Monthly Archives: August 2013

Sustainable Farming Practices

Sustainable Farming Practices


Sustainable farming practices are in the news these days. This article talks about sustainable farming practices from a pragmatic point of view.

The definition of sustainable farming is practical as well: “a group of practices designed to protect the earth from potential harm that growing crops and animals for food sustainable farming practicespurposes can do”.


If you’re involved in agriculture, even on a small scale, chances are you’ve heard about sustainable farming practices before. On the off chance that you haven’t, sustainable farming, simply put, is a group of practices designed to protect the earth from potential harm that growing crops and raising animals for food purposes can do.

However, for many farmers, sustainable farming seems like an unreachable goal, and one that will make day-to-day operations too costly. While that may be true of very expensive processes that involve full-scale renovations to a farm or growing land, there are many sustainable farming practices that can be easily incorporated into your regular routine.

In fact, some can even save you money in the long run.


Water Management

Poorly maintained irrigation systems and water waste are common problems among farms of all sizes, from small single-family farms to major farms that supply significant amounts of food for resale; however, managing your water consumption doesn’t have to be a chore.

The easiest and best way to manage your water use is by planting crops that naturally grow in the area. If you live in an area without a lot of rain, don’t plant crops that need considerable moisture on a regular basis in large quantities.

In addition to choosing the proper crops, irrigating your land properly and using cover crops that help the soil retain moisture for longer periods of time, therefore requiring less watering from you, can help reduce your overall water use.

Collecting rainwater is another option for many farmers, and that can save you money after your initial investment is paid back within a relatively short period of time.


Rotate Your Crops

Crop rotation is an old practice that teaches farmers to alternate their crops in order to keep their soil as healthy and nutrient-rich as possible. In some cases, crop rotation can be very simple.

For example, you should plant grains after legumes and crops that grow in rows after grains; however, depending on what you’re growing, it isn’t always that simple. Doing a little bit of homework on how to best rotate your specific crops is recommended.

The benefits of rotating your crops include prevention of disease transmission from crop to crop and a general reduction in the amount of pests in the soil that can damage crops.


Diversify Your Crops

Crop diversity takes the idea of crop rotation a step further, getting farmers to alternate the species of a certain type of crop when they grow it. This not only helps to keep soil nutrient-rich, but it also helps farmers protect their crops from diseases and pests.

Using a combination crop rotation and crop diversification method is ideal, and if you’re only growing a handful of crops each year, it is surprisingly simple to do.


Controlled Pest Management

Pest management is a serious concern for many farmers; however, simply spraying all of your crops isn’t in the best interest for the soil, your crops or the earth, and it doesn’t have to be done if you’re smart about how you plant your crops.

By rotating crops, diversifying your species and integrating beneficial insects that keep harmful pests out, you may not need to spray at all. If you do, you’ll be able to use a targeted-spray method, limiting your overall use of pesticides and chemicals.

Sustainable farming is more important today than it ever has been because of droughts in many areas and increased temperatures all over the globe. Even if you only grow a small amount of crops each year, using these basic sustainable growing practices can help reduce your farm’s environmental impact while saving you money in the process.


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Sustainable Agriculture Four Differences

Sustainable Agriculture

Four Differences between Conventional and Organic Farming Practices


Sustainable agriculture is the topic. This is an sustainable agriculture articles originally published by RedOrbit under the title Understanding the Benefits of Organic Food. In  the article an advocate of

Sustainable agriculture articles

Sustainable agriculture

sustainable agriculture discusses his 4 differences between conventional and organic farming practices.


The Top Four Differences between Conventional and Organic Farming

On August 28, Philippe van den Bossche, an impact investor and advocate of sustainable agriculture, discusses the top four differences between conventional and organic farming practices.

According to an August 9, 2013 sustainable agriculture articles published by RedOrbit, entitled, “Understanding the Benefits of Organic Food,” there are many benefits to maintaining an organic diet.
These benefits can be attributed to the more natural, resourceful approaches taken by organic farmers. Philippe van den Bossche, an impact investor and advocate of sustainable agriculture, comments on the top 4 differences between organic and conventional farming practices.

    •     Chemical fertilizers versus natural fertilizers. “Conventional farmers utilize chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth,” van den Bossche says. “Organic farmers use natural fertilizers, such as manure and compost, in order to feed soil and plants. This allows the soil to avoid contamination with harmful chemicals used in conventional farming.”


    •     Synthetic insecticides versus pesticides from natural resources. “In order to reduce pests and disease from infecting crops, conventional farmers will spray synthetic insecticides. In comparison,” van den Bossche says, “organic farmers will utilize their natural resources, like insects and birds, or mating disruption, in order to keep pests and disease away.”
    •     Synthetic herbicides versus environmentally-generated plant killing compounds. He says, “Weeds are an obvious pain to any farmer. Conventional farmers use synthetic herbicides in order to keep weeds tame, which can be harmful if ingested. Organic farmers will practice crop rotation, manually hand-weed and/or use mulch to keep weeds in check.”
    •     Giving animals antibiotics versus giving animals organic feed and outdoor access.

“Conventional farmers will administer growth hormones and medications to their livestock in order to prevent disease and spur growth. Organic farming practices call for organic feed to be used as well as allowing livestock to graze and maintain a balanced diet in order to minimize disease,” he explains.

Many factors influence decisions on whether or not to choose organic food. “Some people prefer the organic taste while others choose organic because of concerns surrounding pesticides, additives, etc. As more people are made aware of the benefits of organic farming, the industry will continue to increase,” he says.

Philippe van den Bossche is an impact entrepreneur and investor and Chairman/ Owner of Advancing Eco Agriculture (AEA), a leading organic agricultural and horticultural consulting and manufacturing company located in Middlefield, Ohio. AEA provides consulting services and specialty nutritional products to farms throughout the United States and Canada. Mr. van den Bossche is an advocate for organic farming and agriculture.

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Enhanced by ZemantaCustom Biological manufacture a number of microbial products that improve agriculture sustainability. These products can be used in farming, agriculture and in gardening. Contact Custom for more information at (561) 797-3008 or via email at

Living Organic Fertilizer Press Release

Living Organic Fertilizer Press Release

This a unique organic fertilizer containing beneficial soil bacteria, beneficial soil fungi, trace minerals and has a 4/3/4 NPK value.Living Organic 4-3-4 Bulk Label OMRI-Cert-Living-Organic_4-3-4

Living Organic Fertilizer:

  • Is water insoluble so the nutrients don’t wash away.
  • Contains NPK AND beneficial microbes. You get two great products in one package.
  • Contains 70 Trace Minerals
  • helps increase Soil Organic Matter.
  • OMRI Listed™.

Contact Custom Biologicals for more information at or (561) 797-3008.

May 16, 2013

MightyGrow Organics Now Offers First Living, Pelletized Fertilizer with Trace Minerals


FRUITDALE, Ala. – MightyGrow Organics, makers of poultry litter-based, living organic fertilizer, now offers its popular fertilizer in pelletized form, making it the firstever living, pelletized fertilizer on the market. The new product also makes it easier for farmers, golf course managers and maintenance crews to fertilize their land with a proven product.

“We wanted to make their jobs easier and help them get the same great results with MightyGrow,” said Michael LaBelle, owner of MightyGrow Organics. “With our pelletized fertilizer, you can apply anytime and spread it without the need for specialized equipment. Plus, it smells better, which really helps places like golf courses and estate gardens.”

Pelletized organic fertilizers are typically sterilized during the pelleting process, but MightyGrow has developed a method to maintain the “biologically active” status of their fertilizer all the way to the customer.

“Our fertilizer is anaerobically digested, which makes the nutrients more plant available,” said LaBelle. “Ours is the only pelletized organic fertilizer with over 70 trace minerals added to it, making it the best organic fertilizer on the market.”

Farmers, gardeners and landscapers have been using MightyGrow products for years and have had great results with the granulated fertilizer.

“I’ve had increased production of the long-standing crops like: tomatoes, peppers, squash and zucchini, and it’s lasted longer with less put down,” said John Bartlett, owner of Bartlett Farm in Louisiana. “I’ve used other poultry litters in the past, but MightyGrow seems to stay in the soil longer and release perfectly to the plants.”

Other farmers agree with Bartlett. A husband and wife farming team in Hammond, Louisiana, who sells their produce to Whole Foods, Fresh Market, and countless restaurants in the New Orleans area, says MightyGrow is the best fertilizer they’ve ever used.

“We have had excellent results with MightyGrow,” exclaimed C.C. Gaiennie, owner of Ole Market Lane Farm. “We’ve discontinued using the fertilizer that we were creating, and gone strictly to using MightyGrow on all our crops. Our yield has been much higher. We’ve even had fewer insects and fewer weeds. Everything has just worked a lot better since we changed over to MightyGrow.”

MightyGrow Organics manufactures a premium organic fertilizer that is especially effective for restoring the life in soil that has been sterilized by synthetic fertilizers. MightyGrow Living Organic Fertilizer contains live beneficial microbes and trace minerals for optimal soil and plant health.


Contact Custom Biologicals for more information at or (561) 797-3008.  Custom Biologicals manufactures a wide variety of biological products for use in environmental applications.


Microbes can have reviving action on growing systems

Microbes Can Revive Soils

Microbes can improve soil health, soil quality, and the quality, yield, and growth of crops. Microorganisms are an important part of the food web and perhaps the most overlooked part of the food web.


Microbes can have reviving action on growing systems

From: Nature Farm

Using Microbes in our soils and agricultural systems have been subject to a variety of trials within New Zealand on everything from sheep and cattle farms to onion growing. They have been shown to have a reviving action on growing systems. They can improve soil quality, soil health, and the growth, yield and quality of crops. Many fertiliser companies are now offering microbes as part of their bio product range, ensuring that the soil is inoculated to perform at its absolute peak. It is imperative that we start to explore more sustainable options for our agriculture, pastoral and horticulture sectors as the demand for food around the world continues to grow. We believe microbes for an important part to ensuring the fertility of our soils for generations to come. What do these beneficial microbes do?

Agricultural production begins with photosynthesis – the conversion of solar energy into chemical form. It’s an amazing process, but not a particularly efficient one. Even rapid growing plants like corn and sugar cane only fix a maximum of six to seven percent of the sun’s energy. One way to increase the amount of energy fixed, is with photosynthetic bacteria and algae. These utilize wavelengths that green plants do not.

Photosynthetic or phototropic bacteria are independent self-supporting microbes. They use the energy of sunlight and soil heat to convert secretions from plant roots, organic matter and harmful gases into plant useful substances like amino acids, nucleic acids, sugars and other metabolites. These can all be absorbed directly into plants to promote plant growth and also increase other beneficial microorganisms. For example VAM fungi increase in the root zone in the presence of amino acids secreted by these bacteria. In turn the VAM fungi improve the plant’s absorption of soil phosphates. The VAM can live alongside Azotobacter and Rhizobium and increase the capacity of plants to fix Nitrogen.

Other important species are lactic acid bacteria and yeast. These produce lactic acid from the sugars and carbohydrates the photosynthetic bacteria and yeasts produce. This is a strong sterilizing compound and can suppress some disease inducing microorganisms and nematode populations. It also contributes to the fermentation and breakdown of the tough cellulose and lignin. Here’s our soil digestive processes getting a help along. Yeasts on the other hand have other uses. They produce hormones and enzymes that promote plant cell and root division. They use the amino acids and sugars secreted by the photosynthetic bacteria and plant roots and in turn give off substances which are good growing compounds for the Lactic acid bacteria. So all three species have a separate role to play, and help each other. They also have a symbiotic or mutually beneficial relationship with the roots of plants. So plants grow exceptionally well in soils dominated by these Microbes.

Bacteria and microbes live, reproduce and die, at enormous rates and in doing so release a constant stream of nutrients in plant available form. They collect nitrogen and other nutrients from the soil organic matter and mineral particles. They reproduce, so more microbes are collecting and converting nutrients. They die and release what they have collected in a form the plants can use. The plants grow better, assimilate more energy and provide more food for more microbes and so it goes on.

It’s a two way process. Living plants absorb energy from the sun, incorporate it with carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, water and nutrients they require from the soil. Then they release oxygen back to the atmosphere and carbon to the soil as carbohydrates, glucose and other carbon forms for the microbes to feed on. The size of this microbial population is governed by the inputs from the plants, the primary producers.

We can see the grass and trees growing on top of the ground. But scientists tell us that fifty percent of a plant’s primary production disappears underground to establish the root network and feed the microorganisms. That is what happens in a healthy natural system. It is a mutually beneficial relationship that has evolved over eons and led to the formation of our most fertile and well-structured soils. Even the timing is perfect. In most natural systems, the greatest microbial turnover and release of nutrients, coincides with the plant’s growth and its seasonal needs.

Understanding this helps us see the danger of farming systems and landuse activities that starve the soil of carbon matter. No carbon means no food for the microbes. No food for the microbes means no turnover of nutrients. No nutrients means no plant growth which means no carbon inputs and so it goes on into a downward spiral with loss of fertility, loss of structure, erosion and so on and on. So our effective microorganisms are only going to remain effective if we manage our pastures with them in mind too. That means not overstocking or baring paddocks. It means allowing pastures to develop enough leaf to do their photosynthesis number effectively and fix some carbon for all the other little greeblies further along the food chain.


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The Role of Microorganisms in Soil

The Role of Microorganisms in Soil


Microorganisms in soil is discussed and there is a link at the bottom of the page to access the entire publication.

Soil formation is in large part due to the activity and metabolism of soil microorganisms. Microorganisms in soilPhysical and chemical processes also are important.

The paper discusses the key elements of soil formation and emphasizes the role microorganisms play in the process.


The Role of Microorganisms at Different Stages of ecosystem Development for Soil Formation. 


S. Schulz, R. Brankatschk, A. Dümig, I. Kögel-Knabner, M. Schloter, and J. Zeyer. The role of microorganisms at different stages of ecosystem development for soil formation. Biogeosciences, 10, 3983-3996, 2013. doi:10.5194/bg-10-3983-2013




Soil formation is the result of a complex network of biological as well as chemical and physical processes. The role of soil microbes is of high interest, since they are responsible for most biological transformations and drive the development of stable and labile pools of carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and other nutrients, which facilitate the subsequent establishment of plant communities. Forefields of receding glaciers provide unique chronosequences of different soil development stages and are ideal ecosystems to study the interaction of bacteria, fungi and archaea with their abiotic environment. In this review we give insights into the role of microbes for soil development. The results presented are based on studies performed within the Collaborative Research Program DFG SFB/TRR 38 ( ) and are supplemented by data from other studies. The review focusses on the microbiology of major steps of soil formation. Special attention is given to the development of nutrient cycles on the formation of biological soil crusts (BSCs) and on the establishment of plant–microbe interactions.


Download full paper


Biogeosciences (BG) is an international scientific journal dedicated to the publication and discussion of research articles, short communications and review papers on all aspects of the interactions between the biological, chemical and physical processes in terrestrial or extraterrestrial life with the geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere. The objective of the journal is to cut across the boundaries of established sciences and achieve an interdisciplinary view of these interactions. Experimental, conceptual and modelling approaches are welcome. More at Biogeosciences homepage.

Microorganisms in soil is the topic of this post.

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New Jersey Helps Pay for Organic Certification

New Jersey Helps Pay for Organic Certification

New Jersey has decided to start paying for up to 75% of the costs to organic certification. This is a great idea and fairly simple to implement.

Since New Jersey has about 75-100 certified organic producers, the overall expense will be relatively minor. It will be seen as the state actually trying to help the organic farming industry.

I, for one, would like to see more of  this type of help from states to defray some of the costs of organic certification.

Organic farming certification costs borne, in part, by New Jersey


Interest in organic farming has been increasing in recent years due to concerns about residues remaining on crops, according to advocates for sustainable food and agriculture.

The market for organic crops is increasing as well, said Justine Cook, organic farming conservation and technical services specialist at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey.

“It’s a good thing,” she said.

To help meet demand and promote organic food products, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture has joined with the federal government to reduce the cost of organic certification through a cost-sharing program.

Those who qualify are eligible for reimbursement of up to 75 percent of costs associated with certification, up to $750, including fees and charges levied by the certifying agent.

Cook said New Jersey is home to 70 to 100 certified organic farms.

Those farmers began receiving notifications of the program in the days following the announcement.

“I’m open to anything that’s an opportunity to keep a little more money in your pocket,” said Alex Sawatzky, who runs an organic community-supported agriculture farm at Sandbrook Farm in Delaware Township.

Certification conditions

Cook said the certification process might require proof that land was free of chemical or pesticides and a recording of crops.

The land Sawatzky farms did not have chemicals introduced to it and the property owners had to sign off that it had been like that for 10 years. He is subject to annual inspections and review. “There’s a 36-month transfer period” for a farmer starting organic practices, Cook said. However, if those practices have already been followed, Cook said, it takes only four to six months to review an application.

Typically, an inspector is sent out to the farm to see if the farmer has been following its organic system plan, Cook said.

Sawatzky decided to go certified organic last year, even though he was essentially operating that way before. However, he was not able to legally represent his crops as organic before certification.

“It means something to them,” he said of customers that look for certified crops.

He said he went through the state Department of Agriculture to obtain certification because it was less expensive than going to a private company.

Sawatzky said there is a battle between locally grown neighborhood crops and certified organic crops being imported from distant farms.

Has the designation helped?

“Hard to say,” Sawatzky said, noting that the increased customer base may be due to his community-supported agriculture operation becoming more established.

Process praised

“In the process of becoming certified, we have met a lot of nice and interesting people,” said Gary Bechtold, who runs the small Holland View Farm in Holland Township.

“They are trying to promote organic certification so I think (the program) is a good thing,” Bechtold said, adding that his farm is certified in crops and eggs.

He said that certified organic products are much more expensive to produce.

“An example is that we pay $28-$30 for a bag of certified organic chicken feed while standard feed can be found for $12-$13 per bag,” he said. “Our eggs are certified organic but most people don’t want to pay twice the price for them.”

“There is a benefit to the environment and the community to be a certified organic farm, but so far not a financial benefit to the farmer,” Bechtold said.

Peter Furey, executive director of the New Jersey Farm Bureau, called certified organic farming a component of all New Jersey agriculture has to offer.

“It’s a highly advantageous program,” he said.



To qualify for the program, an organic producer must have been certified or incurred expenses for the continuation of certification Oct. 1, 2012, through September 2013. Certification must be through a certifying agent accredited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Farms may receive one reimbursement per certification or category of certification per year.

Applications are due by Nov. 19. for an application and more information. Or contact Debra McCluskey at or 609-984-2225.