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Frequently Asked Questions

About organic biological soil conditioners and microorganisms

Is Bactifeed safe for organic farms?

Yes. Bactifeed soil amendment products have been certified for organic food production by CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers), ICS (International Certification Services), and ASCO (Agricultural Services Certified Organic) as well as the Colorado State Organic Certification. Bactifeed is currently used extensively for organic food production on many farms in North America.

Is Bactifeed toxic or dangerous?

Bactifeed soil conditioner is not toxic or dangerous, and does not require any special licenses or hazardous materials handling procedures or equipment to use. It will not corrode or explode, and if you get some of the dry product or prepared liquid on your skin, you will not be injured. If you ingest some of it or gets on your hands or face you will not require medical treatment.

How do bacteria improve the health of soil and the growth of plants? How does Bactifeed work?

Healthy, organically sufficient, soil compacts in the hand, has a texture that can be molded, and contains moisture. Even in desert conditions, organically sufficient soil remains moldable — it actually contains numerous systems that makes up a ecosystem within the top soil. Organically insufficient soil is hard, crusty, and resembles more of a rock or clod than a moldable, malleable substance.  Bactifeed organic soil amendment products transform depleted soil into healthy soil. The process begins with specifically selected bacteria that have been isolated from highly fertile soils and exhibit optimum abilities to produce enzymes and other organic nutrients. The bacteria are selected for maximum adaptability so that they are effective in many different soil conditions, and provide unique abilities to fix both natural (atmospheric) nitrogen and synthetic (chemical) nitrogen delivered by fertilizers. These organisms are then fermented under aseptic conditions (in an incubation tank, “brew tank”) to provide a pure microbial culture. When this culture is combined with other soil amendments and applied to soil, indigenous bacteria multiply and grow very rapidly. As the biological health of the soil improves, minerals become more available to plants and nutrient uptake is increased by 200 – 300%, with nitrogen utilization increasing by 50 – 75%. Nitrogen utilization volitization (gaseous escape) is greatly reduced, and leaching (run off and seepage into the water table) is almost eliminated. Increasing the biological content of a soils’ ecosystem makes the soil more permeable, allowing the soil to absorb more water and healthy populations of microorganisms metabolize fertilizers and nutrients that have lain unused in the fields for years, making these nutrients available to plants growing today. When bacteria digest and metabolize fertilizers in the field, fertilizer is keept out of our water resources and is delivered where it belongs, to the plant. Less residual chemical fertilizer in the soil means fewer toxins reaching our water resources. Making the soil ecosystem healthy relieves stress on plants of all types, and allows them to utilize their own immune systems to ward off predatory herbs (weeds) and pests (insects), resulting in reduced herbicide and pesticide input requirements — and costs. Whether on your farm, your golf course, your home, or your garden, increasing the microbial activity in your soil will improve the fertility of your soil and the quality and quantity of your crop, while reducing the need for inputs such as water, herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer.

Is Bactifeed a fertilizer?

Technically, it is NOT a fertilizer, it is a biological soil conditioner. By metabolizing organic matter and minerals in your fields, Bactifeed makes more food available to your plants, thereby increasing the fertility of the soil. Bactifeed WILL metabolize fertilizers that have not be utilized by your plants / crops in the past, making them available to crops you currently have in your fields.

Can I use too much Bactifeed?

In a word, no. We have had farmers with problem areas use Bactifeed at 6 times the normal rate on a weekly basis to remediate challenged soil conditions, particularly soils being prepared for root crops such as beets, carrots and potatoes. Many farmers find that the decrease in tractor time and water consumption more than pays for the heavy usage. Coupled with increased crop quality and yields, Bactifeed quickly becomes one of the most effective inputs a farmer can put in his/her soil maintenance and fertilization program.

How much dry product do I use?

The amount of Bactifeed required will depend on soil type, specific issues, climate and the availability/quality of your water source. Generally, we recommend treating soil aggressively when you first begin using the product (16-24 ounces of dry product per 10 acres) and sustaining that rate for at least 2 or 3 irrigations. This helps to rapidly establish a robust population of microorganisms in your soil and begin remediating nutrient depletion issues and metabolizing toxins. As you begin to see your soil improve, you can back off to a maintenance profile, typically no less than 8 ounces per ten acres applied once per month.

How does Bactifeed reduce the effects of soil salinity?

Bactifeed reduces the effects of salts in soil through two mechanisms. One occurs rapidly and the second gradually reduces the actual salinity of your top soil. First, the bacteria start multiplying, breaking down organic matter in the soil and producing organic acids. These organic acids bind to various elements in the soil, including salts. The chemistry-class term for this is “chelating”, essentially creating a coating around salt particles. Once coated, far less salt is absorbed by the roots of your plants. This reduction in salt uptake as a result of chelating is rapid. As biological activity continues to increase as the microorganisms multiply in the soil, water penetration increases, and as this happens salts are leached downward — out of the root zone — making your topsoil less saline.

How much will my water penetration improve when I use Bactifeed?

Bactifeed radically increases how deep water penetrates soil. The photograph to the left is a conservative example. It shows two core samples: the top soil core was taken from a field treated with Bactifeed soil conditioner just 10 days after irrigation. Water has penetrated to a depth of nearly 12 inches. The core sample below is from an untreated field irrigated with the same amount of water at the same time. Water penetration is barely 5 inches.

Why do I have to let the Bactifeed “brew” before I use it?

When initially mixing a tank of Bactifeed, we are using biology and rapid microbial reproduction to help dramatically increase the population of microbes in the tank. The brew stage is similar to fermenting beer or kombucha, and as every brewmaster knows, is fundamental to the end product. Six to twelve hours after the powder and water are mixed together, the bacteria have regenerated into live organisms, producing enzymes, acids and other organic nutrients that have been proven to improve the quality of your soil. After that initial time period, the bacteria double in population every 15 – 20 minutes. This means, conservatively, you will have 72 population duplications in 24 hours. After 4 – 7 days, the microbial population will have doubled between 275 to 500 times. Shortening the brewing time curtails the benefits of microbial reproduction.

What can I do to prevent having to wait to use my Bactifeed?

Many of our farmers and golf course superintendants use a “nurse tank”. The nurse tank has a aeration circulation pump in it that agitates the bacteria and provides needed oxygen that accelerates reproduction. We even have a farmer who has developed a solar powered pump for just this purpose! Using a nurse tank, your Bactifeed biologicals will be available for application at all times, so it is just a matter of pulling a trailer tank up to the nurse tank, filling it, and moving on. Most farmers using nurse tanks have also put a float valve in the tank so that it refills automatically with water as soon as the water level begins to drop. After the trailer tank is filled, the worker simply adds the proper amount of dry Bactifeed and then moves on. Utilizing nurse tanks, our farmers can fill ditch tanks over a course of days prior to irrigation, and cover large acreages. We have large farm operations irrigating 300 – 400 acres per day who utilize 10,000 gallon tanks.

When can I stop using Bactifeed?

While it is always possible to suspend the use of Bactifeed microbial soil amendment products (and your soil will definitely be more fertile for having used them) most of our satisfied customers never choose to do so. Soils have taken tremendous abuse over the last 100 years, and modern farming methods continue to deplete soil. The lack of purity of water being used for irrigation, the amount of tractor traffic and other modern agriculture methods are typically very destructive to soil bacteria. Once we have established a healthy bacterial base of active microorganisms within the soil, we can sustain biological activity with monthly applications, as is done in warmer regions. In some cases, typically winter climates, the microbes in the soil will become dormant, and the number of bacteria that will be active when the spring comes will be greatly reduced. Even in climates with sustained freezes, there will still be biological activity going on in the soil deeper down below the frost line, but we will not see the same number of biologicals survive the winter in the top soil — the most important part of the field since it is where roots are first established — as we do if we don’t stop the applications.

What is humus? How is it created? What does it do?

Humus is often called “Black Gold” because of its great value to soil and plants. When organic material decomposes to the point it is no longer recognizable it is called soil organic matter. Most soil organic matter is immediately used by plants, but a small portion of these products — perhaps 5% or so — become resistant to further decomposition and become more or less stabilized. This organic matter within soil that resists further decomposition is called humus.The creation of humus within soils relies on both biological and chemical processes. Over time, organic material within soils changes, with small organic “bits and piece” joining together to form complex, chained chemical structures called “polymers”. Chemically, these structures are poly-phenolic acids.The synthesis of these polymers within soils is partly the result of soil chemistry, but the primary transformative mechanism is the release of enzymes from microorganisms like those provided by Bactifeed soil conditioner.

This process is called humification, and humus performs six important functions:

• Convert minerals that would otherwise be inert into forms that plants can absorb as nutrients. • Increase absorption of organic compounds that aid plant nutrition and plant physiology. • Increase the water holding capacitiey of soil, making water more available to the plants. • Increase the buffering capacity of soil, thereby helping to stabilize the soils pH to help the plants absorb mineral nutrients. • Helps cleanup toxic materials in the soil. • Darkens soil color, which increases the soils absorption of solar energy.

Why can’t I use less than 20 gallons of Bactifeed per acre?

The objective is to get as many live microbes on the fields and into your soil as possible. We have found that using 20 gallons per acre has met with great success, and that is why we recommend it. Some farmers, after having gained a lot of experience with biological soil remediation, have had success using fewer gallons per acre, but compensate for that by making sure the soil does not dry our for more than 7 – 10 days before watering again. Many of our farmers, golf course superintendents and gardeners don’t have that kind of water availability, and can only water once or twice a month. In these cases, 20 gallons per acre has proven to be a very reliable ratio.

Why did some of my plants/fields turn yellow when I first applied Bactifeed?

Some slight yellowing and / or mild wilting occasionally occurs briefly within fields when Bactifeed is first applied, usually in cases where the fields have been treated with manures or compost that has not been properly, or completely, processed. When Bactifeed is first applied to soil of this type the natural biological activity of the soil is kicked into gear and the first thing the bacteria do is begin metabolizing organic materials, which for a short time deprives the plants of some nutrients, primarily nitrogen. Within 2 to 3 weeks the nitrogen and other nutrients are released back into the soil, and your plants will be better than ever before. A rapid fix for this transitory effect is a little shot of nitrogen fertilizer, which will usually serve to help your plants during this brief period where your soil is beginning to naturally heal itself.  The way to avoid this potential issue altogether is quite simple. If you are beginning to use Bactifeed on a field where manures or compost of questionable quality have been used, apply bactifeed 2 to 3 weeks before planting, or apply 3 or 4 pounds of nitrogen per acre along with the Bactifeed application.