As farmers, we know that natural disasters are a part of the business. From floods and droughts to freak storms, to insect invasions, there are some things in farming that are out of our control. Or are they? While a farmer can never wholly prevent or avoid crop loss due to these natural disasters, there are some steps you can take to reduce the impact and ultimately save some of your crops.
In this article we will focus on how increasing your soil organic matter and active microbial populations can reduce your crop loss from almost any natural disaster.
Wind and hail storms
-Sturdier stems can withstand storms
-How do microbes translate to sturdier stems?
So you want to learn how you can use soil microbes to defend your hemp farm from the awesome power of Mother Nature? The microbial world is the "secret sauce" in the living soil, hemp farmers recipe book. One of the most crucial nutrients in this symbiotic relationship is silicon. Hemp plants can only absorb silicon in the form of mono-silicic acids; these occur naturally as the mineral silicon breaks down and becomes dissolved into water. Once absorbed, the hemp plant transports the silicon to where the plant's transpiration system requires it. Silicon, with the assistance of microbes, increases the strength and integrity of the hemp plant, making stems and branches thicker and more durable, as well as growing fan leaves greener and the overall plant health becomes more robust. A healthier plant structure gives the plant the ability to withstand harsh elements from Mother Nature.
How to improve your hemp plants cell development
As soon as your hemp plant uptakes silicon, the nutrient becomes permanently placed into the cell walls within 24 hours. These deposits form a silica-cellulose (gel-like) framework that builds a more durable and quicker defined cell wall. This cell wall could not achieve these extra growing attributes without the inclusion of silicon, demonstrating its importance. Overall the hemp plant can grow more energetic and healthy when it uptakes silicon utilizing this symbiotic relationship.
A simple metaphor for this increased strength during the hemp plants' life cycle would be like the hemp plants' cell walls are the brick walls of the foundation in a house. Silicon helps the hemp plant, acting as the cement between the bricks in the cell walls and between the actual cells themselves. When the roots absorb silicon, it is used as a cement mix to help build that brick wall as well. The cell walls are then made quicker and more robust from this exchange. Once the hemp plant moves the 'cement' in its place, it cannot be transported anywhere else within the plant. To grow quality hemp, it becomes essential to feed silicon throughout the entire growing season. Also, it helps to make sure that all new growth in the hemp plant benefits from these newly added nutrients.
Soil microbes & silicon- The perfect combination to balance the uptake of nutrients
The mere presence of Silicon in a farmer's nutrient solution can positively affect the uptake and absorption of several macro and micro-nutrients. Silicon has shown to increase zinc uptake, an essential element in growth and photosynthesis.
Using diverse soil microbes and silicon increases, the availability of nitrogen to the plant as its addition to the soil will reduce the loss of nitrogen to ammonia (a naturally occurring process in soil). Nitrogen is vital in the vegetative stage of hemp development as it promotes healthy new fan leaf foliage. Silicon also aids in the balance and uptake of phosphorus, reducing the risk of toxic levels being taken in by the plant.
Building & maintaining hemp plant strength and cell integrity
Building cell integrity is one of the more apparent effects of adding silicon. Your plants will be visibly healthier, with wider, thicker stems and branches. The more full the stem, the more uptake and transpiration of water and nutritional elements are possible. So, in theory, the plants will grow more significant and at a faster pace.
Using a diverse group of soil microbes increases silicon availability to your hemp fields, there will be a corresponding increase in the silica made within the cell walls. Silicon will compete against the metals available in the nutrient solution, preventing toxic build-ups.
Floods and droughts
-seems strange to put these together, but they are related
-increasing soil water holding capacity helps with floods and droughts
-biochar is an excellent way to do this quickly
The use of biochar in depleted and drought-ridden soil has become the topic of several research studies as of late. Despite increased research around biochar, nearly all soil scientists recognize that more research is needed to fully comprehend how biochar works in soils to achieve various goals. Biochar not only improves water retention but also works with a plant's root system to use water (and nutrients) more efficiently.
Many organic farmers, not surprisingly, attribute the increased water retention to biochar's porous surface structure. These hemp farmers believe biochar to increase soil water holding capacity and ability to help balance fluctuations in water availability in climates with increased periods of drought.
Biochar can also impact the microbial populations in soil and may even cause the promotion of beneficial microorganisms that foster growth and resistance to stresses. Tropical soils found biochar to significantly increase the ability of both fungal and bacterial populations in the ground to resist drought.
The porous structure also begins to create the perfect habitat for newly awakened soil microbes and beneficial fungi to flourish. Although the microorganisms will eventually grow on the biochar, you will see an even more significant benefit if you "inoculate" and "activate" your biochar. This optional step is done before incorporating the biochar into your garden and has the added benefit of preventing excessive nutrient binding.
It's not the charred pieces of biochar wood that adds the vital benefits to the soil, it's the unique combination of the bacteria they attract and feed along with quality compost and organic fertilizers. Once the surfaces of biochar have properly 'aged,' they become home to beneficial microbes in the soil. Essentially, this is because the burnt pieces of biochar begin to grow the ideal living spaces within their nooks and crannies for this bacteria to become alive and thriving.
Biochar is a highly porous structure, and this helps biochar absorb nutrients and water within its many micro-surfaces. Soil treated with biochar becomes more resilient and has a better tolerance to droughts as well as root and leaf diseases. Biochar can also help to improve and clean the water quality of the soil. We accomplish this by creating a binding agent for nutrients to fuse, preventing them from getting washed away in groundwater during heavy rains.
Everflux Technologies offers a biochar called Terraflux that is innoculated with Bioflux. You can find it here:
-Insects don't touch plants with Brix over a certain level
-explain relationships between Brix, microbes, and soil
Hemp farmers are actually in the business of maximizing the absorption of light energy from the sun, for the creation of chemical energy and sugars in the plant. With these sugars, we want to optimize our food and fiber production, because this is our profitability.
So, the sugar levels in the hemp plant are a system of measurement for photosynthetic activity. In simple terms, the health of the hemp plant begins with achieving improved sugar levels; the higher the sugar levels, the healthier the plant. We determine that the plant's sugar levels are best measured as Brix levels.
What are Brix levels?
Brix levels predominantly measure the sugar content of the sap found inside the hemp plant. Brix is a measurement of dissolved minerals and sugars in water; however, for an accurate reading, we need to factor that many other chemicals may be present and contribute an inaccurate reading.
Brix levels are measured on a scale that calibrates the amount of light that bends when passing through the liquid. These levels in organic crops and pastures will generally vary from around 4 to 20. The amount of light refraction depends on sample liquid density.
Protection and resistance from frost
Healthier hemp plants that have higher Brix levels are less prone to frost. We achieve this because high-Brix plant sap has a lower freezing point than a lower grade hemp sap.
Organic hemp farmers measure Brix levels with a refractometer. Crops with higher Brix levels will also notice a lower freezing point, with associated protection against frost damage. A high Brix reading means more elevated sugar and mineral content and higher accurate protein content.
Resistance from major insect & disease attack
Hemp plants with higher Brix readings are more resilient to disease and insect attack. Did you know most detrimental insects detect various wavelengths in the infrared spectrum? They relate these different frequencies to water, food, and potential sexual partners.
Hemp plants that have the right mineral balance emit a different rate to those that have deficiencies. Once we as hemp farmers improve the quality of our hemp fields and it surpasses normal levels, there will not be an insect problem with our farms because the hemp field will not vibrate at a frequency that resonates with the vibrations the insects know as a food source.
We have advised Hemp farmers that they should focus on 12 or better Brix readings to achieve reasonable plant pest immunity. You will find IPM pest problems persist until you achieve higher fan leaf and main hemp stalk readings; the targeted goal will always be 12+.
Did you know, John Kempf, a crop nutrition consultant with Advancing Eco-Agriculture in the United States, has noticed and reported on four stages of crop health improvement over time, upon moving from a chemically intensive system to a biological-based farming system?
Living Soil organic methods are the future for highly desired hemp biomasses. How are you cultivating?
About the Author
Daniel Enking is the founder of Everflux Technologies. He is a life-long environmentalist and practical dreamer who is obsessed with resource efficiency and imaged an "everything recycling machine" at age 10.