Ag experts helping farmers switch to non-GMO, sustainable production
Published: April 28, 2014
Category: Organic/Sustainable Farming
Agriculture consultants see more farmers moving to non-GMO production
Richard Kalmolvathin says non-GMO production is a good start to making agriculture more sustainable. “It’s the spark to the fuse,” he says. “We recommend non-GMO and believe it is the future.”
“Concept is just to raise good food”
Kalmolvathin’s South Dakota-based company, Verity Farms, LLC is one of a growing number of businesses that are helping US farmers switch to non-GMO and more sustainable farming practices. Verity works with 300-400 farmers throughout the US to help them grow healthier plants, which will produce healthier foods for people and animals.
“Our concept to just to raise good food,” says Kalmolvathin, whose company was featured in an article in the New York Times a few months ago. “We try to take inputs out and go back to the seed and then to the soil.”
Another company helping farmers go non-GMO is Advancing Eco Agriculture. CEO John Kempf says more farmers are seeing disadvantages with growing GM crops. “GMOs have been widely adopted because the perception is that they are fast, easy, and cheap,” he says. “But as the cost per acre has increased, more farmers are transitioning to non-GMO.”
Kempf adds that GM crops don’t absorb trace minerals well, have greater water and fertilizer requirements, less vigorous root systems, and a weaker symbiotic relationship with soil biology. “This translates into foods with less nutrition, which leads to people with compromised immunity,” he says.
“GMOs produce food that makes people and animals sick”
“Farmers are fed up growing GMOs,” says David W. Nelson, president of Pedogenesis, Inc., based in Campbell, Minnesota. “The technology fees (charged for patented GM seed) are hard on farmers, and they want more options.”
Nelson adds that non-GMO corn hybrids produce better yields than GMO and farmers can earn premium prices with non-GMO.
Nelson enjoys his work. “My biggest pleasure is getting customers to switch from GMO to non-GMO,” he says.
Agriculture research firm FHR, based in Stewartville, Minnesota is also helping farmers switch to non-GMO. “We found through research that GM crops are lower yielding, more susceptible to insects and disease and produce food that makes people and animals sick,” says John Oolman, director of research, at FHR’s research division RAL.
FHR also recommends that farmers not use glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide. “We have found that glyphosate ties up or chelates micronutrients in the soil and in plants and animals so they aren’t available as nutrition. We believe that glyphosate is bad for plants, animals, and humans,” Oolman says.
FHR works with farmer-owned Genesys Grain to supply non-GMO corn and soybean seeds to farmers. “The seed we recommend and breed is non-GMO, which is tested for GMOs at a local laboratory,” Oolman says.
Focus on soil fertility
Enhancing soil fertility is a major emphasis of the crop experts.
“We help them identify strengths and weaknesses in soil, look at the crop they’re growing and put together a soil fertility plan for them,” says Nelson, whose company also works with several hundred farmers.
“It’s about nurturing the soil to have maximum absorption. That is what we strive for: the best quality soil,” Kalmolvathin says.
FHR also focuses on soil fertility and provides products to farmers to enhance soil fertility. “We take soil samples and find out which nutrients are in the soil and put together a fertilizer program for farmers,” Oolman says.
Advancing Eco Agriculture focuses on “regenerative agriculture.” “We need a regenerative model with healthy crops and producing healthy soil. When plants are properly supported with nutrition they aren’t susceptible to pests and disease,” says John Kempf.
He emphasizes strengthening the immunity of plants, which in turn will help strengthen the immunity of people who eat such plants.
The crop experts recommend reducing chemical fertilizers and pesticides and increasing sustainable practices such as crop rotations and cover crops to reduce weed and insect problems. “We encourage a gradual transition from heavy pesticide applications,” Kempf says. “As plant nutrition improves then plant health and immunity improves and then farmers are able to greatly reduce the use of pesticides.”
Several companies supply foliar fertilizers to enhance plant growth at different stages. “We believe that the right fertilizer applied with the right amount will give farmers high yields with less money,” Oolman says.
All the crop experts report strong demand for their services. Each reports working with hundreds of farmers and in the case of AEA, thousands. AEA has a goal of converting 16,000 farms from conventional to regenerative agriculture by 2016.
Kalmolvathin says his company’s mission is to preserve the small family farmer. “It’s a dying breed. That’s our target market. It’s doing the right thing,” he says.
© Copyright The Organic & Non-GMO Report, May 2014