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                                         By Norman Wilson, Ph.D.

The approach of Spring signals the promise of a new crop season and farmers, as always, anticipate spring with renewed optimism and hope for a productive year. Growers familiar with the ViTech production system will also greet the advancing planting season with their first new year application of ViTech product. The product of choice for this first application is also the most popular product in the ViTech line up. That product is ViTech ViBasic. ViBasic is a general purpose soil conditioner which provides the “basic” foundation to get a crop up and started right. Applied to soil in preparation for planting, ViBasic initiates a series of events to condition and biologically balance the soil environment and produce a superior seedbed. ViBasic addresses three critical concerns in seedbed preparation:

Soil Structure - A good seedbed must maintain aggregation of the soil particles but should not be “cloddy”. A fine line exists between too little or too much aggregation and more trips over the field can become part of the problem rather than part of the solution. The real answer is enhanced soil Bio-activity and the accompanying natural soil flocculation. ViBasic acts as a Bio-stimulant/innoculant to get this process jump started. The tilth of a soil is determined by its structure and good tilth is just as important in no-till or limited-till as in conventional-till production. A well flocculated soil will maintain its tilth after equipment traffic, heavy rains, or irrigation without compaction or crusting.

Soil Water Relationship - A good seedbed must provide adequate moisture around the freshly planted seed but can not be saturated. A germinating seed requires both moisture and air. This may sound like an inconsistency but it really isn’t. The key to a proper moisture air relationship is once again soil structure conditioned by biological activity. A properly flocculated soil will allow water penetration and moisture retention while providing aeration necessary for germination and early root growth.

Salt Buffering - The third critical point of seedbed preparation is also directly related to soil Bio-activity. Sodium salts accumulating in the seed zone from natural salinity or brackish irrigation water can pre-empt an otherwise good seedbed strategy. Sodium acts as a dispersing agent in the soil solution and if not buffered will destroy the soil structure and tilth. Sodium salts are also highly toxic to germinating seed and may prevent the seed from imbibing adequate moisture to germinate. Organic compounds produced from biological soil activity will complex excess sodium and neutralize most of the negative effects on soil structure, seed germination, and early plant growth.

In addition to the “big three” items listed above, ViBasic contributes several other factors important to seedbed conditioning and stand establishment. Activity of Mycorrhizal organisms is increased and plant nutrients are stabilized in an available form for seedling uptake. ViBasic can also speed the breakdown of residual pesticides that might otherwise interfere with seed germination and early root development. Soil borne fungal diseases, which attack germinating seed and newly emerged seedlings, tend to be less of a threat in biologically balanced soils.