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Jeffrey A. Hoffman - Director of Sales & Marketing - Omega Protein Incorporated
Fish in various forms has been used as a fertilizer for literally hundreds of years. Most of us recall learning in school about how the first pilgrims learned how to grow crops using fish as fertilizer from Native Indian Tribes. It stands to reason that an labor intensive culture would not go through the work and effort of catching and using fish unless there were clear and definite benefits.
Farmers have used an increasing amount of conventional fertilizer since the end of World War II. Initially, huge yield increases were realized, but over the last decade yields have leveled out or in some cases declined in spite of numerous technical advances in seeds, pesticides and equipment.
With increased consumer concern about residues and possible run-off combined with tougher government regulations, farmers have started using more natural fertilizer products. Most of these products are incorporated into their existing practices and they report many benefits from their use.
In 1999 and again in 2000, Omega Protein conducted a series of replicated research trials combined with actual field use trials to determine the effects of AGGRAND incorporated into crop production systems in the following areas:
1.) Effect on seed germination
2.) Effect on plant growth
3.) Effect on Disease suppression
4.) Effect on Yields
This paper is a compilation of those test results.
In all replicated trials and field studies, every attempt was made to use the product in a manner consistent with normal production practices for the crop. Not every farmer will plant and produce the same crop the same way, but these methods are used on production acres for the crop.
The conventional fertilizer rates vary depending upon the crop and soil types. The rates used would be those recommended by soil tests for the crop, soil type and yield goal of the farmer.
Foliar applications were conducted when normal pesticide products might be used such as insecticides and fungicides. The goal was to test for product benefits and avoid adding additional trips across the field. A water rate of 20 gallons per acre was used as a standard.
Initial stand counts, field observations and yield comparisons were gathered in these trials.
In the spring of 2000, a replicated study was conducted to determine the effects of AGGRAND on seed germination and growth.
As this picture illustrates, the combination of AGGRAND applied at 2 gallons per acre in the furrow increased the size of the soybean plant compared to traditional treatments. There was a yield increase of 5 bushels per acre where the AGGRAND was used in this trial.
Two gallons of AGGRAND was applied in the furrow in this North Carolina cotton field trial. Two additional foliar sprays at 1 gallon per spray were added during the growing season. The AGGRAND treated section had an 11% better stand and an increase of 15% in lint production compared to the standard treatment.
Several tests were conducted at the Southern Crop Protection Center in London Ontario to measure the effects AGGRAND might have on disease suppression. The initial tests were conducted in the lab by adding AGGRAND to the soil and measuring its effect against Verticillium dahliae microsclerotia ( MS ).
As this graph clearly demonstrates, a significant reduction in MS germination was recorded where AGGRAND was added to the soil at two different rates.
After the initial lab tests indicated AGGRAND showed a positive effect on disease suppression, a field trial was conducted to test the effects under actual growing conditions.
Incorporating AGGRAND in a weekly 1% foliar spray solution resulted in a 51% increase of total yield and a 67% increase marketable yield equivalent to Actigard. No soil applications were made using AGGRAND.
In a 2000 side by side comparison, this farmer added AGGRAND to his transplant solution ( 2% ) and added two foliar sprays of 1 gallon per spray. The first application was made 7 days prior to bloom and the second application 7 days after bloom. The AGGRAND treated portion of the field yielded 44 tons per acre compared to 40 tons per acre on the standard treatment. The AGGRAND treatment gained 4 tons more per acre.
A similar field trial was conducted at the same time on peppers.
Under severe disease pressure the AGGRAND treated peppers had reduced incidence of disease and significantly increased total yield compared to the control and Actigard.
In the spring of 2001, tests were conducted to measure any effects AGGRAND might have on suppressing or controlling seedling diseases. Rhizoctonia was isolated and inoculated into a sterile planting medium ( Pro Mix ). Various rates of AGGRAND were incorporated and allowed to incubate from 0 to 28 days. Radish seeds were then planted into the treated soil mixture. Plant counts were taken over time to measure he control gained from AGGRAND.
The control in this experiment was the recommended fertilizer rate with no chemical control.
1.) Increasing the rate of AGGRAND increased the control of Rhizoctonia
2.) Increasing the rate of AGGRAND provided the required nutritional needs of the plant
3.) Increasing the incubation time of AGGRAND in the planting medium increased the control of Rhizoctonia.
4.) In all treatments at all time frames, AGGRAND clearly outperformed conventional fertilizer alone.
A combination of field trials and replicated research plots were put out to determine what effect the addition of AGGRAND could have on yield. In 1999, AGGRAND was tested to determine its effect on Sugar Cane.
These yield results were averaged across 4 replications. The combination of 5 gallons of AGGRAND at planting with 75% of the recommended fertilizer rate produced 450 pounds more sugar than the recommended rate of conventional fertilizer alone. This same trial was conducted again in 2000. Overall, yields were lower due to a very dry growing season, but the same treatment produced a significantly different sugar increase when compared to 100% of the conventional fertilizer alone.
No AGGRAND Used
In 1999, AGGRAND was used in side by side comparisons on two different soybean varieties to test the effect on yield. Normally, one gallon per acre is used in the furrow at planting, and two or three foliar sprays at 1 gallon per spray. A total of 4 foliar applications were applied during the growing season. This test was conducted during the record drought in that part of the country.
Note the difference in the root mass and nitrogen fixation nodules between the treated and untreated plots.
In addition to the yield increase that was recorded where AGGRAND was used, both varieties receiving AGGRAND treatments had higher protein and oil content than the untreated.
Interest in using AGGRAND is as a source of foliar nutrition for citrus in Florida, especially on resets is growing. In addition to the foliar feeding benefits, field observations noted that citrus leaf miners were not a problem where AGGRAND was used. This side benefit has been observed in both conventional and organic groves.
Several existing AGGRAND users noted less frost damage on trees where AGGRAND was sprayed. In 2000, a field test was set up to test the effect.
Treated with AGGRAND Untreated 3 gallons + 3pds Copper Adjacent to treated row 48 hours ahead of a predicted Spray drift on tree top from treated frost rows Temperatures dropped to 26 degrees for 12 hours during this test
AGGRAND is an emulsion, made from 100% whole menhaden fish. Its nitrogen is derived from protein. The product also contains key amino acids which have been recognized to benefit plant growth in the following areas:
1.) Seed germination
2.) Plant growth Stimulation
3.) Disease suppression
The net results have shown the farmer can gain more yield of higher quality in a cost efficient manner.
In addition to the original goals of the test that were conducted, the researchers noted the following observations:
1.) Some tests showed increases in the CEC where AGGRAND was used
2.) pH changes in the soil were measured in the Ontario trials.
3.) Better cell membrane permeability was noted in two rate study trials, both in root cells and leaf tissue
These different tests suggest that the benefits measured in these trials exceed what would be expected from a fertilizer product alone. They further suggest that AGGRAND positively affects the plant in at least three different modes of action.
Additional tests will be conducted in 2001 to further define these three different modes of action.