By Jim Porter Jr., Regional Sales Agronomist
The number of growers, and the number of acres, that are involved in organic crop production today are at their highest level since commercial fertilizers and ag chemicals were introduced into mainstream crop production post-WWII. Organic production reaches all areas of agriculture from livestock and dairy production to cereal grains to fruits and vegetables. In the most recent data released by the USDA (2016), the number of certified organic farms had increased by 56% since 2011. Although official USDA numbers are not currently available, it is safe to assume that those numbers have increased substantially in the few years since that last publication. The Midwest region has 77.4% of the nation’s organic corn grain acres, 43.6% of corn for silage acres, 27.4% of wheat (all types), 81.3% of all the oat acreage, 24% of the barley, 49.8% of soybean acreage and 31.7% of all hay.
Organic crop production presents some intriguing advantages to growers such as opportunities to collect pricing premiums paid for crops due to increased demand from processors and consumers. Environmental stewardship is another reason often cited by organic growers who are concerned about the sustainability of many current farming practices. We have all heard the old adage that if “it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” This applies well to organic production, as any organic producer will tell you, there are many challenges unique to organic production. One of the reasons that we are seeing a continual rise in the numbers of certified organic farms in the US is due to the fact that there is an increasing number of tools and solutions being created for organic producers, to help them deal with the challenges of organic production.
Having the ability to feed the crop the nutrients it needs as well as controlling insects, weeds and diseases in crop production are critical to maximizing yield potential and profitability. Without getting into the long list of requirements that organic producers must adhere to, some of the main challenges revolve around the inability of producers to use common pesticides, limitations on how to control invasive weeds, and commercially manufactured fertilizers, including the basic nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, that the conventional crop producers supplement. Today there are several new emerging technologies that QLF Agronomy’s key organic use approved products TerraFed and Kelpak combine and compliment.
Our products are doing multiple jobs with multiple partners. The reviewed and approved organic list is long for animal waste by-products, fish-derived fertilizers, soy-based amino rich proteins, biologicals such as “bugs in the jug” or composed teas and extracts, rare micronutrients from sea minerals or mined mineral macronutrients such as sodium nitrate, the plant-based bio-stimulants derived from kelp and others, and more than you can imagine. TerraFed partners with many of these products in mixes to bring the available carbon component. Supplying biology an available carbon for an energy source to create mineralization and nutrient cycling at opportune growing stages is critical for organic farming. Manure credits are only as good as the biology that can recycle them. Many times, livestock manures are used as base fertility in organic production and TerraFed has proven results as a side-dress tool.