MT. PULASKI, Ill. — Growing consistent, high-yielding, profitable crops involves systems.

“We started challenging the conventional ways of thinking years ago because a lot of the things we were told to do wasn’t working,” said Brad Hobrock, AgriBio Systems. “AgriBio Systems has systems as part of our name because everything we do revolves around a system.”

The farming industry for years has based decisions on yield.

“Yield is important because we have to have bushels to pay bills,” Hobrock said during a meeting held at the farm operated by Jeff Martin and his sons, Derek and Doug.

“Nobody here wants to produce 300-plus bushel corn and 100-plus bushel soybeans more than the Martins, but if we lose money doing that, we haven’t done ourselves justice,” Hobrock said.

The No. 1 priority for AgriBio Systems is increasing farm profit by building soil health.

Derek Martin showed the group a couple of cornstalks from a field the farmers started using the AgriBio Systems program on five years ago.

“These plants are from the field that we applied 50 units of 28% nitrogen behind the planter,” he said. “And it is yield checking at 234 bushels per acre.”

This field, Martin said, probably is the most highly intensive managed acres on the farm.

“Not only do we raise corn and soybeans, we also raise microorganisms — fungi and bacteria,” he said.

From The Ground Up

Soil has three components — chemical, physical and biological. The biology component is the living part of the soil, and for many years, farmers have tried to control this component with synthetic fertilizers, while ignoring the importance of biology.

However, biology is the foundation for healthy, productive soil.

“A biological regenerative system takes time,” Hobrock said. “We didn’t degrade soils in one year, and we’re not going to fix them in a single year either because it takes time to allow soils to get back to a functional process.”

Farmers can be successful with a conventional system, Hobrock said, and many have done it for years.

“But your success will always be dependent on weather and markets,” he said.

Healthy plant growth requires a balance of bacteria and fungi. AgriBio has the ability to perform qualitative and quantitative microbial analysis of soil, as well as determine if they are beneficial or harmful.

Soil that is healthy and functional will resist diseases, retain nutrients, provide plants with essential nutrients, reduce the need for fertilizers, decompose toxins, increase carbon storage capabilities and build stable aggregate structures.

“You’re going to need to implement cover crops, and they need to be done in the right way,” Hobrock said. “But cover crops alone will not fix your problems.”

The first step to implementing the AgriBio system, Hobrock said, is the willingness to make changes.

“To put yourself in a position to have soil structure that gives you the opportunity to produce very high yields on very little applied, the first step is mindset,” he said. “But if you don’t have the right mindset to challenge conventional ways, you’re going to continue to be stuck in a rut.”

Motivating Factors

Using an AgriBio product like BioMax or MycoPlex is not a silver bullet, Hobrock said, but they can help.

“It has led some people in the last three years to consistently net $150-plus per acre,” he said.

Soils that don’t accept moisture runs off, and if there isn’t stable aggregate structure to hold soils, there will be erosion.

“So, we’re losing top soil and boat loads of nutrients,” Hobrock said. “If we are not careful of how we manage things, the EPA is going to put restrictions on how and when you can apply fertilizers.”

During the past three years, Hobrock said, farmers have produced 1 bushel of corn on one-half pound of applied nitrogen or 250-bushel corn on 125 pounds of applied nitrogen.

“And we have a situation here at the Martin farm where they might do that on 50 pounds of applied,” he said.

“With the right nutritional and hormonal balance in the form of exudates, sugars, proteins and carbohydrates, a corn plant can produce compounds to protect themselves against insects and diseases,” he said.

For example, Hobrock said, plants with the right nutritional and hormonal balance, when they are fed on by a pest such as corn rootworm, the plants will produce a compound and within 24 hours the insects feeding on it are dead — it’s called applied systemic resistance.

“We did over 30 trials a year ago in corn that yielded from 240 to 300 bushels, and we did not see a single bushel response to fungicides,” he said. “If you have enough oxygen in your soil and the right beneficial microbes there, they will suppress disease-causing pathogens.”

Soils that have been farmed conventionally for many years are quite degraded, Hobrock said.

“The beneficials are not there, so this is where inoculants come in,” he said. “Our products mixed with cover crops will speed the process up.”

Hobrock told the farmers they have a decision to make.

“What we do is not for everybody because it requires work,” he said. “If we’re seeing the same bushels produced, but decreased input cost by $50 per acre, that’s still a win.”

For more information about AgriBio Systems, go to: www.agribiosystems.com.

Martha Blum can be reached at 815-223-2558, ext. 117, or marthablum@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Blum.

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