Kyle Merritt, farmer Tom Gregson, Jesus Juarez and Simon Peters discuss the trifixN canola and wheat trials at Watchem.

Local biologicals research leads the way

The future of farming came to Warracknabeal last month with a high-level visit from international and Australian guests to see first-hand some of the work being done locally on agricultural biologicals.

The tour, which included local farmers, agronomists, scientists and business leaders, was hosted by thinkbio, an Australian company specialising in the development of new generation biologicals.

“Agricultural biological products utilise microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria, which are applied to help improve crop performance,” thinkbio managing director Lisa Anderson said. ”

A far cry from what war once considered snake oil, our biological range is at the cutting edge of scientifically rigorous research and development in the sector.”

Ms Anderson said that in the past, the development of these kinds of products often lacked the trial rigour and quality controls to provide confidence in product efficacy. “But the three bacteria strains in trifixN were carefully and specifically selected for their characteristics and ability to positively impact crop performance,” she said.

Developed over a six-year period, thinkbio continues to invest heavily in research and development and has been trialling its flagship product, trifixN, this season in canola and wheat on farms throughout Victoria and NSW.

“For years we have been conducting significant in-field research, and we work with organisations like Birchip Cropping Group who are running independent replicated field trials, so that we can back up our claims,” Ms Anderson said.

“If we want farmers to adopt solutions like these, we need to show them that trifixN is a credible product backed by scientific data. Growers need to be able to use trifixN with the same level of confidence and knowledge as other crop inputs.”

Visiting with the group was Jesus Juarez, CEO of Spanish agribiologicals company Symborg, a newly established partner of thinkbio. In the past six months, Symborg has been working with thinkbio to further advance the trifixN technology, including the development of in-crop testing methods that allow growers and agronomists to confirm that the trifixN bacteria are present and active in the plant after a foliar application.

Simon and Emma Peters farm at Watchem and have one of the trifixN field trials on 140 hectares of their property. Mr Peters believes growers should consider biologicals as a standard part of their crop inputs.

“We need to have a fresh look at the new generation of biologicals like trifixN so that we work with all the potential tools being made available to growers,” he said.

“Just like conventional tissue testing, I can send samples to the thinkbio lab and get a report showing the presence end activity of the bacteria after its ‘een applied to my crop. The proof viii be in how we go at harvest, but he ability to test like this gives me confidence in the effectiveness of he product.”

Kyle Merritt, Longerenong College head John Goldsmith, Emma Peters, David Jochinke, ]ameron Taylor, Lisa Anderson and Jesus Juarez.

Although trifixN is certified organic, he company says it has a much vider role to play in conventional agriculture.

With the perpetual use of fertilisers Ind chemicals, the natural microbiology of soil changes,” thinkbio technical director Kyle Merritt said. “TrifixN is a specific combination of naturally occurring bacteria applied to the crop to enhance plant functionality to help optimise the efficiency of key inputs to stimulate the growth of the plant.

“One of the mechanisms of the bacteria is that it increases the activity of the nitrate reductase enzyme, therefore enhancing the efficiency of chemically applied fertiliser. This is why we recommend growers use trifixN together with their current nutrition program.”

Cameron Taylor from Birchip Cropping Group is overseeing the trifixN replicated canola trial. “By taking a scientifically led approach to commercialisation, it will help agronomists and growers understand how, where and when to use the product to get the most impact.” he said.

Mr Merritt explained why the product has a good fit in Australian broadacre cropping systems.

“The trifixN microbes are applied at the four-leaf stage,” he said. “There isn’t a nitrogen flush like with a chemical fertiliser, but the bacteria deliver nitrogen to the crop at a steady rate until the end of the season. In a dry year, this acts as an insurance.”

VFF president David Jochinke said the sophistication of the science used in the development and ongoing research of biologicals is the key to grower adoption. “It is encouraging to see innovation backed by extensive R&D between a small Australian ag tech company and an international leader in this space,” he said.

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