Preventive medicine for crops
NEVADA – According to John Kempf, founder and chief executive officer of Advancing Eco-Agriculture, based in Ohio, it is possible to grow fruit, vegetables and row crops without chemicals and get top yields.
Although it’s possible, he said, it’s not easy because it requires farmers to think differently about plant husbandry.
Kempf’s company is a national advisory group with mixes of micro and macro nutrients that he said will give plants the nutrition they need to resist insects and diseases, without chemical rescues.
He was in Nevada in late-February speaking to more than 150 area farmers.
“Our methods,” Kempf told farmers concerning growing crops with an ultra-nutrition boost, “are decades ahead of where you are today.”
Kempf said the difference is a paradigm shift in growing any crop, specifically, that conventional field scouting for insects and diseases “is a search and destroy mission.
“But we take the approach of why are insects (and diseases) attacking?”
Spraying to kills bugs, fungi or bacteria, Kempf said, “is like putting a bandage on a wound.”
Spraying covers the symptoms, he said, but does not change the reason the plant are under attack in the first place.
Food as medicine
“But it is possible to prevent each disease and insect – all of them, even the untreatable ones through nutrition,” Kempf said. “When we have plants with functional immune systems, they transfer that immunity to humans and animals that eat them.
In addition, he said as healthy plant material decays, it feeds the soil as it becomes organic matter.
He said healthy plants resisting diseases are producing essential oil, “and that’s where we can talk about food as medicine.”
Kempf said to make a plant unattractive to insects it needs the nutritional components to form complete proteins.
Insects cannot digest complete proteins, he said. Through the ultrared light spectrum, an insect can readily see if it can feed and live on a plant or not.
Healthy plants forming whole proteins actually warn the insect away.
Kempf said for plants to form whole proteins they need glucose, a compound element consisting of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Glucose is a building block in 23 amino acids, which form proteins.
Enzymes with other co-factors bonds the protein chains together. Without the co-factors, Kempf said, the proteins chains are not whole and susceptible to insect feeding.
“Even insects that are severe to ag,” Kempf said, “depend on plants with soluble peptides.
“If plants have complete proteins, (insects) cannot digest them.”
Kempf told farmers that their conventional row crop, fruit and vegetable plants are photosynthesizing at 20 to 30 percent of their potential.
To raise that potential to 70 or 80 percent, they must control carbohydrates. Low carbohydrate levels make a plant susceptible to soil-borne diseases.
Likewise, keeping lipid management high in plants, keeps them resistant to air-borne diseases.
The healthier the plant, the more photosynthesizing it will do. As that rate comes up, the more sugars it feeds back into the soil for future energy use when the plant is ready for reproduction.
Foliar sprays are designed to increase photosynthesis, while addressing nutrient and mineral deficiencies.
“The best time for foliar spraying is during the highest humidity levels of the day,” Kempf said. “The higher the humidity, the longer (the spray) sits on the leaves and gives the plant time to soak it in.”
In problem-solving, Kempf said AEA consultants always ask, why is there a problem in the first place?
Kempf told of assisting an orchard fighting apple scab. The business could not sell apples as table fruit for three seasons because of the blemishes.
Apple scab is a result of a cobalt deficiency, which creates a build up of an amino acid, arginine. This in turn makes the apple susceptible to a fungus, Venturia inaequalis, which causes the scab.
After three cobalt foliar applications the next growing season, Kempf said, the orchard produced apples with zero apple scab problems, without using a fungicide.
Kempf told farmers that every acre planted in corn has the potential of producing 1,100 bushels.
“But every stress cuts that yield down,” he said. “Actual harvest numbers is a small fraction of what was possible.”
To get the most production, he said farmers must understand the corn-growing process. This includes:
- First 12 days after emergence: The plant is determining the number of ears.
- Next 9 days: It’s determining the number of rows per ear.
- Next 28 days: It’s determining the number of kernels per row.
Having nutrition amounts to maximize plant growth and reproduction at this point is only half of the process, Kempf said. “Without energy to fill it all, it doesn’t matter.”
Calcium and manganese are critical in the early growing stages. “If there is a deficiency,” Kempf said, “it’s immediate.”
Nutrition mobility through the plant is influenced the most by cobalt, magnesium, ammonium, nitric oxide and phosphorus.
“If any of these are short,” he said, “the plant will pull it from the lower leaves and move it to the fruit or the top leaves.”
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