Microalgae Helps Plants Yield Macro Results

While every crop has its unique needs – daylength, dormancy period, light requirement, fertility needs, you name it, sometimes a plant is just a plant. Petunias, soybeans, apples and spinach don’t seem like they have a lot in common, but they actually do. They all need soil with good drainage, good moisture and nutrient retention, and the microbes that make these possible. All plants have roots, and all plants need their roots to be healthy and to be able to grow and absorb nutrients from the soil, whether golf course turf or a thousand-year-old California redwood. The differences are vast, but a plant is a plant is a plant.

Knowing this, the unifying concept is soil. Pardon the pun, but soil is the root of it all, at the end of the day. In recent years, with elimination of chemicals such as methyl bromide, overall soil health has been recognized as being essential to overall plant health. Growers – of every type of crop – know that yields depend on healthy plants that result from healthy soil. Healthy plants not only grow faster and produce more, they also resist stressors such as drought, pests and diseases better. Lower input costs + increased yield = more profits.

To dive even deeper – soil structure influences moisture retention and drainage. Some growers are naturally blessed with excellent soil conditions, but most are not. Too much sand means frequent watering, and too much clay can mean poor drainage. Rocky soils have low fertility and nutrients are easily leached out. Improving the soil’s aggregation (binding together of soil particles) and nutrient-holding capacity is key to increasing its quality.

PhycoTerra® Organic Increased New Root Growth In Monterey Variety Strawberries Crown

Untreated Control
PhycoTerra® Organic 5% Root Dip

A Multivitamin for the Soil

Not all microalgae or microalgae products are created alike. Doug Ranno, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, says whole-cell microalgae, as opposed to extracts can be like a multivitamin for the soil.

“If you look at a whole cell, there’s lipids, carbohydrates, proteins and amino acids,” Ranno says. “You get a whole package of beneficials. Because it’s whole cell, they provide many different benefits.”

PhycoTerra® is a whole-cell, pasteurized microalgae product that comes from carefully selected seed or strain varieties. By increasing the microbial population in the soil, it increases aggregation and the water-holding capacity, creating optimum growing conditions for any crop, from strawberries, to corn, to lettuce. For plants that yield fruit, it helps make it sweeter with higher brix during the same crop time.

“At the end of the day, we help crops yield better and resist stressors better by improving soil,” says Ranno. “PhycoTerra® helps create a natural resilience to typical industry stressors.”

Four years of trial data bears this out, Ranno says.

“We did a test with peppers where we cut the irrigation in half to show we can still get the same or almost the same yield despite less water. We also did it in salty conditions, using 60 ml of salt to see if the PhycoTerra®-applied plants handled it better, which they did, by far.”

Ideal Irrigation

> 50% Reduction in Soil Water Content
UTC (Left) PhycoTerra® 0.6 mL/pl (Right)

The Proof is in the Yield

Research on strawberries in California showed biweekly applications of PhycoTerra® resulted in a 13 to 18% increase in Brix over untreated controls. A trial of Rainier cherries in Washington provided similar results. Cherries that received biweekly applications of PhycoTerra® reached the required Brix of 17 five days earlier than controls, allowing earlier harvest.

Greater yield and a quicker harvest are a common feature across multiple crops, proven by trial data. For example, in a trial for a grower of red romaine lettuce, one application of PhycoTerra® just after seeding yielded 23% more per acre. After calculating the cost of inputs and the average revenue of the crop, the ROI for this particular grower was an increase of $2,197 per acre. In another trial on organic spinach, the crop treated with PhycoTerra® produced 45% more biomass than the plants grown with the grower’s usual program of fish and humic acid.

“We’ve had greenhouse growers use it on their ornamental crops to increase cycle time and reduce transplant loss, as well,” Ranno says.

A 2017 trial in Guadalupe, CA on strawberries showed a significant yield advantage over the grower’s standard practice.

Easy Application, Tank Mix Compatibility Please Growers

PhycoTerra® is applied as a liquid in a drench, spray or in drip irrigation. The timing and type of application varies according to the crop.

“For some seeded crops, we try to get as close to seeding as possible,” Ranno says. “For flowering crops or tree crops, it’s a different strategy for each one. You might want to apply it right before bloom if you want bigger fruit or put it on at the end of harvest to prepare the tree next year. The timing of application is different for every crop, and the usage rate is as little as a quart per acre or up to a three gallons per acre.”

Ranno says many growers tell him they like PhycoTerra®’s tank-mix compatibility and will often have it in a tank with other products such as fertilizers or other biologicals.

“Our products seem to make those products better by feeding the biological population and helping roots absorb nutrients,” he says.

PhycoTerra® is available as conventional or organically-certified (OMRI listed) in 2.5-gallon jugs or 250-gallon totes.