"The FARMSMART Podcast": Episode 48

Posted March 22, 2024 | By: Nutrien Ag Solutions

What Enhanced Efficiency Fertilizers Bring to the Sustainability Toolbox, with Loveland Products' Ron Calhoun

Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium.

Every grower knows that these three nutrients are at the heart of every successful cropping plan.

But in 2024, the tools to manage those nutrients are so much more potent and complex than they used to be.

And cutting back on fertilizer inputs—discerningly and purposefully—can be a powerful opportunity to reduce costs and improve an operation's sustainability footprint.

So in this episode, we're talking to Ron Calhoun—Senior Marketing Manager of Plant Nutrition from Loveland Products at Nutrien Ag Solutions—to find out how growers can leverage tools like enhanced efficiency fertilizers.

He'll tell us why there's no one-size-fits-all answer.

But how, by bringing the best science and technology to bear, Nutrien Ag Solutions makes it possible for growers to improve their profitability and benefit the planet.

Episode Transcript

Ron Calhoun

So let's start like with granular nitrogen, for instance. Well an enhanced efficiency fertilizer is something that has just a little bit more control over how that is being released to the crop. And what's nice about that, you can get that release to sort of match a lot of times what will line up with a plant demand.


Dusty Weis

Welcome to the FARMSMART Podcast presented by Nutrien Ag Solutions, where every month we're talking to sustainable agriculture experts from throughout the industry. 

As the leading source of insight for growers on evolving their sustainability practices while staying grounded in agronomic proof, FARMSMART is where sustainability meets opportunity.


Sally Flis

We don't just talk change, we're out in the field helping you identify the products, practices and technologies that bring the future to your fields faster. 

I'm Dr. Sally Flis, Director of Program Design and Outcome Management.


Dusty Weis

And I'm Dusty Weis, and we're joined now by Ron Calhoun, Senior Marketing Manager of Plant Nutrition of Loveland Products at Nutrien Ag Solutions. Ron, thanks for joining us.


Ron Calhoun

My pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.


Dusty Weis

So, Ron, to get us started here, why don't you tell us a little bit about your background. Where do you call home? What's your history with agriculture and what path led you to Nutrien Ag Solutions?


Ron Calhoun

I started off in a horticulture program at Michigan State University a long, long time ago. I'm the rare triple grad, so I have both my master's and Ph.D. from Michigan State University as well. The master's program was in plant growth regulator use and the Ph.D. was in the area of plant ecology, which is just the study of how plants interact with other plants, how they interact with their environment, how plant communities change over time with things like management and that sort of thing.

I spent 17 years in the crop and soil science program at Michigan State University and then somehow ended up in retail. So I worked for a turf and ornamental distributor that had some distribution warehouses across the eastern part of the U.S. And then in 2016, I took a role as a specialty crop agronomist for Nutrien Ag Solutions, up and down the west side of Michigan.

So the crop diversity within about 60 miles of the lakeshore there includes things like apples and cherries and blueberries and tomatoes and hops. I worked for the Northern Ohio Division and the Michigan Division of Nutrien Ag Solutions as a specialty crop agronomist, and then took on a role with Loveland and then just recently here started this role with Loveland Products as the Senior Marketing Manager for Plant Nutrition.

So it's been a really fun eight years. It's really cool to work for a company that is willing to continue to invest in the future and invest in novel or proprietary technologies. And so I'm having a great time, so I'm just happy to be with you guys.


Sally Flis

Thanks, Ron. It's always great to meet and interact and have a discussion with another Ph.D. in a plant science. So my Ph.D. is plant and soil science from the University of Vermont, but my masters and my undergrad are University of Wisconsin. So a little rivalry there, I think.


Dusty Weis

Go badgers.


Sally Flis

Ron, can you tell us a little bit more about what Loveland Products is, what their role is in the business and what do we offer to growers in the field and our crop consultants with Loveland products?


Ron Calhoun

Yeah, that's a great place to start. Sally. I talk to people every week and they've never heard of Nutrien Ag Solutions before. And then so then you try to dive into the nuance of Loveland within that. 

A lot of times I'll use the example of Kirkland products at Costco, right? So you have these very high quality products that are available at Costco, but it's a way to get a better quality product sort of at that same wallet ask.

So that sometimes is a way that I'll try to describe that, you know, Loveland started as an Adjuvants company over 50 years ago and was part of the crop production services, was part of Agrium and then became part of Nutrien Ag Solutions back in maybe 2016/2017 with the merger that happened. 

So our Loveland products, we have four shelves that we talk about adjuvants, which is sort of what built Loveland Products. So we're wholly owned by Nutrien Ag Solutions. So we have adjuvants, we have the plant nutrition shelf, we have crop protection, we have seed treatments. And so there's those four areas that we work on. 

There's two ways that we go to market within that. One of those would be like within crop protection, trying to do more of like an inventory consolidation play for folks so giving them, we might do generic products or that kind of thing, putting things in a Loveland box.

But where we really have gained our horsepower is by having Nutrien Ag Solutions, be willing to make some investments in some technology companies where we can then bring those technologies into products, bring some things together that aren't available in other ways and that really comes to bear in the area of adjuvants and plant nutrition, where we now have a portfolio of products that have some technologies in them that are unique to us and then we can bring those to market. So I don't know if that helped you at all. I love talking about it, so I'd be happy to answer more questions if you have a follow up there Sally.


Sally Flis

No, I think that's a great overview of what Loveland Products is and the different places that retail can interact with the brands and the products that are developed by that. And I agree, it's really great to be working for a company that invests in a lot of the things that your average retailer isn't going to invest in in order to keep driving the business forward.

So one of the programs we have in the field right now is our Sustainable Nitrogen Outcomes program, where we incentivize growers to make a 5% rate reduction following a carbon protocol that we can pay them for those carbon equivalent emission reductions. And one of the things that can really drive that emission reduction for that grower on that field is the use of enhanced efficiency fertilizer products.

Can you go into a little bit for us what an EEF is and how they work?


Ron Calhoun

Sure. So let's start like with granular nitrogen, for instance. You know, you have a product that's water soluble like urea or something like that. That product is not enhanced in any way as far as its availability. It's going to become soluble pretty quickly. It's going to interact with the microbes in the soil, become plant available very, very quickly.

But then there's a set of nutrition, nitrogen products that might have some sort of protection on it, that there might be like a poly sulfur coated urea, right. Where we're using sort of a physical barrier to hold down a percentage of that release over a period of time. Well an enhanced efficiency fertilizer is something that's like another step beyond that.

We're actually trying to regulate the release of that. And so the most common one for us would be the ESN Right. So we have an actual polyester coating that's on that urea that is then driven by moisture and soil temperature to drive that. And what's nice about that, because of that temperature component, you can get that release to sort of match a lot of times what will line up with a plant demand.

So an enhanced efficiency fertilizer is something that has just a little bit more control over how that is being released to the crop.


Dusty Weis

And of course, Ron. I mean, when we could talk about the technology, we can talk about the plant health that's in play here. These are things that we get kind of excited about. But at the end of the day, it's something that's got to make sense from a bottom-line perspective as well. 

So when we're thinking about measuring a return on investment, when we use Loveland Products plant nutrition line, what are some of the factors that we should be considering as growers?


Ron Calhoun

Yeah. So Sally set us up with enhanced efficiency fertilizer. When I talk to people, you know, we might have 100 different plant nutrition products and it can get a little bit overwhelming. And then you have these different technologies that are in there. What I'll tell them is this common thread that goes through all of these things is this idea of nutrient use efficiency, right?

So whether we're doing something that is affecting how the soil interacts with those nutrients, trying to mine nutrition out of the soil, trying to get the plant to assimilate it in a way that is more efficient, that common thread through all of our technology, you want to look to see how we are investing in proprietary plant nutrition products.

It's that nutrient use efficiency thread that goes through all of those things. And so as you mentioned, that return on investment with the area of plant nutrition, obviously we're trying to look at yield a lot of times with that. There are other ways though, where parts of what we might be doing are setting up so that we have success for that next part of the growing season, right?

So if I'm playing a football game, I don't win the game in the first quarter, but it's nice to have a lead, right? And so when we think about something like an in-furrow starter, that in-furrow starter isn't supposed to win the day for us, but man, if we can get uniform emergence, if we can get a few quicker days to canopy closure, if we can set things up for that win, it allows that second, third and fourth quarter to come along. 

So we can’t go to sleep on it, but we don't always do a one-to-one with some of those early activities and how that goes to yield, but it certainly helps.


Sally Flis

Ron, as you talk about kind of through that growing season, what are the different points at which we have Loveland products that can be an intervention, either to help continue to support that good crop health that we've established at the beginning of the season, or to have maybe correct or serve as an emergency treatment. As we look at some of this so we can keep driving that efficiency and yield per acre.


Ron Calhoun

And so, Sally, that starts with sitting down with the grower and developing a plan, first off. Because we are so blessed to have so many different technologies, one of the things that I like to focus on is how can we get that technology where it can be a help into your program in a way that doesn't make you change your practices per se, right?

If you have an in-furrow system, we want to be making sure that we're setting you up for having some zinc availability early on in the season when we have cold, wet soils. If you're in a dry situation, what are the opportunities that we have to bring those technologies to your dry portion?

And so whether that's at-plant, whether that's a granular or liquid side-dress opportunity, whether that's an in-season, where we're doing some tissue testing, coming by, maybe partnering something with a fungicide application, or whether that's after we're done with the crop and we're coming in, we're doing a burn down and we're putting out our granular for the next year we're looking at those times that you're in the field, right?

Is it aerial, is it in the soil? And how can we fit into the things that you're already doing? Those are where we want to look at first. How can we fit into your crop plan and get the most out of it?


Dusty Weis

Ron we’ve certainly heard from growers before that they may be a little bit hesitant to reduce the applied nitrogen rates as they're putting their crop in and fertilizing it throughout the year. Of course, due to nitrogen’s critical impact on crop growth. 

What research or what farm trial data do you have that confirms that a grower can make these nitrogen reductions, pair it with a Loveland product, plant nutrition product, and still receive consistent or increased crop quality and yield?


Ron Calhoun

And so that's going to be a situation where we really want to look at the individual grower and understand where those opportunities might be. You know, I can remember it wasn't that long ago, where we might be talking about two pounds of N per bushel, right? And now we're talking about 1.1 or even one…

So whether it's genetics, whether that's the ability for us to deliver nutrients on a more efficient way, we've already seen some of that happen. So Dusty I think one of the things I come back to is you can't know what you don't measure, right? And so sometimes our memory of something is not quite as accurate.

And when we write things down and we actually know and can look back and track these things, and so we see things, whether it's the Plant Nutrition Institute, Iowa State, American Society of Agronomy, even Wisconsin, you know, the sorts of data that they publish on nutrient use efficiency from things like nitrogen sources or potassium sources or phosphorus in this can vary widely from 15 to 30%, 40%.

There's so much meat on the bone here… if I can do it with this much nitrogen right now, and I still have 40%, that somehow is not ending up in the plant, it stands to reason that we're going to be able to continue to chip away at that.

And that's exactly what we've seen over the last 25 years. So I don't know that I'm going to give you a number, Dusty, like, you know, reduce it by five pounds or 25 pounds. But in a lot of instances, as we go out and we look at an 80% replacement, 75% replacement, 60% replacement, it is very surprising to me even where we're not doing the nutrient use efficiency product, we see that we had some headroom and as we bring those other things to play, we can get the same or better yield with an 80% replacement if we're using some of these products and in some cases we can reduce that even more.

But it's not the sort of thing where we'll be able to put a specific number that's going to work for everybody. We're going to need to know more about your program. Maybe you're already doing a lot of things very, very well. You know, I look at some of the high yield folks that we work with. 

They're using Titan on their dry. They're using Accomplish in their furrow. They're doing some of these nutrient mineralization products, three or four different ways within their program to have them achieve yield goals that they didn't think were even possible. 


Sally Flis

Ron, we've got a handful of research farms across the U.S. What are some of the things you guys are looking to test on those research farms in this 2024 cropping season or test on farm with growers in the Loveland Product space?


Ron Calhoun

Yeah. So as we look at where we can kind of get some of the major benefit, a lot of that has to do with unfortunately, sometimes the things on your soil test are a little bit of window dressing and they're on your soil test, but the conditions that you have based on the timing or pH or some other things going on is it's very difficult to get them off of the soil test and into the plant.

So we find that highly available phosphorous at time of planting, trying to either provide or mineralize zinc at time of planting, these are things that can help get us off to a great start. And so we are always looking at how we can finish that first quarter well, right, so that at-plant segment. 

But we also then realize that there's always going to be a time of year where the demand for potassium is going to outpace what the soil is able to liberate on a daily basis.

And so whether that's a 12, 15, 20 day period, that maximum peak demand that happens in the year, you can have all the potassium in the world, but you got those little Oreo cookies and all that the soil can get to is just on what's on the outside of that Oreo cookie. And so we come in and we supplement that with a highly available potassium source. And so that's been some work that we've done. 

And then, Sally, as you know, we're not getting free sulfur like we used to. And so trying to find ways that we can supplement what are the ways we can come in and in a meaningful way deliver sulfur that's going to make it into our crop. And so we have quite a bit of work going on on that way.

And then as far as looking towards the future, it is exactly what you guys are asking about in this area of nutrient use efficiency in particular. Looking at ways that we can increase nitrogen assimilation, nitrogen fixation, those sorts of things. 

So there is a number of like biological products on the market. And you know, as a company we spent maybe 30 years trying to provide some of those biological cocktails. And it's so frustrating. I remember even back at Michigan State University, we could get it to work in the petri dish and we could get it to work in the greenhouse.  

But by the time you take that technology and now try to put it out on a broad basis, sometimes I'll tell people, okay, my daughter, she had a very successful lemonade stand on Maple Street, okay? But if I take that same lemonade stand and I set her up in downtown New York City, she's going to have a much more difficult time having an impact on that economy than she did in the little town that we're in. 

And so we're asking a lot out of these biologicals to not only survive in the tank, survive in storage, get out there be on the soil, and then overtake everybody that's already living there.

And so that can be frustrating when it just doesn't work exactly the same time after time. So we're doing more work to try to understand, wouldn't it be great if we could be able to tell you ahead of time, Sally, these are the situations where we think you're going to get the most benefit from these types of products.

So I'm not painting with a broad brush. I'm now bringing something that's meaningful to Sally and on your farm versus trying to just stand on a mountain and say, “I decreed this is the best thing all the time and you can reduce your rates by this much. And I just know this.” That's a ridiculous, very arrogant way to approach this.

We need to know more about why these things work. What are the situations where we're going to see the most wins and how then I can pick from that to make you have success because I don't have any interest in selling you something once. I need you to be here next year and I need you to be able to turn this farm over to whoever you’re going to turn it over to.

And that's what makes the hairs stand up on my arm and makes it exciting for me to go to work every day.


Dusty Weis

Well, hey, Ron, speaking of petri dishes and laboratory work here, we'd be remiss if we didn't talk about the laboratory that you're sitting in right now, actually, which you were telling us you've built in the basement of your house. And so we want to ask you about that coming up after the break here, as well as ways that we can integrate some more of these products with practices in the field to maximize nutrient uptake.

We're going to do all of that coming up here in a moment, on the FARMSMART Podcast. 


Dusty Weis

This is the FARMSMART Podcast presented by Nutrien Ag Solutions. I'm Dusty Weis along with Sally Flis, and we're talking today with Ron Calhoun, Senior Marketing Manager of Plant Nutrition for Loveland Products. Ron, we set it up before the break here, but we’ve gotta talk about this laboratory because you've got a mad scientist thing going on where you're sitting right now and you said this is the basement of your house, complete with a Nutrien branded refrigerator?


Ron Calhoun

Yeah! So when I was first working for Nutrien, I would get questions about different fertilizer blends and different “Will this hold up when it freezes?” and “How long before this works?” And it became somewhat clear by the fact that my wife said to me, I need you to not do this in the kitchen anymore.

So over Thanksgiving weekend I got some cabinets, I put in a sink, bought a little Scratch and Dent refrigerator so I can freeze things.

So I kind of set up a situation where I was no longer doing this where we were preparing our meals. But yeah, it's worked out great. So this is my little kingdom here that I was banished to after trying to do this next to the pork chops.


Dusty Weis

Well, speaking as a husband who colonized his basement with a podcast studio, my hat's off to you. It appears to be a really great, great compromise that probably brought a little bit more peace to the marriage as well I can imagine.


Ron Calhoun

It's been a great solution.


Dusty Weis 

So we discussed enhanced efficiency fertilizers and some of their benefits, but I wanted to touch on some of the other Loveland Products offerings that are eligible for an incentive payment and are Sustainable Nitrogen Outcomes program. Can you elaborate on the product type and the application method and the optimal timing for a few of those other products?


Ron Calhoun

Yeah. So I think, you know, one of the major products that we would talk about there would be something called BLACKMAX 22. So BLACKMAX 22 is a library of carbon-based substances that we get from a leonardite extraction that's also then fortified with some carbohydrates as well. 

And if that didn't mean anything to you, that's okay. Don't let the eyes roll back in your head. 

But you know, these carbon substances for instance, there are carbon substances that plants create. If I'm a plant growing in a situation where I don't have a lot of iron, I can actually change the chemistry of what I exude off of my roots. And that chemistry I exude off of my roots now would be an organic acid that can actually solubilize some iron to allow me to take up some iron.

Well that cost that plant energy, right? So if we can be providing some substances that can do these sorts of things so that the plant isn't redirecting some of that energy, I can now get that plant to be doing things on its own. 

With our BLACKMAX product, I talk about it usually in the area of physical, chemical and biological.

So from a physical standpoint, we're providing some larger carbon substances in there that can actually be used as things like housing or even CEC. So housing for microbes or CEC for holding on to things like water or nutrients. 

From a chemical standpoint, I am providing some of those shorter chain carbon compounds that can actually do things in the soil, like stimulate mineralization of nutrients and that sort of thing. And then from a biological standpoint, right, we are providing that housing and we're providing that food source for those microbes.  

Overcoming the shortcomings of your soil performance. And so for a period of time we can increase things like water holding capacity, nutrient holding capacity, buffering some salt load. And so these things all come together in this BLACKMAX product.

A lot of times this will be put out in-furrow. We'll see it get mixed with things like UAN and done in a side-dress situation, right? So BLACKMAX is one of our premier products for sort of managing your system and helping everything else to work better. That can be a little bit of a challenge, right, because it's a lot easier for you to get your mind wrapped around something that has an NPK analysis to it.

And so taking some time to understand where these carbon based substances come to play in your system, backing up a little bit, sometimes I'll show people this chart that talks about the very specific things that happen from biochemistry, right? So we can support that microbial community. We're supporting a lot of these other functions that we're hoping happen. 


Dusty Weis

So that's BLACKMAX 22 Ron, but there are a handful of other products as well that I know that we wanted to touch on here. So can we real quick lightning round style, tell us about EXTRACT, Maximum N-Pact, NITRAIN Bullet, and Radiate NEXT.


Ron Calhoun

I'm probably the worst guest you've ever had to do a lightning round with, but I'll give it a go. 

All right, so EXTRACT is a way that we can bring our bio catalyst technology, so that is again, we've harvested the chemistry that a healthy soil microbial community would be producing. We've harvested that chemistry ahead of time. 

And with EXTRACT, one of the things is if you have really complex plant material, for instance, like your corn stover or other sorts of litter, we need to take that material and we need to kind of open it up a little bit like a sponge so that next set of things in the system can start to work on that, break that down and get those nutrients recycled through our system.


Dusty Weis

How about Maximum N-Pact?


Ron Calhoun

So Maximum N-Pact is a product that has 30% of what is called the triazone urea. And so it's this ring urea that is taken up very well, just like urea. But when that's taken up by the plant, it translocates and because of that complex ring nature is not immediately used. 

And so Sally, I'll sometimes describe this as an extended plant response because that where if I just put out all urea I might get a response that lasts me 4 to 7 days.

But when I can put that on with this triazone urea, it almost looks like a slow release. It's not exactly how it's working, but I get this extended plant response to where that behaves as if I applied a nitrogen that had almost another 4% or 6% additional analysis because I get this extended plant response from that application.

It's a really cool product, highly effective as a folding or nitrogen application.


Dusty Weis

There's another product that comes up a lot, maybe an oldie but goodie here, but NITRAIN Bullet. Tell us about that one.


Ron Calhoun

Yeah. So our NITRAIN brands tend to be around nitrogen management. We've mostly focused on above ground nitrogen management. NITRAIN Bullet would be our first product that we have that introduces us to below ground management. 

And so this would be used with our anhydrous ammonia or would also be used with any UAN that we might be putting in the soil and has really gotten a lot of traction.

The storage and handling aspects of this product have really been well received, both by operations and by growers. And so that's been a fun, newer product for us over the last three or four years is NITRAIN Bullet.


Dusty Weis

And the last one on the list, of course, Radiate NEXT.


Ron Calhoun

Yeah, Radiate NEXT is our newest addition to our Radiate line. So Radiate is a tried-and-true product in our product line, and it's mostly a product that gets put on either at-planting or in that early, early pass.

Radiate NEXT is that next step in that Radiate lineup that has more of an advantage for us later in the season, particularly as we approach things like stress and reproductive timing as so the Radiate NEXT has some additional components of it over Radiate that is allowing for greater water uptake.

There's a structure in the roots called aquaporins, and we're opening up these aquaporins and we're supplementing a kind of the photosynthetic efficiency of the plant with this Radiate NEXT.

It's an exciting new product, but it's like that next step for us where people have been using Radiate, they now have Radiate to use NEXT.


Sally Flis

Ron, the Four R’s will always have a special place in my heart, after my time at the Fertilizer Institute. And one of those R’s that we always talk about is the right place. You touched on it a little bit, I think in the first part of the podcast about how do we think about fitting into that grower's plan and are they doing a side-dress and is that side-dress liquid or solid?

But as we think about bringing some of these new enhanced efficiency products and practices to the grower, like splitting application or changing placement, what are some of the products that are going to help us make those changes work? 

So if we're going to a side-dress or an in-furrow type treatment of our fertilizer, how can we help protect the plant growth with that closer placement of fertilizer to a root or a crop?


Ron Calhoun

So for us, that BLACKMAX piece, taking that library of carbon substances and we now through different extraction methods, are able to extract different sort of cuts. I don't know if I get my hand slapped for mentioning something like whiskey. 

You know, we have like sort of different cuts and from that we can get ones that preferentially have more sort of larger carbon substances, ones that are better at buffering, ones that are particularly good to partner with something like potassium.

And so we have this library of maybe 12 of these different extraction methods that we can now start to pair that with nutrition. I mentioned it's a little bit difficult sometimes to get your mind around something that doesn't really have an analysis. So as we start to then come to market with something like BLACK LABEL ZN, that's a high phosphorus plus zinc, that also then has this carbon component in it.

And what we find then is that carbon component, you know phosphorus is the sort of thing that wants to make friends in the soil. And so you get in a situation above seven and that phosphorus wants to make permanent friends with calcium, you get yourself below six and that phosphorus wants to make permanent friends with iron and aluminum. And so as you put that in the soil within a matter of weeks, that phosphorus can essentially disappear as far as the plant is concerned.

When we partner that in our BLACK products like BLACK LABEL ZN, we can actually measure that phosphorus availability for a period of 35, 40 days versus 12 to 15 days. And so we're keeping that phosphorus available to the plant during that critical growth time. And so placement, you know, placement is so important Sally, right. The efficiency of placement is what makes a lot of things look really, really good, right?

If I was going to broadcast something out, it would be economically impossible to make that work for us. But when I can now put a pint of something on and get it down, millimeters or an inch away from that plant. I can get a response that is meaningful and that I can carry through. 

As I go throughout the season, a lot of times we talk about protecting micronutrients in the soil and a term you'll hear used a lot is chelation. Well, that's great, but chelation that gets used for the soil is not the same sort of chelation that you should use from a foliar perspective. And so we want to make sure that these sorts of chelation we're using when we're doing foliar is matched to the type of application that you're doing. 

And so we're looking for things like amino acid chelation or citric acid chelation. We have a chelator called NutriSync that is in sort of our premier foliar line and it's all about driving that efficiency through that application method. 

And those things allow us, particularly for things like micronutrients to supplement those, we can create a condition in the soil where the soil as is drinking its nutrients as much as it can.

And then as we have micronutrients and you look at something, for instance, like molybdenum, and you might only need one molecule of molybdenum and for every million molecules of nitrogen that you need in a plant. 

So when we talk about micronutrients from are really, really small amounts. I would rather come back and try to supplement with those sorts of things foliar, then try to manipulate my soil conditions in such a way to make sure that that's happening.

It's going to be way easier to kind of deliver the goods that's meaningful for the plant. I don 't want to do something and just pat myself on the back for doing it. I want to do it and have it be meaningful for it.


Sally Flis

Yeah, it's interesting you bring up that example. I had a grower early in my career who asked me if they could supplement enough selenium on their soil to accommodate for the low selenium in the forages that their dairy cows were eating to help with the nutrition side on the dairy cows, I said, you'll go out of money, supplement the selenium to the cow.

You're not feeding the right part by feeding the soil with some of these micronutrients. So this is an excellent conversation. I'm really enjoying this and enjoying that we're getting to the complexities of how we have to talk to growers and how we work in agronomy around making decisions. It's not as simple as just saying, even though it's what our program advertisement says, make a 5% rate reduction and there's a lot of pieces and parts that go into that decision and we've only brushed the surface in our conversation so far today.


Ron Calhoun

Well, no I think it’s pretty likely that we could probably find 5% for most people, right? But to just give a platitude about it, I want to know more about what you're doing and find where's that easiest 5%. If I could get you 5%, but it cost you 20% in energy, is that really a win? 

I can remember my first day with Nutrien I was meeting with a cherry farmer, fifth generation cherry farmer in Northern Michigan, CEC of about 1.7, and he's putting on 225 pounds of potash every fall because that's what his dad did and that's what grandpa did and that's what great grandpa did, right?

And I just said, okay, talking about CEC, I gave my example I use the example of seats at a table, right? You got a table, all the seats at the table and think of a big banquet room with a bunch of round tables in it. All of those seats are those charges where those cations can hang out. And I was like “You have like one seat at every table.”

“Your tank is so small.” Said “You'd be farther ahead to put on 90 pounds and then come back and put on another 90 pounds later on. He goes, “Well, I've never been able to do that.” I said, “Well, then you're going to be farther ahead to keep those dollars in your pocket and figure out what we can do in season to make up for that deficiency.”

Because right now you're doing something that you're not seeing the benefit. Well, if I just told everybody, “Hey, if you're doing this, you need 225 pounds.” Well, in that case, it's still true, but it doesn't provide the nuance to be meaningful for that grower. 

So we want to have these conversations and understand where can we come alongside them and find that first dollar that's going to do the most good for them.


Dusty Weis

Well, I think you've definitely made clear here Ron that there's just a bounty of expertise that growers can tap into when they talk to their Nutrien Ag Solutions Crop Consultant, or when they go direct to you and learn from you as well. 

Is there anything else that you wanted to hit on or plug? How can a grower find out more about the Loveland Products offerings?


Ron Calhoun

Well, you know, one of the things that I just wanted to talk about a little bit was our bio catalyst technology. I had mentioned earlier the difficulty of my daughter having a successful lemonade stand in New York, and I didn't want to leave it as a dim situation here, right? 

So the other part of that is, well, what if I were to come through and Sally and I rent a helicopter and we start throwing handfuls of cash out as we fly over Manhattan, we're probably going to have an effect on the economy.

So, you know, after some 30 years of trying to do some of these biological products and fighting some of the difficulties to get that to translate over a broad scale of situations, what we found is that the way that these microbial communities work is by the chemistry that they exude. Right? And so for the most part, they exude chemistry out the front or exude chemistry out the back.

And that's what actually is causing the effect in our rhizosphere. And so in our bio catalyst products, we're actually creating a reactor under ideal conditions and allowing that biochemistry to be generated by that community ahead of time. 

We're capturing that biochemistry and then we put that into our products. So if I think about when do I have that response, you know, Sally, you've probably seen after a thunderstorm where all of a sudden everything just looks greener, right?

Maybe got some free nitrogen from the lightning. Well, we also got it's a time of warm soil temperatures. The soil microbial community is going crazy and all of a sudden, you're getting mineralization whether you wanted it at that time or not. And that's going to be usually sort of in the middle of our season. 

So, we have these shoulder seasons where the potential of that soil is there, but the environmental conditions are such that we're just not going to get full function from those soil microbial communities.  

So what if we could come along in that spring shoulder season, in that fall shoulder season and supplement those sorts of chemistries so that we could compel for a period of time that soil to respond in a way that we would want it to respond in another time? 

Well with our bio catalyst products were collecting all that biochemistry ahead of time, and then we come out with a product like Accomplish Max, where we put that with our in-furrow application and we can mineralize some of that nutrition that is on your soil test that we have such a hard time getting it off the soil test and into the plant.

That becomes really cool. Well, I want to match what Sally's application methods are, well, we have a version of that bio catalyst technology that is concentrated that we can put on our P and K. We have a version of that bio catalyst that we can put onto our urea.

We have a version that goes in that we can put with a liquid with our UAN. And so we're trying to allow you to access the benefits of that technology and not have to come over to our way of putting it out, but that we can match the application or the mechanical practices or the cultural practices that you're already doing.


Dusty Weis

Where do we find out more about the products that are in Loveland Products offerings catalog?


Ron Calhoun

You know, I think I would tell you to get with your Nutrien Ag Solutions Crop Consultant, and they're going to be thrilled to be able to talk to you about some of these things. If you want to do a little bit of work on your own, you can go to LovelandProducts.com and you could start reading through some of the information there.

There's some videos, there’s some testimonials, other things that you could see. But to me, nothing beats sitting down with somebody over breakfast and actually telling you “These are my pain points. And if there was a place that you could help me, these are the things.” 

So that's the conversation I would want to have. Like I said, those are the sorts of things that make the hair on my arm stand up, is when I can dig in and address the thing that's going to be most meaningful for you.


Dusty Weis

Well Ron Calhoun, thank you so much. We appreciate you sharing your insights and giving us a look under the hood of everything that's going on with plant nutrition. And thank you for joining us on this episode of the FARMSMART Podcast.


Ron Calhoun

My pleasure. It was fun having that conversation with you guys.


Dusty Weis

That is going to conclude this episode of the FARMSMART Podcast. New episodes arrive every month, so make sure you subscribe to the FARMSMART Podcast in your favorite app and visit NutrienAgSolutions.com/FARMSMART to learn more.

The FARMSMART Podcast is brought to you by Nutrien Ag Solutions. Our executive producer is Connor Erwin and the show is edited by Matt Covarrubias.

The FARMSMART Podcast is produced by Podcamp Media, branded podcast production for businesses PodcampMedia.com. 

I'm Dusty Weis, for Nutrien Ag Solutions, thanks for listening.  


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