Better Farming Prairies | March 2024

22 Follow us on Twitter: @PrairieFarming Better Farming | March 2024 BIOLOGICAL AMENDMENTS Biological amendments – or simply biologicals – are relatively new to the conventional row crop world and can be a great way for farmers to better utilize nutrition already present in their environment. However, most people who have been farming for a while “probably didn’t learn about biologicals in university or college, so the familiarity isn’t there to make (biologicals) top of mind in your regular crop plans,” says Brady Code, the Biologicals technical lead with Syngenta Canada. Gustavo Roelants, marketing lead for Biologicals with Syngenta Canda, explains, “biological products are derived from natural elements or inspired by natural processes to protect and promote plant growth. There are three main categories of biologicals: Biofertility, biocontrol, and biostimulants.” For this article, biofertility and biostimulants are the focus. “Biocontrol products are crafted from naturally occurring elements to help manage (pests),” says Roelants. They are used in conjunction with pesticides rather than soil nutrition. The main difference between biofertility and biostimulants is how they work. “Biofertility products address nutrient needs,” explains Roelants, while biostimulant products “stimulate a plant’s natural processes.” “Biofertility products colonize the rhizosphere and/or the plant itself and encourage growth by synthesizing growth-promoting compounds. Examples include beneficial microorganisms that can fix nitrogen from the air or solubilize phosphorus from the soil,” Roelants continues. Basically, “you can get nitrogen (and other nutrients) through fertilizers, or you can get them through bacteria,” says Manas Banerjee, the CEO of XiteBio Technologies in Winnipeg, Man. “The bacteria – the most common being Rhizobium – give nitrogen back to the crops through nodulation. They are able to pull nitrogen right from the air. It’s a symbiotic relationship between the bacteria and the plant.” The term for this process is nitrogen fixation, where the bacteria give the plant usable nitrogen in exchange for ‘room and board’ in the nodules formed on the plant roots. If you grow pulses, you’ve already heard of nodulation and nitrogen fixation. However, other crops like cereals and oilseeds don’t have this inherent nitrogen- fixing ability. In fact, these crops can have distinct microbiomes, which can impact the yields of the following crops planted in the field the next season. “Plants are fussy about nutrient forms. They will only take up nitrogen in nitrate or ammonium forms. They will only take up sulphur in sulphate BIOLOGICAL AMENDMENTS MIGHT BE JUST WHAT YOUR SOIL NEEDS WHEN BIOLOGY MEETS CHEMISTRY By STACY BERRY Brady Code Gustavo Roelants XiteBio photo