Several growers from the riverland district of Renmark North-Cooltong have embarked on biological programs in search of improvements in yield, quality, environmental sustainability and reductions in pesticide & fungicide use on their prospective properties.

One of those growers, Jim Belehis, has doubled his almond yields in two years and has not used ammonium nitrate in the last five years of production. Prior to this, ammonium nitrate was standard practice for Jim, with poor results making him look for alternatives. A shift to animal manure composts blended with biologically active brown coal Bio-Humate (FF50), has changed his views on synthetic NPK applied products.

Jim agrees, that by blending natural fertilisers with a humate base improves the retention of the products used, maximising their effect whilst promoting and stimulating the biological component. According to his wholesale merchant and consumers who try his almonds, Jim’s almonds have a better flavour, colour and crispness they don’t get from others.

“There is a flavour difference and consumers have noticed it, like it and pay extra for it.” says Jim. Jim has developed a new block and planted another 6000 trees using Ferbon ‘OF10’ high carbon fertiliser in the backfill of the planting holes. The result is that the trees are looking like clones of each other, with growth rates practically identical down every row.

John Farrant has been on a biological program for more than five years now and doesn’t consider returning to a ‘conventional’ system again. John uses Bio-Humate FF50 blended with other ingredients like gypsum, soft-rock phosphate and/or lime to balance the major cations and other nutrients in the soil pre-season.

Microbes are brewed regularly and applied via fertigation, along with some specialty products to help improve production. Foliar applications are made frequently to assist with quality, maintaining good nutrient status in plant tissue for optimum photosynthesis.

Earthworms are more prevalent in the soil whilst the balance of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus levels have improved since he first started with these programmes.

John also grows citrus for local and export markets and applies similar programmes to his orange and mandarin trees. With his farm situated in a frost-prone area, John uses plenty of silica in the form of Silico-Sulfonate (OF29) on his trees, along with the nucleation inhibiting organism Pseudomonas fluorescens and some Tri-Kelp, to help his trees through the frosty nights of early winter. To date the results have seen little if any frost damage to his citrus crops, with the fruit holding up very well compared to others in the district.

reports supplied by Bio-Tech Organics

Sid & Joe Ridenti grow potatoes and onions on the Gawler river and at Kangaroo Flat, just north of the vast northern Adelaide plains horticultural disticrict of Virginia in South Australia. For many years their programs revolved around the old N:P:K regime with an emphasis on ammonium nitrate to grow their potatoes, with very little success.

The boys and their parents, Frank and mother Rosa, knew they had to do something to change the outcomes of their spud crops, as they were strguggling to make ends meet under their current practices. Their previous crops on 130 acres were barely achieving 10 tonnes per acre, with their 2003 harvest yielding only 1180 tonnes.

With this in mind they embarked on a mixed biological chemical regime and were stunned by the massive turnaround in production, quality and costs, to produce their 2004 crops. On 130 acres that season the crop yielded 2600 tonnes, a massive increase on previous crops, with chemical fungicide and pest sprays applied only once, where previously five sprays of each was the norm.

Not only did the crop produce more than double the previous years tonnages, the cost of production was reduced by a massive $100,000. The result speaks for itself and the increased profitability enabled them to erect a brand new production shed and packing plant for future onion crops.

Onion yields have improved dramatically over recent years where biological prescription blends have been used prior to planting. Before using prescription fertiliser blends average yields were around 28-35t:acre. The last two seasons, using FF50 Bio-Humate as a base, there has been around 6-10t:acre increase. Brown onion yields for example over the last two seasons have cropped at around 40-45t:acre with the quality.

The Ridentis are very happy with the results and are looking to expand their onion production to keep up with demand for their high quality produce.

reports supplied by Bio-Tech Organics