Soil Biology Revolution
The biotic fertilizer processing, which is now in its fourth generation of improvement, is being done at a production plant that easily could be duplicated for converting chicken litter other than Washington. The result is, as the name implies, a "blended" fertilizer. The chelated form of the nutrients makes them immediately available to soil flora and fauna, "living" microorganisms, hence the biotic descriptor. The company offers chicken-litter based organic and conventional products including 4-4-4, urea supplemented 8-4-2 and a 16-3-7, as well as other component-supplemented products. The goal with biotic fertilizer is to enhance biological activity, not simply feed the plant directly. The chelated fertilizer is designed for a diverse population of soil bacteria including cyanobacteria or blue-green algae in the soil. According to the company, as their populations explode, they feed other soil microorganisms, all of which in turn feed the crop.
"It's a regenerative protein cycle," explained John Marler, senior vice president, Perfect Blend. "As the amino acids and minerals enter the soil and are consumed by soil bacteria that are 90 percent protein, they in turn generate new sources of protein. You can't have perpetual energy, but the cyanobacteria use sunlight and CO2 to add energy to the cycle. By hitting the soil with nutrients focused for resident soil microbes, we are growing thousands of pounds of soil microbes that are 14 percent N."
Testing In-Field Plots
Hatfield has included the biotic fertilizer in a number of plots this summer at different rates. He is also comparing it with conventional fertilizer applications, as well as combinations of Perfect Blend and conventional components.
"What intrigued me about Perfect Blend was the interesting mix of materials to sustain biological activity," said Hatfield. "If we can marry improving the overall soil biology and the capability of the soil, how does that couple with different forms of nitrogen and N availability?"
After several years of whole-field applications of Perfect Blend at different rates, Jason Baumberger and his customers don't have to rely on plots to compare biotics with conventional fertilizer. The Moses Lake, Wash., Crop Production Services branch manager has been distributing the organic and non-organic certified products for several years. Initially he was attracted to the product line as a way to deliver nutrients in a carbon form to the crop in an effort to enhance biological activity in the soil.