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How the Rhizophagy Cycle Could Boost No-Till Profits

Simply put, complex microbial processes in the soil do a more efficient, effective job providing nutrients to plants and can help no-tillers reduce inputs, says John Kempf.


Pictured Above: ROOT DOWN. Advancing Eco Agriculture founder John Kempf believes uncultivated plants are absorbing a majority of their nutrient requirement via the rhizophagy cycle. He says it’s also possible for cultivated plants, when managed properly, to do the same thing.

Nitrogen management is one of the most important tasks no-tillers face each growing season, due to both the expense and the nutrient’s importance to plant growth. 

No-tillers and strip-tillers in particular have devoted more attention to improving nitrogen (N) efficiency by tissue testing, splitting applications, creating in-field test strips to measure optimal rates, and even changing up the form of N applied to balance economics and yield response.

But in recent years, a previously little-reported process involving soil biology is providing farmers with the knowledge to produce cash crops with a reduced N rate with little or no yield loss. 

This process — which emerged mostly through the research work of James White, plant biologist and pathologist at Rutgers University — is called the rhizophagy cycle. The founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture, John Kempf, says this cycle is a complete revolution in the industry’s understanding of agronomy and plant nutrition. 

NO-TILL TAKEAWAYS

  • Re-establish microbial populations with seed treatments and inoculants.
  • Give careful consideration to the amount and salt index of your fertilizers.
  • Take a look at products like compost teas and vermicompost to build soil life.
  • Consider plant-sap analysis as a way to manage inputs efficiently.

What’s in a Name? 

So what exactly is the rhizophagy cycle? According to…

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John dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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