Maximizing Crop Health in 2024: Insights from Kelly Garrett on Achieving Plant Balance and Sustainable Farming
1 Jan 2417 min 6 sec

Kelly Garrett set out to make stress reduction for his crops an overriding theme for 2022. Damian Mason sits down with Kelly who explains what a balanced plant is and why he’s focusing on this subject. Maximization of inputs, yield bump, disease pressure reduction, and issues of sustainability are four benefits Kelly plans on attaining from his new focus of plant balance. What’s your big 2024 objective?  

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00:00 Hey, Damien Mason coming at you with Kelly Garrett, one of Extreme ags, founding fathers talking about his objective for 2024. 00:07 We're recording this at Christmas time in 2023. Two years ago, I was in this very office here at Garrett Land and Cattle, and it was very, um, 00:15 Eye-opening, And also it set a theme for the year 2022. He said, Damien, I am going to concentrate on stress mitigation. 00:24 I believe we have never actually seen a stress-free crop. Everything that I do in 2022 is gonna have an overriding 00:30 theme of can we reduce stress on the crop? And it was really neat because it gave us a chance to bop back to that throughout various times of the season. 00:37 Like, what are you seeing about using products and practices to reduce stress? And, and it's really was fascinating, uh, the way we looked, 00:45 you know, took this on. And we even, I encourage you to go back and look at it. Matt Miles talked at one point in one of our webinars. 00:50 Everything we really do as producers is to reduce stress. So can imagine. 00:54 I'm sitting here with Kelly and I said, why don't you tell me what you're going to do in 2024? What's your overriding theme in 2024? 01:01 And you said, I'm going to work on a balanced plant. And that's gonna be an overriding theme of everything we do. Are we keeping our plants balanced? What's that mean? 01:13 We have validated or verified how much nitrogen our soil is releasing, and that mineralized organic nitrogen on top 01:22 of the synthetic nitrogen we have puts our plants out of balance. And the, and that nitrogen becomes extra vegetation. 01:31 I gotta make sure I'm explaining this in the right way. The nitrogen becomes extra vegetation. And this gets into your sustainability a little bit, 01:38 where they talk about we're over-applying nitrogen. We are, but that is an incomplete statement. We are over-applying nitrogen relative to the amount 01:47 of micros or other nutrients that go on. This is oversimplifying the action a little bit, but what the plant does with nitrogen 01:54 is it turns it into a protein. How does it do that? The plant takes micronutrients and produces amino acids. 02:00 The amino acids convert to nitrogen to protein. With the amount of nitrogen we have, we don't have enough amino acids to convert it all. 02:09 So it becomes un assimilated. Yep. And in an extreme case, it even turns to disease such as white mold. 02:15 White mold loves to feed off excess nitrogen when the sun comes out and our soybeans get tall and rank and there's six inches in between the nodes instead 02:23 of an inch and a half or two, that excess vegetation there, that excess, uh, uh, distance in the nodes, 02:31 that's excess nitrogen. The plant is trying to dilute itself to go into reproduction. 02:36 So it's storing this nitrogen in other places to try to come into balance for reproduction. And then when, like, you know, playing on our 2022 theme of, 02:46 uh, stress mitigation, every excess nitrate molecule takes three water molecules to service it. Think about that in a drought type setting 02:55 like we had in 23. Alright, now I wanna go, I, I got about three questions. That's a big one right there. So the 03:00 big one right there is water. We'll just go ahead and take that one first, because that's where we just came to. 03:05 I, first off, I had no idea. Uh, so having more nitrogen than is necessary in the soil. In the soil. And then, you know, the plant takes up 03:15 what we would call luxury consumption, but the, you know, not Really necessary. Not 03:19 really necessary to produce, to produce the crop. It's purely a vegetative response. It's not a yield Response. It's there. And so 03:24 it takes up more than it needs, which we never would've even thought such a thing. And then once it's, uh, assimilated that, 03:29 then also the water demand for the plant is increased. Yes. Because of excess vegetation. Yeah. 03:35 A bigger plant take a bigger bushier plant, which we all think is good and that's great if it translates to yield, 03:40 but if it doesn't translate to yield Uhhuh, then we've just created a lot of vegetative growth. We've 03:45 Created a lot of need for water. Yeah. And then you're gonna say, oh, well this crop didn't, didn't, uh, materialize 03:50 because we didn't get the rains. Well, maybe it also could've materialized better, but because it used a bunch of water unnecessarily 03:58 to produce vegetative growth versus reproductive growth. Is that what I'm hearing? That's Right. This is the, 04:03 the, uh, agronomist that we worked with outta Idaho. We've become good friends. He made a very profound statement to me. 04:09 American agriculture does a great job of producing a very sexy looking vegetative crop. I wanna produce a reproductive crop. 04:17 And all of that excess nitrogen produces vegetation and is provided that vegetation translates to yield. 04:23 That's great. I'm telling you at this point it does not. Is it a agronomic thing or a practices thing 04:28 or a combination of both to ballast the plant? It's a combination of both. Because it's, there's agronomic things we need 04:35 to apply at reproductive and we need to use the practices to do that. Those practices would be, you know, an airplane, 04:42 a helicopter in my situation, you know, temple or Chad. Uh, they could use a hagy sprayer, a highway voice sprayer. Right. Things like that. 04:49 What about then, uh, from an agronomic thing, you said you use nitrogen as an example. Let's just go back to nitrogen. 04:55 Um, is it just a, is it as simple as not over-applying because we've generally over applied nitrogen because it was easy. 05:02 Um, it was generally cheap. It was kind of like insurance. Like, Hey, you know what, we're probably putting on more 05:07 nitrogen than we actually need, but what the hell is cheap? And we'll make sure that we don't have, you know, 05:11 that's not gonna be the reason that we fail This year. Over the last couple years, 05:15 we've actually turned the nitrogen down. When we validated what came, what has come out of the soil, and we even had a hypothesis 05:23 that we could never achieve Balance and balance to us is 95% nitrogen assimilation in the plant. And we can measure that through the SAP testing that we do. 05:32 Okay. But that still doesn't take, you're not getting 95% of your nitrogen applied assimilated, I'm guessing 05:38 because isn't it 35 or 40% of nitrogen? Actually, what we end up with, We are assimilating 95% of the nitrogen in the plant. 05:47 Okay. That's what we're measuring. We measure in the soil what's available. Yep. And at the same time, we're taking a SAP test 05:53 and we're measuring what is being assimilated in the plant. Ballast plant means there's somebody that's still saying, 06:00 I'm, I'm not sure what a ballast plant is. So kind of go, go elementary here on a ballast plant. And, and to, to, to you. 06:08 So the balanced plant to me is when we, you know, you divide the amount of nitrogen in the plant by the total n in the plant. 06:16 And it, uh, what is being used? There's two different nitrogen numbers that we get outta sat test. 06:21 One will tell you what's used. One will tell you what's unused. We wanna be above, our goal is to be above 95% used 06:28 or the term is assimilation. We wanna be above 95% assimilation. That's balance. You've used the word balanced a lot and I, I like it 06:35 because you've introduced me to the ballast. You said a couple of years ago, um, when we were in a recording, you said, 06:43 I don't think there's mined soils. I don't think there's depleted soils. You know, the old thing, well, they came in 06:48 and picked a bunch of K shrimp, but they just mined the hell out of that soil for three years. 06:52 You say, I'm not sure that's as real as imbalanced soils. It's kinda the same thing with the 06:58 Plant. Yes. I, in our area, now you go to other areas that don't, that aren't blessed with the soil we have in Iowa. 07:03 That might statement not, might be as true as it is here, but the statement here, the amount of fertility 07:08 and the amount of potential in the soil is far greater than we realize. Yeah. And when something has been mined 07:14 here, that's not true. It's out of balance. Yeah. We're not using up all the nutrition in the soil. We have just screwed up the balance 07:20 of the soil. So it becomes unavailable. Well, it might be true that some operator came in overpaid for K shred, didn't ne abused it for three years. 07:29 That, that does happen. But you don't think it's a matter of mining. You think it's probably letting it get out of whack. 07:35 What will you do to make sure that the plant doesn't get out of whack? What, what is it that you think, you know, 07:41 from a practice standpoint, I'm still wondering manage moisture as best you can on your irrigated ground. 07:46 What else can you do to keep the plant balanced? So this year we're taking the SAP tests and at V 10 we were down to 85% assimilation. 07:55 You know, at that time, V 10, you're getting, you know, into those mid to later summer months. Yep. And the, 08:01 the microbial system is really weather's wor microbial system of the soil is really cranking up, really releasing a lot of those organic nutrients, 08:08 specifically in specifically nitrogen. And the plant got out of assimilation at V 10. Verne was taking those Evan's reading the data. 08:16 We were at 85% at that time. At V 10 we chose and we ended up spending about $140,000. And, you know, there was, so this was a, 08:24 a bit of a big gamble. 'cause this was the first time we had done it. But we really believed in what we were looking at. 08:29 We, at V 10, we flew the plane, spent the money, and applied a micronutrient nutrient package to try to supply the micronutrients 08:37 that the plant was lacking relative to the amount of nitrogen. And then a week, uh, week 08:42 or two later, were out there taking our next set of SAP samples and we are at 96% assimilation. We did balance the plant. Okay. 08:50 All right. Can a person tell what a plant looks like balance wise? Uh, for appearance? 08:57 No. Not until it's too Late. Not until it's too late. Yeah. The, the plant health 09:00 that we achieved this year was second to none. Yeah. That we have. And our, our crops stayed greener longer. 09:07 And the, because the plant was healthier, just like a healthy person. Is Ballast plant Is ballast plant as an objective then is it, 09:13 is the only payoff yield? Or is there something, obviously we always think yield. If a plant is balanced, it's gonna, 09:20 I'm thinking the benefits are yield. Mm-Hmm. Better utilization of resources. So I can maybe use less. 09:26 Yes. The efficiency is better. Yeah. So I'm, I'm not gonna micro water perspective or I might put the same amount of fertility 09:31 or the same amount of mag micros out, but I'm actually getting my bang for it. You're reaching your potential. Yeah. 09:36 So you're not, we're not wasting, so yield efficiency, uh, or maximization, you know, a lot 09:42 of times n we would say efficiency, I'm starting to use the word maximization. Maximization of the fertility 09:46 input is really what we're talking about. Because efficiency is, gets convoluted. It's maximizing the input. 09:52 Yes, that's true. The yield maximization of the resources. Is there anything else? Is there a benefit down the 09:57 road to a balanced plant? I think that the disease pressure in the field can go away because the disease is gone 10:02 because of the immunity of the plant. So yeah, a healthy plant then doesn't get the disease, then the disease won't carry over to the next year, the next 10:08 Year. Right. It's how, as over time, I believe it will become less prevalent in the soil. That's a smart, that's a smarter 10:14 adjustment there I hadn't thought about. So yes, we might, might decrease the, the decrease the veracity or longevity of a disease pressure problem. 10:23 Yes. Okay. Anything else? Uh, you know, then it, the end goal is it will manifest, manifest itself in yield because we 10:31 will reach the potential. Are we going to, because of balancing the plant, then realize, and I think we've done this a lot already, 10:38 that we are overlying this, we're over-applying that, and then a couple years later you're like, man, we're getting by with 80% of what we used to put on. 10:46 Or we're, you know, you're, you're rate per yield is gonna keep going down. Is that something that you think 10:52 a year from now we'll be talking about? Yes. Because again, you know, the overriding theme, uh, in the public eye is that we're over-applying nitrogen. 11:01 Well, you could just as easily say we're under applying my money, but, but that, now let's take that a step further. 11:07 That doesn't mean I wanna apply more micronutrients and I wanna turn up the anhydrous, right. Because all of that front loading again, 11:13 just leads to vegetation. There's a few products that we're gonna play with and use and research in 24 to 11:21 spike the plant even higher from a nitrogen level. But we're talking about, uh, applying a gallon or two of things from a foliar perspective 11:30 to spike the nitrogen level. So in 23, we did achieve balance. We feel like the crop reached its potential. 11:36 And to put a, to put a metric to it, uh, we were at approximately 1300 parts per million of nitrogen with 96% assimilation. 11:46 And upon ear set, 75% of our plants had two ears. Very excited. Okay. But they aborted. Well, you know what we talked about was it heat 11:56 and, you know, environmental, things like that. And we don't know, but I believe that to allow this plant to flex beyond what we ever thought was possible, we need 12:07 to achieve balance, but we need to achieve balance at a higher level. So there's a few products that we're researching 12:13 that we will apply with the plane, B 10, R one, R five, to try to elevate that nitrogen level in the plant. And again, we're not talking about, you know, like 12:23 for the sustainability folks watching. Yeah. We're not talking about pounds and pounds of nitrogen. We're talking about a a gallon 12:29 or two of, of stuff here or there. So we wanna spike that nitrogen level at the reproductive phases. 12:34 Yeah. And we wanna a apply, we wanna supply the corresponding micronutrients and, and like I said, we were at a 1300 parts per million level. 12:42 I want have 95% of that simulation at say a 2000 parts per million level. And then I wanna see, can I hold both ears 12:48 and what is the corresponding yield that happens at that point? All right. We, Everything you're talking about so far is corn. 12:53 And the person listening is like, okay, that's great. You're Iowa or corn? I'm, uh, a rice producer. I keep up because I'm down here with Matt Miles 13:00 and in Arkansas, whatever balanced, plant balance, balanced plant, this Will work across all crops. 13:06 I, you know, like corn is the one that I work on. This will work in my soybeans, this will work in my winter wheat. 13:11 This will work in, in Matt's cotton and rice. But I can't give you the correspondence. Well, you're using ni you're using nitrogen 13:16 and assimilation for the corn example and be difficult to go through every crop growing in North America. 13:22 But just going over to soybeans, what's the one there that's out of that's not balanced? It's, it's still nitrogen. 13:27 The plants aren't that much difference. The, the, in my situation. Yeah. Nitrogen is out of balanced. Right. 13:31 It's what's interesting is Temple in the Chesapeake Bay region, when we have talked about this, he's supplying a lot more 13:38 micronutrients than most of the rest of us. But it's because it's because of the Chesapeake Bay watershed 13:45 requirements and regulations. He's at Temple was already doing a lot of these things without knowing he was doing it. 13:51 What, uh, the thing is, is then people are gonna say, well, is this as simple as just putting out more micronutrients? 13:56 Well, maybe, but not quite. It needs to be put out at the right time and you need to use, you know, I believe you need 14:01 to use the SAP testing to make good qualified decisions. Does This play into the whole idea we've talked about 14:07 before, extreme ag about spoonfeeding and in other words, the idea of, uh, yes. You know what, what's Matt Miles say? 14:13 He, he used to have did it wrong. He's like, I can't put a buffet out there at, uh, in March and expect it to still have, uh, nutrition 14:20 for those plants come September. We need to, you know, like in our situation, in our situation, we put applied micronutrients this last 14:28 year, V 10, R one, and R five, which is that spoonfeeding approach because Mother nature at that point, again, 14:34 the microbial system, the warm weather, she's really cranking out more and more nitrogen. Yeah. And we need to keep up with that release. 14:40 You can't just put out a whole bunch of V 10 and expect it to last. So monitoring plant balance is going to be a matter 14:48 of tissue sampling, a matter of fast sab sampling, sampling and tissue sampling. Not so much. Not so 14:53 Much. The, the data isn't exact enough for us to know to be predictive. Will, you know, when the combine runs, 14:59 if you accomplished your goal or you know, before then We will know before. We'll know before. No. 15:05 Like this year we had two ears on 75% of the plants. And there's always this, but they Didn't Make it, but they didn't make it. 15:11 And there's always this argument, do we even want the plant to supply two ears because they abort a lot of the time. 15:15 Well, I believe now that they abort because we don't maintain a high enough fertility level. Mm-Hmm. And so we need, you know, like this year I was 15:23 so excited because we achieved a simulation which we didn't even know is possible. Well now I wanna achieve assimilation at a higher 15:30 level then I believe A higher level, A higher level means also later season. Yes. 15:34 Mm-Hmm. I believe slash hope that then I can maintain that second year. It was a major accomplishment for me in these hills 15:41 to just put two ears on all of that. Yeah. And we used to think two years was bad, but like you said, it's because we, we weren't able 15:47 to get the energy to the second ear. So therefore it became like, this is, this is sapping. Yes. Two ears is bad because we've never held it. 15:54 So we felt like it was a waste of energy, waste of time. What we're producing, what if we can find a way to, 15:59 to hold it if we maintain it, and I believe it's possible based on what I've seen, this s**t 16:04 Balanced plants, the overriding theme of garland and cattle for 2024. Next time we check in with you, 16:10 what's the question I'm want ask or what are you gonna show me in the field? And then, uh, what do I need to know about 16:16 I I hope that, uh, I hope that come August, I'm showing you two ears on a lot of plants because we've maintained it. 16:21 Yep. A balanced plant means better plant health means less stress. Yep. And re uh, end result is, means higher yield. 16:28 Got it. What's your objective for 2024? This is the time of year to be thinking about it. Is there a chance that you can, uh, you know, up your game 16:35 by focusing on one overriding theme like you did stress mitigation and, and a couple years ago was overwriting theme kept coming back to it, it changed your product mix, 16:43 it changed how you looked at things. And this is maybe gonna be the same thing. It's gonna change how you think about your croppy system. 16:50 That's right. Uh, we're relearning everything As just say you wanna make small changes, change what you do. 16:55 You'll make big changes, change how you look at things, how you think about things. He's Kelly Garrick. I'm Damien Mason. Thanks for being here. 17:00 So next time, extreme ice, cutting the curve.

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