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                              By Norman Wilson, Ph.D.

The approach of fall is a time for growers and agricultural support professionals to reflect upon the production season and hopefully enjoy the “fruits of our labor”. Fall is also a time for reckoning. Crop yields, quality, and ultimately bottom line profitability reflect decisions made weeks, months, or even a year or more ago. In fact, decisions made and activities initiated now can and will impact next falls results.

Many (most?) production decisions will somehow involve the soil. Production practices including tillage, fertilization, irrigation, rotation, pesticide application, and even variety selection and planting date will have soil implications. If the soil is vital to our success, it will always receive top priority as we make next years productions decisions, right? No, not always and in fact not usually. A more likely approach is to force our soil to conform to production decisions based on other considerations. The end result of ignoring the soil can be disastrous.

What can be done now to help ensure that our soil will be up to the task of producing a profitable crop next season? The first step requires an appreciation of the “life in the soil”. Soil, or specifically the top soil that produces our crops, is very much a living entity. Countless numbers of soil organisms are constantly at work in our soil. In fact, without soil microbial activity, agricultural production as we know it would be impossible.

An understanding of the importance of soil biology leads to another question. How can we improve soil biological health? Put another way, what can we do to help these tiny creatures do their job more effectively? To answer this question, we need to consider the “needs” of soil micro organisms. Like any life form, soil microbes require air, water, food, and energy (sunlight, heat, etc.). Intensive farming requires extensive use of heavy machinery, agricultural chemicals, salt-based fertilizers, and increasing use of poor quality irrigation water. In order to maintain cropping schedules, previous crop residues may be removed or improperly decomposed. Modern agricultural technology may limit the very elements essential to maintain a biologically healthy soil.

Considering these realities, good soil biological health may appear impossible, but it really isn’t. Soil microbes are actually very resilient and may just need a little help to get their job done. ViTech soil products can provide that necessary boost. ViTech’sViClout and ViBasic address soil biological health in a step wise fashion. An initial fall application of ViClout creates a biologically friendly soil environment by buffering chemical toxins and salts, enhancing soil aeration, and improving soil water relationships. The key to long term soil biological health is managing crop residue to keep the “carbon cycle” active. Maintenance applications of ViClout or ViBasic provide the bio-stimulation necessary to properly digest crop residues and maximize humus production. Soil humus levels are directly related to soil structure, soil aeration, soil water relationships, nutrient availability, and soil tilth. In fact, almost all the characteristics that we normally associate with a productive agricultural soil are either directly or indirectly related to biological activity and humus levels.