September 2020
Healthy Soil Solutions Monthly
Good Morning All! 

Welcome to the September edition of Healthy Soil Solutions Monthly. In this month’s newsletter, we thought it might be fun to unpack one of the latest and greatest buzzwords promising to revolutionize our industry: Regenerative Agriculture. It rolls off the tongue quite nicely and assuredly scored very well in marketing focus groups but what, exactly, does it mean? When you have some of the largest food/ag businesses in the world like Cargill, Walmart, and General Mills making public pledges to convert millions of acres to regenerative over the next 10 years, it does lend some credibility to the movement, but are they just pandering? Is this just Organic 2.0 or a fancier way of saying “sustainable”? I’m sure a great many of our readers are skeptical toward the legitimacy of this movement, and rightly so, but humor us for a second and let’s pretend that it is a legitimate opportunity upon which EVERY farmer can capitalize. If that’s the case, what can a grower do to gain a better understanding of it and ultimately be rewarded for participating in it?  

If you were to google the term “regenerative ag” you would most likely come across a list of techniques and practices being adopted by farmers in this new category. Techniques like no-till or conservation tillage, cover-cropping, intercropping, using compost and livestock integrated with crop production make up the foundation of practices being considered regenerative. Some readers may have even tried one or two of these practices with favorable results and continued to scale their utilization pragmatically, whereas others may have had a bad experience with something like cover-cropping (this one can be a tough, particularly in CA with our water scarcity, and dealing with the crop residue might seem like more trouble than it’s worth) and view these changes in management practices as too radical or difficult to implement. Regardless of your experience, you might ask yourself, “If I just adopt all of these recommended practices do I get to call myself a regenerative farmer? And, if so, what’s the point? Is someone going to pay me a premium for farming in this way? Are my yields and quality supposed to just shoot through the roof?!?!” Your skepticism is justified! 

In order to answer those questions and understand what the {expletive} regenerative ag really means, one must first look to the desired outcome of these recommended practices, and that’s what we’re here to help clarify for you. The purpose, the end-all-be-all goal of regenerative agriculture is to create healthier soil. Period. Just like the term regenerative agriculture, “healthy soil” sounds great but, once again, folks tend to over-think and over-complicate its definition. On that note, let us once again, clarify the phrase: healthy soil = that which is rich in organic matter (SOM) and maintains an aerobic (oxygen rich) condition. Now that we’ve clarified that regenerative agriculture = healthy soil = high levels of organic matter, let us answer one of our earlier questions where we asked what exactly is the point of all of this. The benefits of organic matter and the microorganisms (particularly, bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi) that create organic matter, cannot be overstated. Referring back to last month’s newsletter, per 1% increase in SOM your soil can infiltrate and retain an additional 20,000 gallons of water per acre! In addition, higher levels of SOM can facilitate a significant reduction in the need for synthetic inputs while maintaining optimum yields. Even those skeptics out there would have to admit that they would love nothing more than to lower their input budget without sacrificing (and perhaps even improving!) their productivity.  

So there’s your incentive! Save $$$, improve water efficiency, and optimize yields. And if that weren’t enough, let’s take some of the environmental benefits into account. In order for something to be classified as “organic material” it must contain carbon, the building block of all life. So when raising and maintaining organic matter in crop soil, farmers are effectively sequestering atmospheric carbon to the tune of 10 tons per acre per 1% increase in organic matter (SOM = 58% organic carbon). Additionally, the increased nutrient efficiency and fewer inputs of synthetic nitrogen required for optimum fertility has the capacity to solve our nitrate contamination issues in groundwater and prevent GHG emissions from crop soil. We’re pretty sick and tired of farmers being vilified as water hogs and one of the largest contributors to global warming, so we’re dedicating this division to flipping that narrative. Our goal is to turn farmers into the climate heroes, and we truly believe it can be done.   

Does it sound too good to be true? Let us prove it to you. Penny Newman’s Farm Products Division has developed a number of soil amendments that have been proven to catalyze the propagation of soil organic matter and, in some cases, our products are simple nutrients like a potassium fertilizer with a low salt index that provide the supplemental nutrients your crop needs without compromising the soil’s ability to sustain living microorganisms. The last thing any CA grower needs is to add more salt to their already salt-laden soils (salt kills microorganisms!), and our flagship product just so happens to be the most effective product on the market for mitigating salinity. Considering CA has some of the lowest levels of SOM when compared to other agriculturally productive regions, CA growers have the most to gain from adopting products and practices that emphasize soil health and carbon, like Live Earth’s Humic Products

 Lastly, for those of you who are intimidated by the radical change in management practices regenerative agriculture seems to require, our products have been designed to be easily integrated into the standard operational practices and systems being utilized by the average commercial-scale conventional farmer. So you don’t have to have sheep grazing your orchard or receive a Regenerative Organic certification in order to harness the power of regenerative agriculture. Our products create markedly healthier soil without requiring a complete overhaul in management practices, and we will always prove our claims by providing soil/tissue analyses that highlight increased levels of SOM and the accompanying increases in nutrient availability/uptake and the yields will speak for themselves.  

Give us a call, and we’ll show you what healthier soil can do.  

-The Team at Penny Newman Farm Products Division
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Coriphol is diluted with irrigation water for foliar and drip applications, or as part of a baseline nutritional mix.

Third party field trials showed increased romaine yields, even at half the fertilizer rate. Broccoli trials showed big increases in marketable crowns. Cabbage trials produced yield gains over full fertilizer controls.
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