When it comes to pasture cropping, the general rule of thought is, if you have healthy soil, you you have healthy plants. This is true, however the opposite is also true. If you have healthy plants, you have healthy soil.
How do healthy plants create healthy soil? When you have really healthy plants, they start transferring a lot of sugars into the root system. With all of the additional sugar production to the root system, you get a tremendous increase in bacterial populations. These microorganisms then extract minerals from the mineral matrix, and make them available to the plants.
How To Grow Healthy Plants
The number one fastest way to rebuild soil health is to grow really healthy plants. According to many regenerative leaders, such as John Kempf from Advancing Eco Agriculture, “After observing integrated soil plant systems for over a decade, there are two areas where farmers can put in a small amount of product, small applications, and produce tremendous crop responses”, says Kempf.
Tip 1. Biological Seed Treatment
The first area is the application of Biological Fertiliser, and microbial stimulants, on seeds when seeding. Many times over, studies have observed growers putting on applications of beneficial bacteria, as a seed treatment when pasture cropping, and have produced an exceptional crop response.
Biological seed treatment, even in winter pasture cropping, has proved particularly beneficial. The reason why winter applications can be so effective is that it is the time of year when all the underground ‘activities’ occur, eg. plant root and microorganism activity. And, pasture cropping at this time enables the beneficial bacteria to populate, and flush the ground with a large portion available nutrients. These nutrients are then ready and available when the ‘activity’ starts above the ground.
“I think applying biologicals to seeds is perhaps the single biggest ROI application of any application, that we see, that is the most consistent” – John Kempf.
Seed treatment with biological fertilisers involves coating, or spraying, seeds prior to planting. Beneficial microorganisms, contained in these products can include bacteria, fungi, or other organisms that promote plant growth and improve nutrient uptake.
The use of biological fertilisers, as seed treatments for pasture cropping, has several advantages. Firstly, they help establish a favorable environment for seed germination and early root development. Coating beneficial microorganisms on the seed surface or rhizosphere, enhances nutrient availability and protects seeds against harmful pathogens.
Secondly, liquid biological fertilisers contribute to the overall health of plants by supporting their natural defense mechanisms. As the inoculated seeds enter the soil, they can stimulate the production of phytohormones that regulate growth processes and enhance stress tolerance. This can lead to improved crop yield and quality.
In addition to their direct benefits for plants, biological fertilisers used in pasture cropping also play a crucial role in promoting soil biology. They foster microbial activity in the soil, which is essential for nutrient cycling and organic matter decomposition, which ultimately enhances soil fertility and sustainability.
Tip 2. Biological Foliar Applications
The second area where really strong crop, and economic, responses in pasture cropping have been studied, is with well-designed foliars, that are applied at the right quantity, and at the right times.
With a foliar application strategy, it is possible to really utilise photosynthesis, and bring a lot of new energy into the soil plant system.
A few ways to test whether your foliar applications are delivering what you need to the plant, is to do a brix reading, which will show a spike, even as soon as 1 hour – 24hrs after application.
Another method for testing the efficacy of your foliar spray applications is to perform a sap analysis test before the application and then again 48-72 hours after foliar application. Alternatively, you can test the leaf that has not been sprayed with the biological stimulant, and then test the leaf that has been sprayed (48-72 hours after).
Unlike traditional chemical fertilisers that solely focus on providing synthetic minerals, biological stimulants work by providing bio-available organic minerals, and by promoting a healthy soil plant ecosystem. They contain beneficial microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and other soil-dwelling organisms that interact with plants in mutually beneficial ways.
When applied as a foliar spray, these biological stimulants can directly and indirectly benefit pasture cropping systems, improving nutrient uptake which provides higher nutrition for livestock, and increasing resistance to diseases and pests.
Maximising the Effectiveness of Biological Inputs
When it comes to maximising plant and soil health in pasture cropping systems, with minimal input, using biological fertilisers can make a significant difference. These fertilisers are derived from living organisms and contain beneficial microorganisms that promote soil biology and enhance plant growth.
One of the key benefits of using biological fertilisers is that they help establish a healthy soil ecosystem. The microorganisms present in these fertilisers, when used in conjunction with regenerative pasture cropping practices, improve nutrient availability, break down organic matter, and enhance soil structure. This leads to improved water retention, nutrient cycling, and overall soil and plant health.
By promoting a diverse microbial community in the soil, biological fertilisers can also suppress harmful pathogens and pests. This reduces the need for chemical pesticides and promotes natural pest control mechanisms.
Furthermore, these fertilisers can enhance plant health by stimulating root development, improving nutrient uptake efficiency, and increasing tolerance to environmental stresses such as drought or disease.
To make the greatest difference in plant and soil health with minimal input, it is important to choose high-quality biological fertilisers, and implement good agricultural practices. These practices include diverse species and plant families through the pasture cropping, minimising tillage, and holistic grazing management, which can all further help to optimise the benefits of these fertilisers.
Overall, the use of biological fertiliser as seed treatments and foliar sprays offers a promising approach for pasture cropping farmers seeking environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional fertilisers, and is the number one top method regenerative farmers are using to cost effectively build their soil biology and improve the nutrient density of their pastures.