By Darren Hefty

Why do some fields just do better than others? How come in some fields you see lots of residue from the previous crops and others you don’t find hardly any? Why does drought impact certain areas of fields or of your farm in general and others can hang on another week or two with no rain? There are quite a few things going on in your soils. Many of the answers to the questions above are impacted by the microbial life below.

Modern science has been amazing on so many fronts. When it comes to agriculture, you hear about biological products and what a difference they can potentially make. While I don’t personally believe there are many WOW things to come that change your crop yield by 100% every year, there are some really exciting “natural” products being developed that can make some important contributions for you and provide a nice return on investment without the need to utilize hard chemistry or to do extra tillage or work. I’ll give 3 examples or what we’re working with our neighbors on and using on our own farm.


  • I was walking one of our soybean fields mid-season this year. The beans were waist high and I was holding open the crop canopy to look at how the beans were podding up, standability, plant structure, etc. I got to the middle of the field and the ground was just white with fungal colonies breaking down last year’s corn stalks. That was one of our D-Comp check strips. It was an incredible difference compared to the next row over that had no treatment.
  • D-Comp can also be used to speed up the composting of manure. Rather than it being a two year process, in one season the manure can become compost, greatly reducing odor, improving nutrient availability and adding to your choices of how to transport and use this fantastic fertilizer.


  • Microbial populations can also make a significant impact on heat and stress tolerance within plants. Researchers have found a fungus that when delivered to the soil on or near the seed can actually grow within the roots and stem of the plant and provide protection from heat, cold, and other stresses like salt.


  • If you’ve tried this product, you’ve probably already got your own Nutri-Cycle stories to tell. This has been the best “natural” product we’ve tested and used across a multitude of environments. It’s a combination of 24 strains of microbes. We and our research team have observed enhanced nutrient cycling and uptake as well as increased vigor and tolerance to a variety of stresses.

I could list several more products comprised of various soil microbes found to be beneficial to your crops, but I hope I’ve made my point. There are a growing number of these “natural” products coming to market each year as tens of millions of research dollars are pouring into this field. Try one or more of this type of product on your farm and evaluate its performance throughout the season by:

  1. Doing emergence and vigor observations
  2. Root digs
  3. Plant tissue analysis of nutrient uptake
  4. Walk your fields all throughout the season
  5. Yield trials