Preliminary Field Trial Update, October 2019
In October 2018, Organic Western Producers were offered 500 kg supersacs of rock phosphate and sulphur blends (70:30) to try in their fields as part of a promotional campaign to demonstrate the effectiveness of rock phosphate. Depending on regional weather conditions, producers were encouraged to apply the product at 300 lbs/ac in the autumn or the following spring before seeding. Enough product was supplied to cover 3-4 acres in a “treated” strip, while the remainder of the field was left “untreated”.
The primary objective of the trial was to get rock phosphate in the hands of organic producers in the prairies to raise brand awareness, and receive feedback (testimonials) on product application and effectiveness. All of the producers were happy about the flowability of the product through their equipment; air seeders and fertilizer spreaders. While many organic producers don’t typically have access to inputs that are approved for use on their fields; they were surprised to learn that practical options are now available.
Multiple parties including Blairs Ag, The Mackenzie Applied Research Association (MARA), Fertoz and individual producers conducted plant counts during early emergence. Rock phosphate provided better emergence in 83% of the total counts with an average increase of 15% emergence from treated strips.
Spring soil samples were collected at most of the organic field locations. Soil phosphate comparisons between treated and untreated fields showed lots of variation due to location, soil type, application timing, weather and moisture. Most producers saw an increase in soil P levels (5 ppm average increase); however phosphorus availability was minimized by dry conditions in the spring and late spring product application. Where no treatments were applied, approximately half of the fields tested within the very low to medium phosphate range, indicating that Canadian Prairie Organic soils are often deficient in phosphate. Rock Phosphate is a suitable input for phosphorus deficient organic soils.
Weyburn, SK fields demonstrated the benefits of rock phosphate on wheat from emergence through early growth, crop development, and yield. Plant tissue samples were collected. Rock Phosphate increased wheat tissue phosphorus levels from low (25 ppm) to sufficient (39 ppm) range for a Weyburn, SK organic producer. Wheat heads were double the size in the treated strip. Yield was 25% higher in the rock phosphate treated field with a 4-5 bu/ac increase from 20 to 25 bu/ac. With organic wheat prices at approximately $18 per bushel, this producer might expect a return of $90 per acre.
Weyburn, SK – Early Growth and Heading
In La Crete, Alberta an organic producer’s wheat field gave extremely variable yields indicating this year was a very poor year with lots of crop damage due to early frost. Using his combine monitor, he assessed that an approximate 5% yield increase was realized in his treated strip. Another La Crete producer has collected treatment samples of oats and will be obtaining bushel weights. The Mackenzie Applied Research Association (MARA) saw many positive early growth results in oats from application of rock phosphate. More vigorous plants, improved shoot health and greenness, better root development and even emergence. These benefits were also realized among Saskatchewan producers where strips of treated field appeared greener than untreated areas.
La Crete Alberta – Early Growth Benefits
A Manitoba organic producer collected drone footage of his red clover field strip treated with rock phosphate. According to the producer, the footage shows an indication of better growth as a result of the treatment. This producer has also collected yield data from his fall rye harvest and will share the data and drone footage with Fertoz in the upcoming month. Fertoz is also expecting harvest data from a producer in Vermillion, AB who used rock phosphate in combination with humates in multiple 1 acre crop plots.
In Saskatchewan, producers have seen mostly positive results from Rock Phosphate. In Wakau, SK an organic oat producer testified that he could visibly see a better stand from the treated strip, with also faster maturation and no greens found in his harvested seed. The producer estimated a 65 bu/ac average yield, with a 5 bu/acre bump in the treated strip. A producer north of Saskatoon, SK saw record high certified organic oat yields of 69 bu/acre in his Fertoz treated field. This producer expects to see residual effects of rock phosphate in future years. While yield data was not collected from a Lipton, SK field, protein analysis on Fertoz treated organic milling wheat was 1.1% higher, at 13.8 (untreated) and 14.9 (treated) percent. Claydon, SK producer averaged 40 bu/ac organic wheat yields and saw visual improvements in crop growth and color in his Fertoz treated strip. Visual observations are concurrent with other Saskatchewan producer fields in Lapman, Lake Alma and Yellow Grass.
Given the extreme weather conditions throughout the prairies this growing season, many producers were challenged with a dry spring and limited growth, delayed harvest, frost damage, weed overpopulation or with a narrow window of opportunity for harvest. An Alberta producer who treated his field based on variable application rates had to turn and blend his entire crop together in order to dry it sufficiently for harvesting. Fertoz continues to communicate with producers on yield data as it becomes available. Protein analysis is also underway on a few wheat samples. We hope for more favourable conditions in 2020 in order to continue to monitor the second and third year effects of rock phosphate on Canadian fields.
Fertoz develops products that demonstrate clear agronomic benefits to their growers and continues to test these inputs in fields on a wide array of geographies, soil types and crops. We have found that our rock phosphate product delivers significant value to the grower under decent conditions, by improving soil health and crop emergence, early growth, maturity, yield and quality.
Grower Field Images