Arable farmers could slash fertiliser costs, boostyields, and protect the environment following the launch of a newnitrogen-fixing bacteria mix.
Developed by Jim Brown at Soil Systems, Enfixa is acombination of nitrogen-fixing and nutrient-solubilising bacteria, which fixatmospheric nitrogen and turn it into a usable source for the crop. It can beused in either organic or conventional systems.
Mr Brown, who developed and uses Enfixa on his600-acre farm near Newbury, Berkshire, says arable trials have shown producersusing Enfixa can halve their nitrogen applications without sacrificing yield.And when applied with half-rates of applied nitrogen, we have boosted yieldsby up to 17% in oat crops on our farm, he adds.
The bacteria, which are supplied in a liquidsuspension, can be applied to arable crops or grassland using a normal sprayer,ideally with a sugar source like molasses. Spring applications are best, but Enfixacould be used as a top dressing in autumn if the soil is still warm, says MrBrown.
Retailingat 80 a litre and applied at a minimum of 250ml/ha, ideally split into twoapplications, it compares very favourably against ammonium nitrate or ureafertiliser costs of around 75/ha for autumn crops, or 150/ha for springcrops.
As well as fixing valuable nitrogen from the air andmaking it available to the plant, Enfixa bacteria also assimilate and storespare nitrogen in the root zone, says Mike Harrington, independent agronomistat Edaphos. When nitrogen fertiliser is applied there is more available thanthe plant can immediately use. This spare nitrogen can easily end up leachinginto the groundwater, but with the use of Enfixa it is captured and thengradually released, providing a steady supply to the crop without unhealthygrowth flushes.
Enfixa also releases phosphate and trace nutrientsfrom unavailable stock in the soil and promotes better uptake in the plant,with treated crops showing 60% higher tissue levels of nitrogen, as well ashigher levels of phosphate, potash, and trace nutrients.
However, the nitrogen content of Enfix is negligible,meaning its use is unrestricted in organic systems and Nitrate Vulnerable Zones,says Mr Harrington. It can therefore help producers to maintain or boostyields, while complying with NVZ regulations and protecting the environment.