May 21, 2024

Enhancing soil biological capabilities

Brad Forkner

CHERRY, Ill. — Whether he’s working with vegetables in the Rio Grande Valley or soybeans in the Prairie State, Brad Forkner’s primary aim is to make the soil more hospitable to enhance plant growth.

Forkner, an agronomist and owner of Nutrient Management Specialists in Cherry, spoke of his systems approach for a management plan during the Greater Peoria Farm Show. The business currently covers 15 states and about 28 different crops.

Among the products Forkner touts as a base to improve the soil structure is dry humates.

“Humic acid will be a natural detoxifier. It will help hold excess water. It will hold 20 times its weight in water. It has 63 micronutrients, depending on who you talk to, 23 amino acids, and it carries a cation-exchange capacity in the 600 range,” Forkner said.

“The fulvic acid that more people are probably familiar with is the only water soluble molecule in that complex and has a CEC up on the 3,000 range. So, they are natural chelators, they’re natural toxin-binders.

“One of their unique properties is they are amphoteric. That means they can give or receive an ion or a cation.”

Growthful is one of the products Forkner utilizes in nutrient management arsenal. The soil amendment is promoted as a pre-emerge product that reduces soil compaction, breaks up bicarbonates and reduces soil partical size.

“We use Growthful and pop loose some of the heavy metals, then we can use those open bonding sites on the humics to stabilize that. That shrinks the colloid size and that lets the water and the roots penetrate farther. The plant root exudates go down, the worms come back,” Forkner noted.

“We’re getting into new areas then that we haven’t tapped for a while for the nutrition levels that are down there. If we can break up that plowplan, not only water stops there, but also any excess salts from previous fertilizer applications, any herbicides, insecticides, those kinds of things can also start getting farther away so we’ve got better soil to work with.

“The microbes or potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide will also be unrolled so we can make a liquid out of that. The liquid version then helps stabilize the nitrogen.”

Organic Matter

Fifty-seven percent of organic matter is humus.

“So, when we bring the humic acid in, we’re actually replenishing with pure humus some of the stuff we farmed out of here. That holds more of the nutrition, holds more of the water, builds permanent organic matter and those kinds of things,” Forkner said.

“If we can use a Growthful, we can change the pH low enough to make the micronutrients want to go into the roots, that energy now can be put into something we can haul of the farm and make sellable.”

Forkner also utilizes amino acids, nano-type products and essential oils as part of the program.

“Essential oils that go back and forth through cell wall, whether it’s in us, whether it’s in the roots, whether it’s in the leaf structures,” he said.

“We now have protein incapsulated essential oils that will produce insecticidal-type properties for 10 to 12 days with no harm. No micro-plastics which we’re starting to see getting into our food system, getting into our bodies. This is protein encapsulation.

“We are coming out with versions that can be on the seed. They can be in the planter box with a food source. They can be in the furrow if we have the ability of a liquid application. They can go on as earlier foliars.”

Real Time

His program also offers a real-time look at what’s happening in the field by using a scanner from Leaftech that’s placed on the leaves.

“We can time and see when you’re going to be out there for a foliar application and tell you what might be the next thing to do. We can be put the scanner on the leaves if there’s a good cell phone signal and in five minutes we can give you basically a tissue test,” he said.

“We can look at it that morning, it’s geo-referenced and we can say by this afternoon here would be the best idea if we want to go out there, immediately take care of this and is it cost efficient.

“So, we only put on the things we need and not use everything off the shelf because there’s a bunch of stuff in it. Prescription it, apply exactly was is needed, only what we need, when we need it.”

Forkner’s management includes conventional and organic farming products.

“We use a lot of things that would be qualified for organic and typical production just because they work,” he continued.

“We use the fulvic acid because we know that will go through root and leaf structures. Amino acids are small, will take something through and then be ready to reassemble. Essential oils will do the same thing, and now we’re using some nanos. The nano particles are unloaded.

“So, whatever thing we exactly know we need to get into the plant, we introduce an unloaded nano to that herbicide, micronutrient, whatever it is, before we put into the general tank. So, we know what we loaded it up with. We now have more ways to get something into the plant.”

Tom Doran

Tom C. Doran

Field Editor