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Maybe Now’s the Time to Try Algae

Maybe Now’s the Time to Try Algae

Texas A&M Agricultural and Food Policy Center projected an 80% increase in fertilizer prices in 2022, and that was before the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The China-based Global Times reported this week that the conflict is resulting in a “rift in global fertilizer supply chains” after both countries moved to suspend fertilizer exports, which the publication said will put increased pressure on China’s fertilizer industry. This is bound to affect local farmers and ranchers greatly, especially with the cost of fuel at record highs.

Maybe now is the time for local ag producers to look at organic options. One of those options is made right here in La Grange – AlgEternal’s ElixEarth soil amendment. The product is not a fertilizer. David Ramjohn, CEO of AlgEternal, says the product decreases the need for fertilizers. “Our product has been shown to allow the user to reduce their nitrogen by as much as 75 percent,” Ramjohn said.

The algae-based product works by improving the ecology of microorganisms in the soil. “Soil health is tied to living organisms present in soil,” Ramjohn said. “We’re not talking about plants that grow on the soil. We’re talking about the microorganisms in the soil. If you take a teaspoon of healthy soil, there will be more organisms in that teaspoon than people on the planet “If you don’t have algae in soil, what you’re missing is the primary base layer,” he added.

Algae are tiny organisms that are capable of photosynthesis and respiration just like plants. They add food, oxygen, carbon and moisture to the soil, benefiting the plant-supporting bacteria in the soil. Harmful industrial practices such as tilling, monocropping, chemical fertilizers and pesticides have depleted the levels of algae and bacteria in the soil. Farmers notice that they have to put greater and greater amounts of fertilizer on their fields to maintain yields. “Fertilizer is at best 50 percent efficient,” Ramjohn said. “If you put out 100 lbs., 50 lbs. are lost. It either got washed out or is used up by microbes in soil. Only 50 lbs. are available to plants.

Our algae support the ecosystem in the soil. Once you have that healthy microbiome, your crops grow a lot better. ”AlgEternal’s ElixEarth product also contains cyanobacteria a primitive ancestor of green algae. Cyanobacteria is capable of nitrogen fixation, much like legume plants such as beans and peas. The cyanobacteria fix gaseous nitrogen in the form of nitrates and nitrites, and that becomes available to the plants as food.

Moreover, the algae product helps solubilize minerals that are in the soil into forms that the plants can use. Since algae respire like plants, they help maintain moisture levels in the soil. “The more organism you have respiring in soil, the higher water content in soil is going to be,” Ramjohn said. “Again, that helps with water usage. We use the most precious resource– water – by just pouring it on dirt. If we have healthy soil, we don’t need as much irrigation. “They also produce substances on their outer cell walls that hold water,” Ramjohn added. “Soil doesn’t dry out as quickly. Minerals and nutrients dissolved in moisture in the soil gets held for longer.”

I think Ramjohn’s algae product could greatly help farmers right now who are trying to figure out how they’re going to justify high fertilizer costs for their hay fields and pastures. Ramjohn said some of his customers notice a big improvement in yields after just one application. Most of the time, though, it takes two or three treatments. “It’s just going to take time, proper habits and proper treatment of the soil to get it back where it was six decades ago,” Ramjohn said. “That’s how long we’ve been doing it –tilling, monocropping, fertilizing- that damage occurred over decades. It’s not going to be fixed in a year.”

Ramjohn recommends a first application in the spring after the threat of frost has passed–basically that means right now. He recommends shredding the field first before applying the product. That’s because algae work best as a soil amendment. If you don’t shred, most of the product will stick to the leaves and not get to the ground. He recommends an application rate of one gallon of algae to 10 acres. It can be mixed with water and applied in a boom spray, backpack sprayer, or similar devices.

Ramjohn said the algae can be mixed with liquid fertilizers. It can even be mixed with herbicides like Grazon. “We prefer people not use glyphosate chemicals, but if you are using those, it shouldn’t harm the algae,” Ramjohn said. (Personally, I think shredding is a much better method of weed control, but I know that might not be convenient for some producers.) Algae isn’t affected by those herbicides because the organism employ a different form of metabolism than plants, Ramjohn said. One product that will harm algae is chlorine. “If you have chlorinated water, best thing to do is fill the tank and let it sit overnight to off-gas because chlorine will have negative affect.

You shouldn’t apply the product in hot and dry conditions, Ramjohn warned. Ideally, you should apply the product when there is a good chance of rain in forecast. “It takes commitment,” Ramjohn said. “We have to go back to the way we used to do things, when everything was natural, and everything was organic. Instead of labeling things as organic, we should be labeling the bad stuff.”

I agree 100% with that.

AlgEternal’s ElixEarth soil amendment is available for purchase at the company’s headquarters at 3637 W. State Hwy. 71 outside La Grange (the old La Grange Dodge dealership). For more information, call the company at (979) 208-9932 or visit them online at algeternal.com.

Author: ANDY BEHLEN
Source: The Fayette County Record
Date: March 18, 2022

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