Saturday, February 19, 2011
The Biofert Microbe Army Marches On
They fly beneath the radar, but the powers that be know they are there and are terrified of them: the Biological Farmers. They have abandoned conventional agronomy, deciding to nurture rather than destroy the soil dwellers which can drive nutrient cycling and soil health. They source their fertilisers, etc. from private consultancies much maligned by the official extension officers because they sell 'product'. Naturally they cannot see how conventional, government-funded agronomy also sells product, in their case on behalf of multinational agrichemical corporations. The battle for the future is taking place at the grass roots, where private agronomists like Guy Web of Gaia Consultancy serve a growing base of clients. Officially these farmers are being conned by snake oil salesmen. In reality, these are confident, intelligent farmers who trust their own ability to judge results in the field. Guy provides education for his clients at his annual Grain-Maker seminars where farmers hear from speakers such as microbiologist Dr Chandra Iyer from Delta Laboratories [pictured with Guy Webb]. Chandra told this year's audience in Forbes that Phosphorus-solubilising bacteria can provide 50% of a crops P needs from the nutrient locked up in soil. More snake oil? The GRDC launched its own P-solubilising microbe product last month in a joint venture with Novozymes Biologicals. Has the worm turned? The GRDC distributed to 37000 growers a paper by 5 CSIRO scientists called "The Hidden Cost of Soil Sequestration" which concealed the existence of P-solubilising bacteria - claiming growers could not afford to grow humus because N, P and other nutrients that make up humus cost too much to buy. The core proposition was cost to the farmer. No mention was made of the free source: free-living N and P-fixing bacteria. One of the authors has agreed that it was misleading. Read it in the GRDC's GroundCover newsletter, September 2008. Passed on with approval by official agronomists. Ask not for whom the snake oils.
Posted by Michael Kiely at 6:11 PM