All fertilizers contain some level of salt. However, common commercial and agricultural farm fertilizers can have a dangerously amount. This is detrimental to crop yield and can increase farmers’ operating costs. How? Heightened salt levels reduce a crop’s ability to uptake essential nutrients, greatly impacting productivity. And it’s only getting worse: steadily accelerated salinity contributes to reduced soil quality, which can depreciate year after year.
But by choosing the right farm fertilizer, you can cultivate healthy soil that’s a successful and safe growing medium for your crops — all while reducing your dependency on synthetic soil inputs.
If you’re wondering where to begin, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we will breakdown the world of natural and soil-safe farm fertilizers for farmers in Manitoba.
The Benefits of Low-Salt Starter Fertilizers
A high-salt fertilizer can cause a disparity in osmotic pressure, damaging the seed and root of fledgling seedlings by pulling out essential water and nutrients. On the other hand, a low-salt liquid starter farm fertilizer — a soil-friendly input — can protect and improve your soil quality. Here are some tips on navigating low-salt starter fertilizers.
If you prefer a liquid starter, look for a low-salt fertilizer with an orthophosphate content of around 80% (a protector for seedlings) and an approximate 20% polyphosphate content (a booster for seed-starting). Both components activate regardless of soil temperature, which is a massive boon to farmers in Manitoba where the springtime is generally cooler — empowering farmers to get a leg-up on production.
If you prefer dry fertilizer, opt for a ‘seed-row safe’ fertilizer with a low-salt content. This is especially important in Manitoba where canola is the top crop — a ‘seed-row safe’ fertilizer is considered safe for sensitive crops like canola. Further, look for the inclusion of a package of macro and micro-nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphate.
Humates are a completely organic product — meaning they’re safe for farmers seeking their organic certification. They work to increase nutrient uptake, increase the breakdown of crop residue (which adds vital nutrients back into the soil), and improve the soil structure. Good soil structure allows air and moisture to flow around the plant’s roots. Humates also retain water and help during periods of drought, which can have severe impacts across Manitoba.
While compost and manure are also natural fertilizers, approximately 60 to 80% of this matter is degraded by microbes in the soil after its first year. Humic substances can stay in the ground for a decade or more.
Look to Soil and Foliar Biologicals
Tillage and high-salt fertilizers are damaging the occurrence of beneficial, naturally occurring bacteria and fungi in our soils. It’s important to not only protect these beneficial micro-organisms but to encourage them, too.
Why? Foliar biologicals that contain both bacteria and fungi can:
- Improve soil quality by mitigating compaction and supporting soil structure.
- Improve crop health and better root ball development.
- Help naturally release tied-up phosphate in the soil — which is incredibly beneficial for seedlings and juvenile plants.
- Convert naturally occurring nitrates in the soil into useable nitrates at a safe level.
- Enhance the soil’s overall health by reducing pH and, of course, salt levels — especially beneficial for farms that have used high-salt fertilizers for many years.
- Protect the seed first, then the seedling, from disease in the soil.
Seek out a foliar-bio stimulant that contains vegetative strains, bacillus spores and photosynthetic bacteria in the trillions — each work in tandem to improve the content of beneficial bacteria and fungi in your soil.
The Bottom Line on Natural Farm Fertilizers
By opting for a low-salt fertilizer that nourishes and protects seedlings and crops and by working to improve the levels of beneficial microbial bacteria and fungi in your soil, you’re harnessing a tried-and-true method that will go a long way toward improving your annual yield year after year.