Finding Alternatives to Synthetic Fertilizers

With high synthetic fertilizer prices farmers may be itching to find new ways to provide nutrition to their crop and there are other ways out there. One way to do so is by composting waste, or trash, on your fields. Zack Wright and Rion Naus of Living Soils Lab were keynote speakers during the recent No Till on the High Plains Event. Wright says it all starts with knowing what to do with waste.

“Basically, we just tried to help remind people that waste is food and that waste streams exist all around us, we just have to know what to do with it. And by composting and compost and correctly, we can utilize those waste streams and turn them into, well, a fertility in itself, not to mention sort of a habitat for soil microbiology to live in and consume, continue the, I guess, the growth process because we want to grow plants simultaneously to our soil. And with compost, I guess in my humble opinion, I feel like we can achieve that.”

Naus says composting can help alleviate the costs of fertilizer.

“Really, the understanding is that compost has to be composed of the microbiology and organisms that perform the form and function that you want them to, to help your crops, to help you do the work that you need to be done. At that point, having the biology that fixes nitrogen into the soil alleviates the price point of high nitrogen costs because they’re accessing the nitrogen that’s in the air we breathe because we’re working with aerobic or air breathing ecosystems.”

He says the first step is realizing how to turn waste or trash into a viable resource.

“I think the first step is realizing that the perspective of you seeing problems can actually be turned into solutions. We talk about waste streams, so really, we’re talking about resources that we don’t know how to utilize and oftentimes we end up paying to have those resources removed because they’re now in the way. Instead, by utilizing those resources and allowing them to be food for the biology themselves, it allows for the nutrition that’s tied up in that to become plant available. And then at that point, something that was a burden becomes a blessing, and not only to you as an individual but to your budget because it’s covering the cost of putting that nutrition and that energy back into your farm.”

And, Wright says fungi are an important part of the puzzle.

“Because fungi, in addition to bacteria is literally the bottom of our food chain. And without fungi, we end up with kind of a pile of trash and we call that that residual material that sits on top of our soil, you know oftentimes it’s referred to as trash, it’s not going anywhere. When we repopulate our soil with beneficial fungi’s, we are promoting a compost literally almost in our soil, on the surface of our soil, and we’re recycling those trash residue materials, those carbons and we’re fixing them we’re humifying them and turning them into humas again versus losing it as a co2.”

Again, the duo were keynote speakers during the No Till on the High Plains event earlier this month.

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