problem with some of the soil tests are, they can give you wrong answers. For example, if you're looking at iron and manganese, they're going to measure total iron and total manganese. Really there's only a specific form of some of these elements that the plant can use. Even though it will absorb some of these other elements into the plant, you can have very high levels on your soil test, or especially on soil tests, not so much tissue tests, but they're not really helping the plant. They're taken up, but they're not utilized sometimes. That's why it's important that you understand what the limitations of each one of those tests are.

Michaela Paukner:

Okay. How do you tell if the soil test is giving you the wrong answer and how do you go about identifying those limitations?

Jim Hoorman:

Well, usually what I do is I look for plant deficiencies. Corn is very easy. Corn and sorghum, you can look for a lot of deficiencies on the plant. For example, let's talk about calcium and boron. Boron is used to get calcium into the plant. So you really got to have both. But you look for the zipper effect on a leaf. If you look on edge of a leaf and you see these little dash lines, some people call them railroad tracks, some of them call them little zippers, that's an indication of boron deficiency. If you see some of the dash lines or the zipper effects in between the edge of the leaf and the mid rib, then that's an indication of calcium deficiency. Calcium is just so critical. We have 146 enzymes that calcium activates, so it's really important that you have enough calcium in the plant.

Jim Hoorman:

Now, if you also look at the leaf and you see some white, especially on the midrib or white strips, that's an indication of zinc deficiency. If you look towards the tip and you see that it's kind of yellow, with all the Roundup that we're using, we're seeing an awful lot of manganese deficiency. Because Roundup is really good at tying up manganese and iron and copper and a lot of our other nutrients. The other thing you can look for is, if you look at your corn plant and you've got a tremendous amount of brace roots, that's generally an indication of copper deficiency. Now, there's a caveat to this. Certain corn varieties have more brace roots than others. I don't know if that's directly related to copper deficiency. Don't get too excited if you just see one set, but where you really want to be concerned is if you've got a thin stalk and you see several sets, several internodes and you've got brace roots there. What happening is those brace roots are kind of trying to make an end run, almost like a heart bypass.

Jim Hoorman:

If you take that stalk and you split it, you'll see a lot of brown discolored areas. What copper is so important for is ligament formation. A lot of our stalk crops and our lodging comes from a lack of copper in the soil. Only about 5% of the copper that's in the soil is available. A lot of times it's tied up in the residue and it can take two to five years for that to break down. You don't need a lot of copper, but if you don't have adequate copper, you can have some issues with the stalk strength. Those are some of the things that we'll kind of discuss in our session.

Michaela Paukner:

Okay. In terms of those deficiencies and looking for the different signs, at what stage of plant growth will farmers see these deficiencies? Or does it vary based on what it is?

Jim Hoorman:

It kind of varies, but you can start looking for them really fairly early. Then as the plant progresses, once you get a couple full leaves, it really becomes noticeable. But probably the thing that I think we're missing right now is that, a lot of times we don't start testing, let's say on corn, until about V10. Well, think about when corn determines its maximum yield. We have the potential for 1,100 bushels of corn. Now I don't know of anybody that's ever reached that because environment and the nutrients just aren't there. But maybe we should be looking a little earlier because most of the corn determine its yield right around V6. From about even V2 to about V6 or V8, we really ought to be looking at our corn to see how it's doing. Because that's when it's really determining a lot of its yield.

Jim Hoorman:

That's when you've got your biggest potential for yield loss. If you'll wait until V10, by then, you've already lost. If you haven't addressed it, you've probably lost a lot. I really think we probably need be looking a little earlier. There's not a lot of literature on that, but this is an insight that I think we need to pay a little bit more attention to. One of the big ones that I don't think I hardly hear anybody talking about is iron. We have quite a bit of iron in our soil. Unfortunately, it's just in the wrong form. Why is iron so important? Well, iron is used by the plant to form an enzyme that makes chlorophyll, and you got to have that chlorophyll molecule. The central element in chlorophyll is magnesium. If you don't have enough chlorophyll in your plant, you're not going to maximize your photosynthesis. Right now, on average, we're probably only about 10 to 20% efficient at maximizing photosynthesis.

Jim Hoorman:

One of the big reasons for that is, we just don't have carbon in the soil. The most limiting element is carbon. But then after that, you start getting into some of these other micronutrients that might be having a plain effect. Iron and calcium are probably two of the biggest ones that I think that we're just not paying close enough attention to. If you want to have a little fun, get some reduced iron and apply that to your grass. You can write somebody's name in the lawn and that'll show up for just about all summer. You'll be able to see exactly where you did that. We're starting to do a little research with applying iron to tomato plants. Dr. Rafiq Islam at Ohio State, he had a control. He used some fulvic acid with some iron and he got a 37% increase in yield on the tomatoes. Just one element.

Jim Hoorman:

Where he used nano iron, which is very, very small, very reduced iron, they got an 87% increase in yield. I think if we start looking at some of these micronutrients, you'll start to see where you can get better yield. Now, it's not just one. What they found with the iron is, they didn't have any more fruit, but they had bigger fruit and higher quality fruit. Well, as I look at that, I said, "Did you put on any calcium?" Calcium is so important. 80% of your calcium is taken up at pollination and that determines a lot of your yields. If you want more fruit, more ears, more everything, you got to have adequate calcium in order to stimulate that. Calcium is also extremely important for germination and also fruit quality. It's real important that you have enough calcium in the plant.

Jim Hoorman:

Just a couple ideas. Then the big thing now is with Roundup, it's very common now that we have to foliarly apply manganese to our soybeans because we've used so much Roundup. Roundup is a chelator and it's tying up a lot of these nutrients. We're getting what I would call adequate yields. Maybe even for most of us, they sound pretty good, but it may be possible that we can greatly increase our yields if we just don't chelate or tie up all these elements. Or if we are going to use Roundup, maybe we just need to make sure that we have enough fertilizer out there at the right time. A lot of times we can do this with some of the foliars if you get it small enough. It's got to be small enough and you got to use the right products in order to get it into the plant.

Jim Hoorman:

That's a part of what we'll talk about when we talk about some of the humates and what's so important there. A lot of times what's happening on these micronutrients, and this is kind of important you understand this, is we've got the elements in the soil. They're just either not in the right form or the plant roots can't get to them. Almost all the major micronutrients that we need that are cations, which have a positive charge on it, usually it's a two plus form. The oxidation form. If you're looking at those, what happens is, they got to be reduced. That's where some of the humates come in. Especially fulvic acid can reduce those elements down into a form that the plant then can absorb. What happens is, the fulvic acid will encapsulate it, strip it basically naked and move it right into the plant.

Jim Hoorman:

The fulvic acid and everything moves into the plant, and then it'll find a protein for that element to attach to. Then that protein becomes an enzyme. What's so important about enzymes is, they increase our metabolic activity by 100, 1,000, 10,000, 100,000 times in a second. If you really want to increase yields, you got to have a lot of enzymes in your plants. Unfortunately, we may be limiting how many enzymes and how much production we can get out of them simply because a lot of these elements are tied up. Here's a problem. Reducing conditions are anaerobic, which means a lack of oxygen and usually it's saturated. I'll tell you what. For about a three month time period when I was studying some of this a year or two ago, that really confused me. You mean compacted soils? That's what we see under compacted soils.

Jim Hoorman:

I really was in a funk for about three months just trying to figure this out. Then I ran across a reference that just cleared it all up for us. Dr. William Jackson wrote a great book. He said, if you want to get reducing conditions, you first have to start with aerobic soils. Here's what he explained. He says, under aerobic conditions, you're going to have microaggregates and macroaggregates. I remember from college that it's those microaggregates where you get those anaerobic conditions and that's where these nutrients are going to be reduced. Well, when you have a macroaggregate in the soil, the roots can get down there. There's air and there's water and they can grow. They can't grow in a compacted soil. What happens is, these macroaggregates break open, reform, break open and reform.

Jim Hoorman:

When they do that, the roots can get in between the macroaggregates. When they break open, those microaggregate sites can release some of these reduced elements to the plant. Plants don't grow in saturated soil. The roots don't grow. They also cannot access a lot of those elements. What happens is, a lot of those elements actually leach out of the soil or they're just not plant available. That was one of those things that was an aha moment for me. Realizing that you have to start with aerobic soils and then have the right biology in order to make these elements in a reduced form that the plant can use. I think that's how we tie in the soil health to all this. It's all about biology, and both the micronutrients and the humates are going to help our biology.

Michaela Paukner:

What are some of the things that strip-tillers should be doing to promote those aerobic soils that they want to then access the nutrients?

Jim Hoorman:

One of the things you can do is, with a strip-tiller, you're only tilling just a small area, but it doesn't matter. Almost any type of tool that we use, a planter, we're going to get a little compaction right around that root sound where it's at. But you've got the rest of that area that you can manage to, as the roots grow out into it, hopefully we're going to get better access. I think with strip-tilling, if we can grow cover crops or anything you can do to form more macroaggregates in the soil, that's going to be beneficial. Even though you're just strip-tilling, you can strip-till in with cover crops and that can really help you. The other thing is, we probably need to be looking a little bit more at the humates. When we're looking at organic matter, we have several different forms of organic matter. You've got the root exudates and a lot of those are the non-humic compounds.

Jim Hoorman:

Those are just kind of the sugars and glues and things that are in the soil. But if I were to describe humates to you, it's really, really hard, so I'm going to give you a little analogy. Imagine if you took 100 different animals, let's assume they're dead, and you took 1,000 different plants and you kind of ground them all up together and then you let them decompose in the soil. Then after several months, years, whatever, you try to describe what you have left. It's almost impossible. We have almost 100,000 different organic compounds in the soil. They're almost non distinguishable, but what we break them down into is fulvic acid, humic acid and humin. The fulvic acid are kind of the lightweight ones. They have a little more oxygen in them and a little less carbon.

Jim Hoorman:

They're really important for moving a lot of the nutrients into the soil. They're the activators. Fulvic acid is really a great activator. They also tend to be a little more acid. When you get to the humic, the humic acids are a little bigger, quite a bit more dense. That's where a lot of our micronutrients and even our nitrogen and everything is kind of tied up in that. Usually the humins going to be kind of a brown to a dark brown. The fulvic acid is going to be kind of a yellow to a light brown. Then your humins, those are the ones that are really, really dense, and those are going to be black. One of the key things with water quality is that we ought to be looking at trying to add a little more humin, that fraction, in with our fertilizers. Especially the negative charged nitrates and soluble reactive phosphorus. Because the humin has positive charges.

Jim Hoorman:

It has what we call a high anionic exchange capacity, and it can tie up those negative charged molecules for 60 to 90 days in the soil. Well, that's almost perfect for corn production because when we have pollination, that's when we really need to have a higher demand for nitrogen and phosphorus, and it keeps it in the soil and not in our waterways. You can also use the fulvic and the humic acid, but it's only going to tie it up for about 10 to maybe 20 days. Only about maybe 10 to 15% of the sites have this anionic exchange. Now, there is a caveat to all this, of course. Why aren't we doing it? Unfortunately, the way humin is manufactured is, a lot of times we denature it and it just doesn't work as well as it should. If you can get the natural humin, that is the most effective. You got to really, really watch when you go to buy some of these humates what you're getting. They're probably not going to tell you those details. That's the problem.

Michaela Paukner:

What can somebody do in that case?

Jim Hoorman:

Well, I'm doing a little research into that. Hopefully I'll have a little bit more information for you at a little bit later date here. But there are a couple companies that are selling the natural humin products, and that's what you want to make sure you try to get. Is that you just got to ask an awful lot of questions. Let's talk just a little bit about fulvic acid because fulvic acid I'm finding out it's either a magician or there's just so many things that fulvic acid does for us that I think people should really understand. Probably the biggest thing is it just really increases the total metabolic activity in the plant. It's just like it speeds it up 100 to 1,000 times. If you've got adequate fulvic acid in your soils, it's soluble, it's a liquid and it will increase plant growth by a factor of 100. I don't know of any other product that can really do this. But again, there's a caveat. Too much, it'll tie up those micronutrients, keep them tight.

Jim Hoorman:

If you don't have enough, then you're not going to be able to get the nutrients. It's all about balance. Unfortunately, it's also a water quality problem. A lot of these fulvic acids in the soil leach out of the soil and they get into our waterways. Well, what effect do you think that has on our harmful algae and the cyanobacteria? It increases their growth by a factor of 100. We really want to keep these in the soil, if at all possible. That's what we're trying to do. But just some things that fulvic acid does, it really stimulates some of the growth hormones. It stimulates yield. It's a great one for kind of tying up some of the free radicals in the soils. Things that can be harmful to the plant. It's very good at stimulating your RNA and your DNA. A lot of the plant genes are not activated until you get certain chemicals and certain enzymes into the plant, and then they're activated. That's one of the things that fulvic acid is very good at doing. It's also really good at buffering the soil.

Jim Hoorman:

It buffers the pH. It helps to make some of the micronutrients more available by chemically weathering some of our soil particles. It increases rooting and branching and shoot growth, just all kinds of things like that. Probably the biggest thing though, if there's one thing that just really impresses me about fulvic acid, it's its ability. It has a really high affinity for iron. It will move iron into the plant, which we know if we get adequate iron in the plant, it will increase the chlorophyll content and it'll turn your plants dark green. That's when you know you've got really good ... I think we are evolved into thinking when we look at corn, a lot of times it's a little bit of a light green, and we think we're getting full photosynthesis. We're really not. You want it to be a dark green. When you see that, everybody knows when they see really healthy corn, how it looks. That's the look that we're trying to get, and iron's a big part of that.

Michaela Paukner:

We'll get back to the conversation in a moment, but first I'd like to thank our sponsor, SOURCE by Sound Agriculture, for supporting the Strip-Till Farmer podcast series. Wake up your soil and unlock more per acre with SOURCE by Sound Agriculture. SOURCE is a biochemistry that activates microbes in the soil to provide more nitrogen and phosphorous to corn and soybean crops. It's simple to use with a low use rate, tank mix compatibility and flexible application window. Use the Performance Optimizer tool to determine where SOURCE will work best to increase yield or reduce nitrogen. Either way, you win. Visit sound.ag to learn more. That's S-O-N-D.ag. Now let's get back to the conversation.

Michaela Paukner:

For the fulvic acid, how do you ensure that it's staying in the soil and not running off?

Jim Hoorman:

You probably want to start with what the rates are, and it really depends on the products. I mean, there's hundreds, thousands of different fulvic acid. Things that are considered fulvic acid. But when we're talking about fulvic acid, we're talking about a fairly small amount. We're only looking at maybe a pint per acre. In some cases, just ounces per acre. It's hard to believe, but we know that we have herbicides that we're putting on at very, very low rates and they're taking care of the weeds. That's kind of what fulvic acid is. You only need just a little bit. Usually when you're looking at some of the other humates, you're looking at about a gallon per acre. Now this is a very, very rough, and it just depends on the product, but just to kind of put it in perspective of about how much you need.

Jim Hoorman:

The other thing we need though along with the fulvic acid is the humic acid. The biggest thing that humic acid does is it changes the soil. It increases your water holding capacity. It just really makes your soil, buffers it, it just makes it a better place for the microbes, it supplies energy. But usually the humic acid works really well with the fulvic because it's kind of the storehouse. Whereas the fulvic acid is kind of the mover and the activator and the element or compound that really gets it into the plant. That's how those two kind of work together. Now, there's some we haven't talked about, and this is kind of a whole new topic that I'm also going to discuss just briefly, and it's the type of water we use. Now, we know that when we put on sprays, that usually when we make the water a little more acid, elements are a little bit more available. But there's a really good book out called Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life.

Jim Hoorman:

It's by Dr. Gerald Pollack. He talks about something called structured water. Or another term for that is easy water or energized water. What is energized water? Well, in cells, there's almost a fourth stage of water. There's about 60 anomalies science really hasn't been able to understand until just recently, and this could be a fourth stage of water. You have your gas, your liquid, and your solids, and this is a different form of a liquid water. Water dissolves nutrients. That's kind of like, if you think of a freight train, these would be the carrier cars. The cars that carry the nutrients. But now you need an engine. The engine is this energized water. It's water that's been split so that it has more hydrogen and hydroxide in it. A typical water molecule might have four hydrogens around it and it kind of acts almost like an electrical train and it gives energy to the water to be able to pull it right into of the plant.

Jim Hoorman:

Imagine this, if you used energized water with fulvic acid, plus some of the micronutrients, now you can greatly increase how many nutrients that you can move through that plant. The plants and animals and humans are so much more healthier. We all have energized water in our body. Just a side note here. Something as an anomaly that they couldn't understand, when a person dies, their heart stops yet the blood continues to flow for about five to 10 minutes. How's that possible? Well, it's due to energized water. If your heart had to do all the work, think about how the blood goes through big vessels to small vessels, your capillaries, back to the heart, it would have to be a million times stronger than what it is today.

Jim Hoorman:

The way it does this is through energized water. It's got this positive, negative, positive, negative charges, and it moves the solutes, moves this freight train of nutrients that ordinary water is storing, moves it through your body. That's that internal energy that we have in that energized water. We're using energized water with some of our micronutrients to get them into the plant. If you do that, it's quite effective and it really reduces the amount that you need to use.

Michaela Paukner:

Okay. How do you energize the water?

Jim Hoorman:

Well, there's a couple of different ways. Radiant energy, the red wavelengths will do it. For humans, walking on grass will do it, saunas will do it. But how do we energize it if we want to energize the water? Well, there's a company that's come up with a way. They found some minerals that what they do is moving water tends to have more oxygen in it and it tends to split the water molecule part. They take this water through some minerals, it's in kind of a specialized valve, and they make it flow through there very, very quickly. What it does, is it splits the water molecule into hydrogen and hydroxide. That allows then that water to become energized. The good news is, it'll stay energized for about six months to a year. You can put it in a spray mixture and add nutrients.

Jim Hoorman:

You can use it with herbicides. If you're going to use it with herbicides though, be careful. Some of the guys with high Roundup now are using energized water. Instead of let's say putting on, say 24 ounces of Roundup, now they have to reduce it down to about a one third of that. About 10, 11 ounces. Otherwise, they'll burn the plant. It's absorbed so quickly and so fast by the plant that it kind of overtakes some of those, especially in our GMO corn and beans, it will overtake some of those barriers to that Roundup that we implanted into that plant. You have to be careful. We're still figuring out how much we have to reduce it if we're going to use it with herbicides. I'm mainly using it with micronutrients, is what we're trying to do. That's what we're doing.

Michaela Paukner:

Okay. You're buying this water that's been passed through that valve, not the valve itself to do it?

Jim Hoorman:

You can actually buy a unit. You can get one for under your kitchen and drink energized water. It's kind of slippery. Well, when you drink it, a lot of people prefer it. I have a client of mine that his son likes a certain type of water, and he likes to play a little trick on him. He'll give him two glasses and one will be energized water and one will be his favorite water that he buys from the store. Every single time, he'll pick the energized water. It tastes better. It's got a little different taste, but it's better for the body. Somebody that has kidney stones or something like that, it really helps to kind of flush your body of a lot of some of the things that we have in our body.

Jim Hoorman:

It helps take out some of the wrong forms of calcium, the calcium oxides and the iron oxides and that form. It's a healthy product, but the plants love it. A lot of greenhouses are now using energized water. You can buy a commercial outfit that will do it. Depending on your size, probably the smallest it's going to be for commercial is about 14,000 going on up on there. Some of these new things that we start, one by itself will give you a one. But you start adding another one, now you get some synergy and now you start adding three of these. You start adding the micronutrients with the humates, with the energized water, and all of a sudden, now you're exponential the increases and improvements that you can see in plant health. That's what we're trying to do.

Michaela Paukner:

Yeah. It sounds like there's a ton of potential there.

Jim Hoorman:

There is. I think we're just on the cusp, the very beginning of understanding. There's probably a tremendous amount of research that we need to look at. I was in extension and I worked for Ohio State for 24 years. Foliar feeding was kind of a no-no. You just didn't do it. But let's move into the 21st century. We're not talking about massive amounts. We're talking very, very small amounts and we're talking very, very reduced elements. Almost naked elements that the plant needs. When you think about it, it shouldn't surprise anybody that we can move some of these elements into the plant with foliar feeding because we do it with herbicides. Think about how big that herbicide molecule is. Just look up sometime what the Roundup molecule, how big of a molecule that is.

Jim Hoorman:

Some of these elements that we're moving in are not near as big as what a Roundup is. It is possible if you use the right combination of things, the energized water, some fulvic acid, the micronutrients, so we can move these elements into the plant. I think we can have a big increase or a big improvement in yield and quality of the food that we're producing. The other side benefit of that is nutrient density. Just increasing how many more nutrients we get into that seed can have a huge impact on human health, animal health, anything that we're going to feed these grains to. I think it has a lot of potential.

Michaela Paukner:

For sure. What else should we mention about your workshop that you'll be doing at the Strip-Till Conference?

Jim Hoorman:

I'll probably touch on a lot of different little topics that are kind of impacting. Things that we've just learned maybe within the last three, four years. Here's an interesting tidbit and it has a direct impact on soil health. We now know that there's at least 16 different species of pseudomonas bacteria that is in the atmosphere. Why is that important? Well, most of the rain actually comes from either dirt, but even more so from the microbes that are in the atmosphere. What happens is, the microbes attract the water and it'll freeze and then it will come down to earth and it'll either turn into rain or snow or sleet and that's how we get rainfall. Well, they were looking at the 1930s and they said during that time period, we destroyed a lot of our prairie areas. We turned them under and they're estimating that the drought actually was expanded by several years because we didn't have enough microbes in the atmosphere.

Jim Hoorman:

Well, what happens when you get all these? If you don't have a lot of microbes in the atmosphere for it to rain, you're going to get a tremendous concentration of water vapor. Then when it does come down, what happens? It comes down in three, four, five, seven, 11 inch rains. Maybe a part of the reason that we're seeing increased rainfall in large events could be to the fact that we don't have enough microbes in the atmosphere. You got to have wide plants that are giving off these microbes that are on the leaves and they go up into the atmosphere and that has an impact on how much it rains. Think about the tropics. When you go into the tropical areas, just about every day from somewhere between 3:30 and let's say 4:30, I don't know the exact time, it rains about a quarter inch to a half inch each day.

Jim Hoorman:

Why is that? Because as the sun comes up, we get evapotranspiration and it moves the microbes into the atmosphere. When they reach a certain concentration in the atmosphere, all the water, the vapor there is going to collect around those microbes. All of a sudden, it just starts coming down as rain for maybe five or 10 minutes and they get a quarter inch, maybe a half inch rain almost every single day. Almost exactly at the same time. There's this natural cycle that I think we've maybe disrupted as human beings by not keeping our land covered with green plants as much as possible year round. We know that has a big impact on soil health and water quality, and all these things are really related, I think, to each other.

Michaela Paukner:

It's really interesting. It sounds like there will be a lot of eye-opening and little tidbits people can pick up on.

Jim Hoorman:

I think I will talk a little bit about some of the applications. I'll kind of give you the broad overview, but I'll be honest with you. There's a lot of products out there. You're going to have to go and just experiment. A lot of companies now are using microbes. They're using microbes and biologicals. They're using the humates and they're using the micronutrients. The biggest problem with all this is, there's really not a patent on anything, so the companies are very vague in the information that they give you. That's what makes it difficult for a farmer. Sometimes I can read between the lines and get a pretty good idea what they're doing, but even I struggle to know exactly what they are. If you go talk to the dealer, he says, "Well, I don't know. I'm just going by what they tell me."

Jim Hoorman:

Then you go talk to the agronomist. He'll tell you, "Well, I don't know." He'll send you somewhere up higher in the company. Unfortunately, they aren't going to tell you their trade secrets. This is kind of a secret formulation because just about anybody could do it. If you knew what the formula was, you can make your own. It's very difficult sometimes to evaluate some of this. You almost have to try some products. When you find one that works really well, then stick with it and try to figure it out. It's a little bit like the wild wild west right now unfortunately trying to figure out what works and what doesn't work.

Michaela Paukner:

Outside of buying a bunch of different things and experimenting with it, is there anything that people should be looking for when they're trying to choose a biological product?

Jim Hoorman:

You really need to have a control. Go out and do some strips and do at least three strips, four would be better. Do some with, some without, some with, some without, and kind of go across maybe a small field. Then with their yield monitors, just go back to evaluate. You almost have to do the evaluation on your own farm when you're trying these things out and see what will work best. I am starting to work with a company and we're trying to get some things around that takes care of some of the problems that I talked about, especially with the humates and getting the right concentration.

Jim Hoorman:

Well, we're going to be doing some research this summer and hopefully we'll have some good results by fall that we can see how some of these things are working. If you do it right, sometimes you can see really quick results. I mean, if you have a nutrient deficiency, I've done this on my own farm a little bit with some tomatoes and in my own garden just kind of experimenting a little bit, I can see changes sometimes within minutes to hours or a day. You can see a change in the plant health. So you know it's working or it's not working. It doesn't take a real long period of time to see some changes with some of these things.

Michaela Paukner:

Okay. Was there anything else you wanted to mention that we haven't talked about?

Jim Hoorman:

If there's one good thing about COVID for me, it really hurt my business. I lost probably 20, 30% of my business because I do a lot of teaching and we just didn't get to do very much teaching during that time period. But I did have some time to go back and I studied a lot on these micronutrients and on the humates. My next big project's going to be on some of the microbiology, trying to figure out what bacteria, what fungus. I know quite a few of the species of the mycorrhiza fungus. I've already done some of that work, but just try to figure out what products are going to help us the best and do a little research into that. That's my next goal, I guess.

Michaela Paukner:

Yeah. A lot to research.

Jim Hoorman:

Yeah. The amount of microbes we have in the soil, there's billions and billions. It could be a trillion just in a couple grams of soil. When you take that across 2,000 pounds of soil in the top six inches, 96% of your microbes are in that top six inches of the soil. That's really the area that we need to be concerned about. Some of the things that just doesn't make sense to me, especially on water quality, is we've got the wrong people in charge. Unfortunately, we keep hiring engineers to solve a biological problem. They talk like, "Well, we want to apply these nutrients and we want put them deep in the soil." Well, that doesn't do any good because they're either going to leach out or you got to have them in the zone where the microbes are.

Jim Hoorman:

I don't think people understand the biological significance of these, and we can make a heck of a lot more headway on water quality and things like that if we actually put a few more microbiologists or biologists in charge of this problem. But our suggestions aren't as highly touted as the engineers, for some reason. That's a pet peeve of mine. I've been working on water quality for several years. I worked with NRCS and they're very top-heavy on engineers and don't have enough of us soil health people or biologists to help solve these problems. This is just a side note, but I'll give you an example. Right now, Kevin King has 32 paired watersheds. He may have 34 by now. He's an engineer and they're taking continuous data. I mean, each one of these costs anywhere from a quarter of a million to half million dollars.

Jim Hoorman:

He has one site that they just can't explain. We've got a site where there's a large dairy and he's doing no-till and cover crops. The phosphorus levels are fairly high, very high actually, 150. He's putting on about, let's say 8,000 gallons of liquid dairy manure every year on these plots. The amount of phosphorus coming off of those fields is one of the lowest anywhere around. They can't figure that out. Now, you go across the ditch on the other side, this is a paired part, you've got a conventional farmer who chisel plows every year has 50 parts per million, one third the level that the other guy does, has one of the highest phosphorous losses anywhere in Northwest Ohio. I can tell you what's going on. It's quite simple. The guy has good soil health. He has good macroaggregates.

Jim Hoorman:

He has all these humates in the soil. 90% of the carbon is tied up in your humates, your fulvic, your humic, and your humin. He just has really good macroaggregates. The water infiltrates, and as it goes down, he doesn't have compaction, it bays all the roots and his cover crops just always look really, really great. They're growing like crazy. They're absorbing the nutrients, keeping them tied up when the water gets down to where it finally reaches the tile, it's pretty much clear. There's not a lot of phosphorus in it. The other guy has compaction up the wazoo. Every time it rains, it just fills the ditch up with dirty brown water, which is fulvic acid, humic acid, probably some humin in there, also some black, and he's losing all his organic matter.

Jim Hoorman:

He's got these compacted layers, so it's running off the surface. Or if it does go down through the tile line, it's going straight without any treatment. There's no live roots there, so it all just goes out the end. That's the problem we have, I think, in agriculture. Is we need to really minimize how much tillage we're doing. I think strip-till is a great place because here's the thing with strip-till, you're only tilling just a small area and it helps that corn get off to a fast start because it warms up the soil a little bit and it'll increase the microbes. Then you've got the rest of that zone probably 75 to 80% of it is just going to be no-tilled and that's going to give you a really good soil structure. If you had the cover crops in there, I think that's a great place for getting more carbon into your soil, is with all that root turnover.

Jim Hoorman:

That's where no-till can be the way that guys can improve their soil. Once they get that soil in shape, maybe at some point in time, they can actually convert over to full no-till. But I think it just helps us with that three to seven year lag at least in getting our soils converted. That's what we see whenever we convert to no-till, is it can take three to seven years for that soil to straighten itself out before it starts yielding back where it was. I think the strip-till is a great way for guys to kind of get over that. Nobody wants to take a yield hit. They can reduce their yield hit, especially with prices being what they are.

Michaela Paukner:

Right. Yeah. So strip-till is kind of the good in between there.

Jim Hoorman:

Exactly.

Michaela Paukner:

Thanks to Jim Hoorman for sharing just some of his wealth of knowledge with us today. Jim is hosting a two and a half hour workshop, July 27th ahead of the 2022 National Strip-Tillage Conference in Iowa City, Iowa. This limited capacity workshop requires an RSVP, so sign up today to save your seat. This classroom had a previous National No-Tillage Conference through 200 people, and we're anticipating another packed session. In the meantime, if you're looking for more podcasts about strip-till visit striptillfarmer.com/podcast or check out our episode library wherever you get your podcasts. Finally, many thanks to SOURCE by Sound Agriculture for making this Strip-Till podcast series possible. From all of us here at Strip-Till Farmer, I'm Michaela Paukner. Thanks for listening.

Music: Lobo Loco - Echoes Boogie Dancehall