As the global population continues to skyrocket, the fear of diminishing food security is ever more present. Will there be enough arable land to grow food crops for the rapidly rising population? The answer relies on the health of our soil, because without healthy soil, growing crops is out of the question. Industrial agriculture has diminished soil health with the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In order to feed the growing population we must find new ways of producing large quantities of food for local consumers while also retaining the health of soil and ecosystems for the use of future generations.
In Las Cruces, New Mexico a pecan farmer by the name of Michael Salopek is doing just that. Mr. Salopek and his three brothers own a combination of pecan orchards and a fertilizer business called Western Blend Incorporated. The pecan orchards have been in the family for decades now, and in the 1990s the brothers collaborated to start up a fertilizer business. Although the brothers equally own the company, Mr. Salopek himself has created an innovative new fertilizer that can be used for conventional, organic or sustainable agriculture. I was lucky enough to shadow him and gain a better understanding of his product.
Mr. Salopek holds a license to brew EM-1 Microorganisms, which are microbial inoculants. In short, EM-1 produces high levels of polysaccharides, micronutrients, beneficial enzymes and organic acids that help build stable healthy soil. For a better understanding of all EM products click here.
Mr. Salopek combines EM-1, molasses and water into a brewing process in which his product Ag1000 is made. The brewing process is temperature controlled and the water is treated to decrease the chance of any contaminants forming in the fertilizer. Molasses is used in the brewing process to feed the EM-1 bacteria and initiate fermentation. After the brewing process, Ag1000 ferments in a holding tank. Fermentation allows the bacteria to breed and become active particles that can increase plant production and soil nutrient growth.
Most commonly, Ag1000 is run through drip irrigation lines during normal watering cycles, but can also be sprayed onto plants through a simple foliar program. This product can be bought in a variety of quantities ranging from one gallon to an entire holding tank of two hundred and fifty gallons. It is recommended that one hundred gallons are used annually on a one-acre field of crops.
Mr. Salopek reassured me that using less than the recommended amount will not hinder production, but just may not provide the most desirable results. He also explained that his product does not act like typical fertilizers that require greater amounts to keep up with demand. The application of Ag1000 can be terminated without any detrimental effects to crop yields or soil fertility. Crop yields and soil nutrients will continue to increase in years subsequent to the use of this product as well.
Western Blend distributes Ag1000 to a variety of farms in southern New Mexico, one of them being Penn Farms in Deming, New Mexico. Penn Farms has seen a drastic increase in crop yields of green chile. The images below – taken by Karajane Salopek, the daughter of Mr. Salopek – show the difference between plants that use and do not use Ag1000. The plants that use Ag1000 produced triple amounts of chile yields .
In principle, small local farmers around New Mexico should be able to use this product on their fields. It is fairly priced and after the initial investment is made, most farmers will see such a dramatic increase in production that the investment will essentially pay itself off with higher crop yields. Although small local farmers could potentially afford this product, whether or not the demand around Albuquerque or northern New Mexico is great enough is still up for debate. Considering Western Blend is located in the most southern city in New Mexico, delivering product to northern farms may be difficult, expensive, and inefficient.
Mr. Salopek is more than eager and willing to distribute his product on a small scale, but in all reality driving three hundred miles to deliver a miniscule amount of product is neither economically nor environmentally efficient. If demand were to rise, distributors in central and northern New Mexico could be established, but as of right now Western Blend will serve as a source of sustainable fertilizer to southern New Mexico.
Lastly, although Ag1000 can be used as a fertilizing agent, EM-1 Microorganisms have a variety of other uses that range from composting, small gardening, human consumption, aquaponic treatment, and even eco-friendly cleaning products. Western Blend is experimenting with Ag1000 and a composting product called bokashi composting. In short, bokashi is a high-speed composting method that decomposes matter through an anaerobic process also known as fermentation. Mr. Salopek has been spraying Ag1000 on cow manure to simulate this method of composting. After a month of turning and spraying the manure, it is officially composted and can be used on agricultural land to vastly improve soil conditions. The bokashi is still in experimental stages and is not being distributed, but it is just another great example of how versatile this product can be. EM-1 Microorganisms can be used for a variety of applications, and Michael Salopek has taken great advantage of this sustainable product that he says “has changed his life and will change the world.”
Posted by Garrett