Manganese hidden hunger symptoms

Many agricultural soils contain abundant levels of manganese locked up in soil reserves. Yet, for the reasons of selective suppression of biology, oxidation and immobilization discussed in these blog posts most crops are constantly manganese deficient, which limits water hydrolysis for photosynthesis.

The reasons above are why field research seldom shows a positive crop response from manganese. In the short term, until microbial populations are established which can release the unavailable reserves of soil manganese, the only effective solution is to supply manganese with foliar feeding so it does not limit photosynthesis.

The symptoms of subtle manganese deficiency have become so commonplace today we don’t recognize them as anything outside of the ordinary.

When plants have adequate levels of manganese, the leaf veins will be the same shade of green as the area between the veins.

These cotton leaves are showing light colored veins, symptoms of inadequate manganese. Once you begin looking, you can see this almost everywhere, in undomesticated plants as well as crops. There are a very few plants which have light colored midribs genetically, even those will darken when supplied with manganese.

How many plants have you observed that did not have light colored veins?

2022-02-18T14:29:54-05:00February 21st, 2022|Tags: |

Facilitating a different agricultural future

The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervenor. ~ Bill O’Brien

Most growers in developed countries only have experience with contemporary farming systems, which relies on constant fertilizer and pesticide inputs and purchased seeds.

If you are reading this post, you are aware to some degree that regenerative agriculture management systems have so much more to offer than contemporary systems: higher yields, improved nutritional integrity, disease resistance, insect resistance, reduced input costs, increased profitability, reduced climactic risk, regenerating ecosystems, improved public health outcomes, and so much more.

As we realize the incredible potential and untapped opportunities we want to share our excitement and the information we are learning with our peers.

Many growers are struggling today, in different ways. With overwork. With difficulty in making ends meet. Not having enough time with family and friends.

Once we observe and experience the possibilities of regenerative agriculture, of course we want to share them others.

If we desire to facilitate change, it is critical that we recognize the receptivity to different/new ideas has nothing to do with the potential benefit of those ideas. The openness to a new approach has nothing to do with how skillful you may be at implementing, or at pitching a new approach.

Anytime we attempt to guide someone in a different direction, we engage in intervention. Even in matters as trivial as what to make for dinner or which socks to wear.

The outcome of an intervention has nothing to do with the skills of the intervenor. It has everything to do with the place within from which the intervenor comes.

You may be the most skillful carpenter in the region, but not be able to guide home builders to consider important improvements in their new home.

You may be the most knowledgeable agronomist in the state, but not be able to get farmers to shift management practices.

You may be a very successful regenerative farmer, but other farmers who observe and listen to you make few changes on their own operations.


Because our ability to facilitate change in others has nothing to do with skills or knowledge. Instead, it has everything to do with our internal state, where we are coming from within.

When we come from an internal place of love, appreciation, care, and respect, others can feel this and are able to respond, to be open, vulnerable, without fear of judgement, and engage with our input on a deep level. The level required to actually make changes.

When we come from an  internal place of judgement, this is felt as well, and there is no opportunity for openness and hearing what the other has to say by either party.

If we desire to facilitate change with our friends, neighbors, colleagues, all the people we really care about, it is not useful to focus on a discussion of what we consider ‘bad’. It is much more powerful to be for something than it is to be against something.

Being ‘anti’ can give us a shot of energy from all the drama created, but doesn’t inspire people to actually change. Anti-GMO, anti-glyphosate, anti-tillage, etc., is seldom a productive message.

The farming community needs you to be a leader. To engage in authentic conversations where you are able to come from a place within that can inspire change.

Are you ready to step into this internal space?

2022-02-02T07:08:17-05:00February 18th, 2022|

Foliar Spray Solution EC

When crops are foliar sprayed regularly through the growing season, managing spray solution electrical conductivity (EC) becomes very important.

If crops are only sprayed two or three times in a growing season, it is possible to apply a very concentrated product solution, and only observe positive crop responses. Growers regularly fly on spray solutions that were as much as 50%-70% high EC products with only 30%-50% water at a rate of 3-4 gallons of total solution per acre, with very good results.

When higher value crops are sprayed every 7-14 days through the growing season, managing the solution EC becomes important. When the electrical conductivity of the spray solution becomes higher than 3800 microsiemens (or 3.8 millisiemens), plants seem to not respond as well and absorb nutrients less readily from later applications. I don’t know why this is the case, but a lot of experience indicates this is something we must pay attention to.

It is critical to only use water that is known and tested to be clean, that does not contain bicarbonates above 70 ppm total mineral content.

2022-02-17T06:43:17-05:00February 17th, 2022|

Herbicide residues affecting plant hormone balance

All plants respond dramatically to changes in phytohormone levels.

The use of plant hormone products usually corresponds to a crops value. High value crop growers quickly recognize they cannot afford to not use these products because of the exceptional crop responses they can produce when applied in a timely fashion.

We often observe instances where cultural management practices produce a profound negative effect on a crop, because the impact on phytohormone levels is not appreciated.

As an example, abscisic acid (ABA) is the phytohormone which leads to the development of good fruit coloration. When fruit does not contain enough trace minerals, ABA levels remain low, and apples (or any other fruit) remain green instead of coloring well. Some apple growers use foliar applications of ABA to enhance fruit coloring. In parallel they may also use water deprivation to improve fruit storability. However, water deprivation results in elevated levels of ABA.

The combination one-two punch of water deprivation and a foliar of ABA often causes early fruit drop. After all, abscisic acid gets its name because it triggers fruit abscission. This combination of cultural management practices having misunderstood consequences costs apple producers a lot of yield and profits. It’s like shooting off both your feet at once.

For those growers producing crops other than apples, no need to feel relief to early. The odds are good that similar foot shooting practices have become commonplace for your crops as well.

With this background context in mind, I find it intriguing to learn that low level glyphosate residues in the soil profile result in changed phytohormone profiles in crops.

It seems a logical expectation this would occur, given glyphosate’s disruption of the shikimate pathway, but before this paper, no one looked at how soil residues would affect following crops.

Here are a couple of highlights from a great article:

– Glyphosate disrupts the shikimate pathway which is the basis for several plant metabolites. The central role of phytohormones in regulating plant growth and responses to abiotic and biotic environment has been ignored in studies examining the effects of glyphosate residues on plant performance and trophic interactions.

– Plant hormonal responses to GBH residues were highly species-specific.

– Potato responded to GBH soil treatment with an increase in stress-related phytohormones abscisic acid (ABA), indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), and jasmonic acid (JA) but a decrease in cytokinin (CK) ribosides and cytokinin-O-glycosides. (An expression of reduced root growth. JK)

– Our results demonstrate that ubiquitous herbicide residues have multifaceted consequences by modulating the hormonal equilibrium of plants, which can have cascading effects on trophic interactions.

– Accordingly, the consequences to non-target plants can range from growth stimulating to changes with their biotic environment. Herbicide residues are ubiquitous and it is necessary to unravel their consequences for ecological interactions and their involvement in shaping evolutionary processes (Riedo et al., 2021). In conclusion, to elucidate the full picture of effects of GBH residues, it requires thorough understanding of the “soil legacy” including the study of soil microbiota and how it is affected by persistent herbicide use.

While this research is relevant for all soils and crops that have had glyphosate applied historically that has not yet degraded, it is of particular relevance to tree crops where lots of glyphosate has been applied in the tree row, or any soil with a history of generous glyphosate applications.

It is worth reading the paper, and noting how phosphate applications effect glyphosate solubility and crop performance.

Have you observed any changes in plant expression where soils had higher levels of glyphosate residue?

1. Fuchs, B. et al. A Glyphosate-Based Herbicide in Soil Differentially Affects Hormonal Homeostasis and Performance of Non-target Crop Plants. Front. Plant Sci. 12, 787958 (2021).

2022-02-15T20:35:14-05:00February 16th, 2022|

Changing a single plant gene alters the rhizosphere microbiome

“We report how a single gene mutation from a functional plant mutant influences the surrounding community of soil organisms, showing that genes are not only important for intrinsic plant physiology but also for the interactions with the surrounding community of organisms as well.”1

Several growers have been reporting that different weed species are dominant the following growing season on soil where GM crops are planted, compared to soil with that same crop that is not GM.

Other growers have observed that disease expression is much higher following a GM crop than a non GM crop.

We understand that both of these changes can be produced by shifts in the soil biome. As biological populations shift, different weed species become dominant, and diseases can be either suppressed or enhanced.

A single gene change in a plant can produce a changed phenolic compound and sugar profile in plant sap and root exudates. This change in root exudates results in a changed microbiome in the rhizosphere.

A single gene change in a plant can produce a changed microbiome in the soil. What might this mean for breeding and GE?

Of course, few GE crops being used today only contain a single altered gene. Usually a number of genes are added or altered, along with a number of non-target changes that are also produced.

How might the soil microbiome differ between GE and non GE crops, and how does this influence the development of the soil microbiome?

How can we consider this characteristic to intentionally breed crops and select cover crops which shift the microbiome in a disease suppressive direction?

Is it possible that when we select for disease resistant crops the disease resistance mechanisms are largely or partially a result of a changed microbiome?

Can we deliberately breed crops  to produce a disease suppressive microbiome, as occurred accidentally with the selection of crown-rust resistant oats?

  1. Badri, D. V. et al. An ABC transporter mutation alters root exudation of phytochemicals that provoke an overhaul of natural soil microbiota. Plant Physiol. 151, 2006–2017 (2009).


2022-02-14T14:53:31-05:00February 15th, 2022|

The Rhizosphere Microbiome and Plant Health

Many times growers observe field outcomes we don’t have an immediate explanation for.

Why did that one section of the field with that early root disease not have any insect pressure later in the season?

Why does our crop not have any disease where we foliar fed last years cover crop, but disease is present where the same cover crop was not foliar fed?

Why does a field have greater disease pressure on one variety, but the next variety right beside it, not particularly selected for disease resistance, showed no trace of disease?

Why do GM crops seem to produce a disease conducive soil, where their non GM counterparts produce a disease suppressive soil microbiome?

Why does the relative health and photosynthetic efficiency of crops result in changed microbiomes in the soil?

Then, sometimes, we find a reference that connects the dots, and we learn some possibilities of what might have occured to produce unexpected results.

The Rhizosphere Microbiome and Plant Health is such a paper. Here are some condensed highlights from the paper:

– The microflora of most soils is starved. As a result,there is a fierce battle in the rhizosphere between the microorganisms that compete for plant-derived nutrients.

– Most soil-borne pathogens need to grow saprophytically in the rhizosphere to reach their host.

– The success of a pathogen is influenced by the microbial community of the soil in which the infection takes place.

– Every natural soil has the ability to suppress a pathogen to a certain extent.  This phenomenon is known as general disease suppression and is attributed to the total microbial activity.

– Organic amendments can stimulate the activity of microbial populations in a conducive soil, resulting in enhanced general disease suppressiveness.

– ‘Specific suppression’ occurs when specific microorganisms cause soils to be suppressive to a disease. Specific disease suppressiveness is superimposed on the general disease suppressiveness of soils and is more effective.

– some soils retain their disease suppressiveness for prolonged periods and persist even when soils are left bare, whereas other soils develop suppressiveness only after monoculture of a crop for several years.

– Induction of suppressiveness by itself is remarkable, because for most plant species, successive monocultures will lead to a build-up of specialized plant pathogens .

– Nonetheless, development of disease suppressiveness in soils has been reported for various diseases, including potato scab, Fusarium wilt, Rhizoctonia damping-off , and take-all.

– Microorganisms that can confer suppressiveness to otherwise conducive soils have been isolated from many suppressive soils.

– Mechanisms through which rhizosphere microorganisms can affect a soil-borne pathogen have been identified and include production of antibiotic compounds, consumption of pathogen stimulatory compounds, competition for (micro)nutrients and production of lytic enzymes.

– Many beneficial soil-borne microorganisms have been found to boost the defensive capacity in above- ground parts of the plant. This induced systemic resistance (ISR) is a state in which the immune system of the plant is primed for accelerated activation of defense.

– Although locally plant immunity is suppressed, an immune signaling cascade is initiated systemically that confers resistance against a broad spectrum of pathogens and even insects

– In addition to plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria, beneficial fungi such as mycorrhizal fungi, Trichoderma spp. and other fungal biocontrol agents have also been found to induce ISR.

– As well as inducing systemic resistance, mycorrhizal fungi can also form a connecting network between plants that can convey a resistance-inducing signal to neighboring plants

– The microflora of most soils is carbon starved. Because plants secrete up to 40% of their photosynthates into the rhizosphere, the microbial population densities in the rhizosphere are much higher than in the surrounding bulk soil.

– From the reservoir of microbial diversity that the bulk soil comprises, plant roots select for specific microorganisms to prosper in the rhizosphere.

– Some plant species can create similar communities in different soils. Even within species, different genotypes can develop distinct microbial communities in the rhizosphere, suggesting that plants are able to shape the composition of the microbiome in their rhizosphere.

– Plants can determine the composition of the root microbiome by active secretion of compounds that specifically stimulate or repress members of the microbial community

– Furthermore, plant-associated bacteria produce and utilize diffusible N-acyl-homoserine lactones (AHLs) to signal to each other and to regulate their gene expression. Such cell-to-cell communication is known as ‘quorum sensing’

– QS-interfering compounds enable the plant to manipulate gene expression in their bacterial communities

– Recent evidence suggests that differences between plant genotypes in a single gene can have a significant impact on the rhizosphere microbiome. The production of a single exogenous glucosinolate significantly altered the microbial community on the roots of transgenic Arabidopsis.

– These results indicate that the plant genotype can affect the accumulation of microorganisms that help the plant to defend itself against pathogen attack. Indeed, differences have been found in the ability of wheat cultivars to accumulate naturally occurring DAPG-producing Pseudomonas spp., resulting in differences in disease suppressiveness.

– Specific wheat cultivars support specific biological control bacteria differentially, which further establishes that there is a degree of specificity in the interactions between plant genotype and the composition of their microbial community

– White fly feeding also led to significant changes in the rhizosphere microbial community. Although total numbers of bacteria were unaffected, the white fly- induced plants had higher populations of Gram-positive bacteria and fungi in their rhizosphere. The authors hypothesized that plants recruit plant-beneficial microbes to their roots in response to the attack.


Berendsen, Roeland L., Corné M. J. Pieterse, and Peter A. H. M. Bakker. 2012. “The Rhizosphere Microbiome and Plant Health.” Trends in Plant Science 17 (8): 478–86.

Whose opinion do you care about?

When we consider that some people have qualified opinions about some topics, and some people have qualified opinions about few topics, whose opinion do you choose to care about?

If you want to make a change on your farming operation how important is the opinion of your neighbors? The folks at church? The coffee shop? How important is the opinion of your family?

Does anyone in any of these groups have a qualified opinion about the changes you are trying to make?

If you care about their opinion, and their opinion is not yet qualified, how can you give them the necessary information to help them develop a qualified opinion?

Alternatively, are you able to ignore their unqualified opinion, and only rely on advisors who do have qualified opinions?

Being conscious and deliberate about whose opinion we care about can be very liberating.

Surround yourself with peers and advisors whose opinions you actually care about, and making changes in life or on a farm becomes much easier.

2022-02-02T05:57:23-05:00February 11th, 2022|

Vanished yield potential

How much yield is lost every year because we don’t apply the knowledge from the past?

Huber, McNeil, Zimmer, and others have reported regularly achieving 400+ bu per acre corn yields during the ’70s and ’80s. What happened? How was that yield potential lost? Why are we going backward? Why haven’t we made more progress?

From my podcast interview with Gary Zimmer:

John: What is something that you believe to be true about modern agriculture that is very different from the mainstream view?

Gary: When I was at Brookside, back in 1976, I visited a farm in northern Illinois that was growing 375-bushel corn, with a public variety of corn from the University of Illinois, on forty-inch rows. You could stick your hand in the ground clear to your elbow. Of course it got my attention.

In the ’90s, in Iowa, there was somebody who grew 400- to 500-bushel corn. That really opened up the doors to say that there’s much more potential.

This is why I find it offensive when people say, “How are we going to feed all these people?”

I say, “Forty percent of our corn goes into making ethanol, and we have the capability to double our yields. And we can do it with a cleaner method of farming.” It’s not that we can’t produce more food. And most people don’t even eat corn and beans. We can do a lot of things if we want to feed people. I think that conventional agriculture, or whatever you want to call it— modern agriculture—is shifting to a biological farming system.

2022-02-08T18:58:05-05:00February 10th, 2022|Tags: , , , |

Propagating Velvetleaf

Velvetleaf thrives in soil where unhealthy anaerobic fermentation produces ethane and methane.

Or, stated in a different way, soils where unhealthy decay/fermentation products have been applied.

One of the more effective ways to grow abundant velvet leaf is to flush wash water/waste water with strong antimicrobial cleaners into a liquid manure pit, then apply the liquid manure to the field.

A liquid manure pit mistreated with chemical cleaners becomes a smelly, stinky mess where manure does not digest and breakdown in a healthy way. A mismanaged manure pit will form a crust on top, and undecomposed sludge on the bottom.

Well digested liquid manure can be a valuable resource that smells good (or not at all), doesn’t stink, has no sludge or crust, and enhances healthy biology when added to soil.

This type of liquid manure does not stimulate velvet leaf growth because it does not add toxins to the soils.

The solution is to remove the cleaners from the manure pit, and add microbial inoculants that can speed up the conversion of the liquid manure to a liquid gold microbial tea.

When we change our manure management velvetleaf disappears from the landscape because the soil is no longer the environment it requires. You can read about how to change your manure quality here.

2022-02-16T07:39:40-05:00February 9th, 2022|Tags: , |

Stones of the field, minerals of the soil

At destruction and famine you shall laugh, and shall not fear the beasts of the earth. For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field, and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee. ~ Job 5:22-23

Some other translations read “you shall have a covenant with the stones of the field”

What does it mean to be in league or covenant with the stones of the field?

Why would aligning with the stones of the field result in immunity to destruction and famine?

We know that stones influence and guide ground currents across the landscape. Medicine wheels and other arrangements of stones can produce a markedly positive effect on the local climate and crops by producing energy vortices or ‘acupuncture points’ for the earths naturally occurring ground currents.

However, when you dig deeper, the original Hebrew can also be translated as “you shall be in league with the minerals of the soil”.

And at once, the connection becomes clear. We know that soils containing abundant and balanced mineral nutrition produce crops that are resistant to diseases, are not consumed by insects, and produce healthy livestock which are immune to parasites, in addition to a list of other positive health attributes to long to mention.

Are you in league with the minerals of the soil?

2022-02-02T07:40:58-05:00February 8th, 2022|

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