How EM can boost your Growing System in Autumn
- 18 March 2020
As we enter autumn there are a whole host of ways EM can be used to enhance your soil and boost performance in crops and pasture. It is a great time to give your soil a bit of TLC, whether you are planting autumn crops, breaking down crop residues, looking to boost your soil or help it recover or looking to enhance an existing crop, EM can help. I want to highlight a few key areas where EM can help this Autumn, see below:
Increasing soil microbial biomass
The soil microbial biomass acts as a reservoir of plant nutrients and is a major determinant for governing the nutrient (like N, P, and S) availability in soils. Although this biomass is only a small portion of total C and N in soils, this living portion of soil contains a substantial amount of nutrients needed for crop growth. The amount of microbial biomass and microbial activity depends on the supply of organic substrates in soil. Therefore, regular addition of a sufficient amount of organic materials such as crop residues, biological stimulants or food sources is important in the maintenance of microbial biomass and improvement of soil fertility. When this microbial biomass hasn’t been fed, looked after or stimulated it can stunt crop growth and development. Adding a bio stimulant like EM will directly impact the microbial biomass by first adding billions of beneficial bacteria and fungi to the biomass and secondly stimulating the resident population through the breakdown of organic residues and their activity in the soil. This is shown in the following trials/article: Impact of EM on the Biological and Chemical Aspect of the Soil
Breaking down crop residues
Following harvest high levels of stubble residues remain. These are either burnt off which equates to over 80% of that carbon being lost to the atmosphere not to mention all the nutrients and food you are robbing you soil microflora of or a plow is used to work this residue into the ground. Using EM can greatly improve this process while also boosting your soil for the next crop. EM will speed up the breakdown of this green manure to ensure that the next crop doesn’t suffer from immobilisation and makes nutrients plant available. In regards to Nitrogen in good conditions and with active soil biology you can extract up to 15kg of free N per percentage of OM in your soil. So if you have 5% OM in the soil it can potentially mineralise 75Kg of N. Conversely poor OM, aeration and soil biology will mean that you mineralise very little or even lose N through immobilisation. For more information on EM breaking down organic matter see this article: Building Soil Organic Matter and Humus in Soils
Using EM in autumn has a whole host of benefits to your crops. It gives the soil a probiotic boost to help stimulate biological activity, enhancing natural processes and boosting the pathway between the plant and the soil microbial environment. For existing crops in the ground like winter feed crops, using EM can further enhance crop development through times of stress, help to prevent disease through competitive exclusion in the soil and on the plant leaf and boost the production of plant growth regulators enhancing crop growth and yield potential.
For autumn sown crops, EM will stimulate positive biological activity. That means effective organic matter recycling, to build humus - the food for your soil and plants, Improvements in nitrogen fixation, greater mycorrhizal activity, leading to more effective nutrient availability. This helps to create an optimal environment for seed crop and early crop development.
On pasture – EM will cycle organic matter quickly to boost nutrient availability and build soil structure. By breaking down organic matter and thatch heavy soils EM will help the soil avoid issues around fungal diseases and pathogens which can adversely affect stock health. These issues arise when trash/thatch and excess organic matter is not broken down providing an environment where this negative activity can thrive. For more information on EM enhancing crop development see this article - How Microbial Inputs can Enhance Crop Development
Drought conditions which have been seen throughout the country for the past season can have a profound impact on soil heath, just as when we have extreme wet conditions. The effect of drought can be noticed very clearly on crop performance when the lack of water availability is severe. This water stress can affect soil chemical, physical, and biological activities that are essential for plant and soil health. The variance on the severity depends on your soil make up and its ability to hold moisture, if it has high humus content and microbial biomass the soil would have been able to weather the drought conditions much more effectively than if those two areas had been low.
One of the obvious effects of drought on soil health is the lack of nutrient uptake by crops, as water is the major medium for moving nutrients into plants as a result of water uptake. The increase in soil temperature associated with lack of soil moisture has an impact on microbial activities and nutrient processing, both of which are important for plant use for biomass and grain production. Soil moisture and temperature are very important factors in Microbial activity.
As the rain comes and moisture returns it is important to help aid and speed up the recovery fo the soil. There will be a flush of fertility, particularly Sulphur and Nitrogen, available for plant uptake but boosting the soil microbial biomass is also necessary for maximising the bounce back of crops and pasture. EM can aid significantly in drought recovery and speed up soil and plant recovery. By inoculating your soil and crops with EM you introduce billions of beneficial microbes which stimulate biological activity, breakdown organic matter, utilise fertiliser and nutrients in the soil and boost plant health and vitality. The continued use of EM will also help to lower the impact drought and other climatic stresses will have on you soil and crops in the future. For more information see this article - Enhancing Drought Recovery