The Miller Had Never Seen Protein That High
Gary Reding Interview
Fort Collins, CO
“I was raised in the suburbs of Rochester, New York and graduated from Purdue University in '78 with an animal science degree. I started farming in the same year and 31 years thereafter. Back then we had a diversified small family farm but were in the soybeans and wheat for seed business as well as cattle and hogs. Then I transitioned to food-grade crops, doing popcorn and food-grade soybeans to Japan directly exported from our farm.
We did the processing and containerizing right there on the farm. I grew about 10% of what I actually sold. So, I trained other farmers to grow the specialty crops that I for which I developed the market.
We ended up selling quite a bit of popcorn, soybeans and dry beans. And then I transitioned to organic in the year 2000 through intensive grazing and watched how much the soil improved through biological activity with the cattle grazing on the property for two years straight. We then transitioned into organic popcorn, soybeans, and wheat for seed, dry beans, and other small grains.
I was seeing things happen on my organic farm after two years of intensive grazing and my soils were much better. My highest yield in 31 crop years of soybeans and popcorn was in organic production with much less volume/cost of inputs. Those were the highest yields, but we also had a price advantage there too.
I farmed organically on one-third of the total acres I was farming conventional and making more money. I learned to watch for net per acre dollars, not necessarily going for yield. In doing so I was still able to increase my yield, creating compound interest, let's say.
The livestock inoculated my soil, and the multi-species forages I grew generated a lot more diversity in the microbial population and it opened up the porosity of the soil. We were in Claremont clay loam soils, which were pretty tight and prone to swamping. But my water permeability improved dramatically. I had hardly any runoff from my farm and the worm population was so high that when it rained, there'd be so many worms on the blacktop next to the fields, you couldn't take a step without stepping on one.
When you go down the road a little further where they're farming conventional, there were no worms on the blacktop. I had no water in my road ditches where theirs was running across the roads. I had a lot of soil improvement through that biological activity and the continuous green growing on the soil.
That was all working quite well until 2009. I was farming with my father-in-law, who by then was retired. I left the farm, and entered into consulting. I've traveled around the country and different areas for a large landowning operation and management company that worked with farms in 17 different states who usually bought nothing less than 3,000 acres at a time. They were interested in transitioning a portion of the property to organic, and so I helped them do that.
I was from the conventional world and also understood and operated in the organic realm. And that worked pretty well until 2012 when the price of land changed due to a drought in the southwest and they quit buying new properties for a while and no longer needed my independent consulting. I took a job with Advancing Eco Agriculture and worked for John Kemp for four years and covered 10 states and Ontario, Canada for him. This is where I learned about sap analysis in 2013 and '14 and have been doing that ever since. I use sap analysis as a guide to test the efficacy of whatever we're applying to the soil or the crops; whether it be soil fertility, biological inoculations, foliar treatments, or whatever we do.
I use sap analysis as a final measurement of a soil test to be honest, because that tells you what the plants are actually able to take up, that specific species, that specific variety, and that specific location and soil. So, it's been an interesting road.
After four years with John, I moved to Denver with a client that had asked me to come help them straighten out a marijuana grow operation. It had about a half-acre of lights. And we were selling about $11 million worth of marijuana when I got there and I got up to over $15 million a year within the first two years. I learned a lot with that, with the many iterations. I had 12 harvests from 13 different rooms in 2 years and three months.
I learned about the impact of nutrition on plant health, cost of production, and quality which was our primary goal. When I was hired, they wanted me in there to get the place set up to where they could sell it. Once we got it to the point where it could be sold well, I went back to independent consulting all the other various crops that I've had in my repertoire and have continued independently consulting since 2018.
The Most Common Problems
Compaction - I farmed all dry land in Indiana, but we got 39 to 42 inches of rainfall a year. We had enough rainfall, we had tiles under our soils on most farms, but not all. But actually, one of my highest yielding farms was an un-tiled field that used to be a real problem when we farmed it conventionally because it would pond and run the water off due to compaction. It was also susceptible to drought during a dry summer. But that ceased to happen after we got our organic matter up, improved our pore size in the soil, and got the microbes working.
We had one field in particular that became anaerobic enough you could smell the formaldehyde after a rain. There would be puddles in the tractor cleat marks, and you could actually see oil slicks on top of the water from the anaerobic microbial residues.
I'm in Fort Collins right now, so I'm seeing and observing a lot more of the dry weather and drought conditions. And of course, While consulting, I worked in a lot of the Western states, anything from Indiana west. Now I also work down in Florida, I’ve also worked up in Ontario, Canada. I've seen a lot of the different weather patterns, soil types, and impacts of drought and/or excess water. Compaction is one of the biggest problems I see in the western states due to the fallow year bare ground practices.
Phosphorus uptake - Even though people are putting a lot of phosphorus down, it's not getting into the plants because that just doesn't show up in the sap analysis. If we are working with an intensive program on a farm, we'll do sap analysis every other week so we can see changes in the nutrient uptake the season during the growth patterns of the season. In different stages of growth, the plant will need different nutrients at different times and different amounts.
Calcium - I find very limited uptake of calcium in most conventional farming. This is not always because it is not present in the soil, but because it will be negatively impacted due to excess potassium which will block out calcium uptake. Some of the western soils have naturally high Potassium and Magnesium which are both inhibitors of Calcium uptake. In the eastern soils, we generally apply too much Potassium.
When we over apply potassium to get that nice quick green growth, we do it at the expense of calcium uptake. And calcium is where you get your plant quality, your fruit quality, your grain quality.
Trace Elements - Then next on the line are trace elements. Of all the sap testing I've done over the past 10 years, the number one deficient and/or devoid trace element is Molybdenum. And I'll find 95 to 98 percent of my first-time soil testing or sap testing clients will have either zero or deficient molybdenum. And that's a critical nutrient for utilizing the nitrogen you're putting down because it's the central ion of the nitrate reductase enzyme that helps metabolize nitrogen within the plant function.
The next one I find deficient about 90 to 95 percent is Manganese. Manganese is the required for the first step in photosynthesis. It is required to split water into H and OH. Without manganese, your efficiency on photosynthesis is significantly reduced. That's where we got into looking at SAP analysis to help improve photosynthesis efficiency.
Our main driver is quality first and then yield will follow, and so many of my guys come to me to get the SAP analysis. That’s how I got introduced to WaterSOLV™.
I was working with a new client out in north central Kansas, and he sent in a wheat sample. For the first SAP test, I was pretty impressed that he had a very good nutrient balance in his wheat sample that year. And this is when he was just doing the new leaf only. Normally we do a new and an old leaf, but his plants were too small to do old leaf. And his new leaf samples came back in at pretty close to optimal ranges across the board, including some of the trace elements. His calcium was much higher than normal. So I thought that was pretty impressive.
But then a month later, when he could finally do the young and the old, he took another sample. And all those numbers had dropped in the tank and were down around the average of what I see usually the first time I’m introduced to a farm.
I called him up and I asked him, "What gives here? Why has your nutrient profile changed so significantly in the last four weeks?" And he said, "Well, I had been irrigating with WaterSOLV™ and I ran out a couple of weeks ago. I haven't had that water treatment in there for two weeks."
And I asked him, I said, "Are you planning on putting that water treatment back into your system?" It was pivot irrigation. And he said, 'Absolutely. It just arrived today. I'm going to hook it up tomorrow." And I said, "Well, run that pivot at least twice on demand when you need it, not before. And give me another sap sample after you've made two laps with that pivot."
He did another sap sample a month later, I think, and looked at his numbers again and they all came back up about 60% to where they had been at the very beginning. So I was pretty impressed with that. And I said, "Okay, what are you using for your water treatment?" Because water is the number one problem on irrigated farms that I go to, whether it's fruits, vegetables, grains, forages, regardless, but water quality can limit the productivity of a farm more than any other factor I've seen. And so he told me about WaterSOLV™ and introduced me to Todd. And so that began our conversation this past spring.
He had some interesting results at the mill on some wheat. The proof is in the pudding, as I say. And quality is what we go for; quality first! One of the first things in the wheat, especially in a specialty crop like wheat, is protein content. And many of the hard winter wheat areas get paid a premium for protein. And normally, they run 11% to 13%, and you get a premium for anything above 12% normally.
But when he harvested it and took it into the mill, the miller called him up and asked him what in the world he'd been doing to his wheat this year because he'd never seen protein that high. He had some come in at 17%.
And so he said, 'Well, I've been treating my water." So that was pretty impressive for the summer. And then he also used some WaterSOLV™ on dry land soybeans that he planted before the wheat was harvested because he felt he was confident enough in the product. So he puts the WaterSOLV™ on there, and we then did some biological testing on that field after learning from Todd that they treat bicarbonate and salt chemically, they also have a bacterial control product and that mitigates some of the criteria that support antagonistic microbes that are in your water and soil sources.
I asked them what that would do to the beneficial microbes because I'm all about microbes in the soil. And Todd felt that they would not be detrimental to the microbes, but would enhance the beneficial microbes liberating more nutrients, making them more available to the microbes to utilize. And so I said, "Okay, but we've got to test that."
we did some microbial testing and found that the fungal-to-bacterial ratio was a whole lot better on a treated versus control portion of both irrigated and dry land farms. I also repeated that test down in New Mexico on a pecan grower's farm and found almost identical results in the fungal bacteria ratio.
We found that the exopolysaccharides were much greater in the treated fields than the untreated fields. And those are the microbes that are responsible for drought tolerance, saline tolerance, and also building porosity in the soil and soil aggregation.
The people reviewing the results with us were pretty impressed with that particular item and the fungal bacterial ratio. And they said, "What's the difference between treated and controlled?" So I told them and they said, "Well, we want to watch that more thoroughly over the course of this year and next year too." So that's where we're at.
So far, anything that can improve wheat protein content, that's going to be a huge return on investment because that pays greater than yield increase actually. I'm looking for plant health, for resistance to insects and disease pressures so that we can eliminate a lot of the pesticides.
I do work with a lot of organic farmers, but I also work with a lot of conventional growers. And having come from the conventional world, my biggest fear was insects and disease. So if we can get plant nutrient balance at a better level and make that plant's immune system function better, whether it be organic or conventional, we can have less fear in going organic was insect and disease pressures.
I can't emphasize enough how much water quality makes a difference if you're having to irrigate. Well, and of course it's going to impact your soil.
Gary Reding Interview
Fort Collins, CO
While water and vegetation issues are universal their causes are complex and specific. That's why we created our own soil and water testing matrix to create custom prescriptions for our customers that are aimed at solving the source of problems, and reducing the need not only for wetting agents, sulfuric acid, gypsum and manual aerification, but reducing the need for our chemistry as well. Most of our long term users are on maintenance programs using just 1-6 ppm of a custom percentage of each product injected directly into their irrigation system.
HCT's purpose and privilege is providing sustainable and cost effective solutions to the chronic problems that plague soil health in the world of water and agronomy. We consistently reduce water demand 15% and increase crop yields 18% and more. When you treat water ‘well’ with WaterSOLV™ you increase efficiency, decrease costs, increase yield, improve pore space and add oxygen chemically. We can show you how to restore soil infiltration and soil operability just by treating your water and for substantially less than you're spending now.