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Few farm investments pay dividends like improving the health of your soil, says Mike Riffle, field development and sustainability manager at Valent U.S.A. A strong soil microbiome can lead to better yield, improved nutrient use efficiency and even healthier watersheds.
“There are practices farmers use to benefit the biological portion of the soil,” explains Riffle of Valent, a Foundational Partner of America’s Conservation Ag Movement, which brings farmers, agriculture businesses, and the conservation community together around the future of farming by bringing profitable, planet-friendly farming into the mainstream. “Sustainable practices that can improve the soil microbiome include conservation tillage, crop rotation and cover crops.”
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Innovation also helps farmers further help their stewardship practices they may already have in place, he adds. Products such as Valent’s MycoApply EndoPrime enable farmers to colonize crops such as corn, cotton or peanuts with mycorrhizal fungi at planting, either in-furrow or with a 2x2 application.
“Soil rich in mycorrhizal fungi are better at conserving nutrients. They move nutrients from the hyphae of the mycorrhizal fungi into the plants,” Riffle explains. “They move water into the plants. Over the last 10 to 15 years, scientists have figured out that if you have cropland that’s well colonized with mycorrhizal fungi, it can result in less leeching of nutrients. If you combine that with other soil health practices like conservation tillage, it can result in less runoff of nutrients.”
The consistent use of one of the newer soil health tests over time can help farmers monitor the changing health of their soil, Riffle says. That kind of dedicated attention will pay off.