24 run drill

Why would I use a foliar at this point in the season?

We were asked by a grower this week, “Why would I use a foliar at this point in the season?”

When plants are trying to turn flowers into fruit, fertility availability is essential.  OMRI Listed Purple Cow CX-1 (liquid biological) enhances this fertility as plants can take nutrient thru their leaves up to 10x faster than thru their roots.  This extra nutrient push minimizes the number of flowers “aborted” by the plant and can help set pods, add kernels, and set the stage for filling/ripening the grain.

The ultimate goal, of course, is quality and yield.

If you see leaves turning colors other than green, this can be the plant trying to get nutrients they are not getting from the soil.  Translocating these nutrients from the leaves can leave a plant susceptible to pests and diseases.  Especially in cool wet years like we’ve had in many parts of the upper midwest, the plant’s roots are not able to explore the saturated soil, stranding those valuable nutrients and leaving your crop lacking. Foliar applications of a liquid biological like Purple Cow CX-1 can help with nutrient availability in times of excessive moisture.

Overall plant health is critical for the plants ability to fend off disease and pest pressures; we knew this decades ago before we began a reactive mono-management approach to plant health:

Insect and disease are the symptoms of a failing crop, not the cause of it.  It’s not the overpowering invader we must fear but the weakened condition of the victim.

-William Albrecht

Insect and disease pressure can be caused by:

  • a nutrient excess or deficiency
  • lack of biological diversity
  • a monoculture system that provides too great a host population.

Biologicals can work proactively in several different modes of action including:

  • Competitive Exclusion
  • The Production of Natural Antibiotics
  • Systemic Acquired Resistance
  • Induced Systemic Resistance

While Purple Cow CX-1 is not a registered fungicide or pesticide, in can contribute to systemic plant health and protection in a number of ways:

Competitive Exclusion

One organism creates an environment that is unwelcoming for another, effectively excluding the second organism from becoming established without directly killing it. An example of this would be the creation of film on a root surface. To prevent pathogens from infecting the plant.

Production of natural antibiotics

The production of secondary metabolites occurs more readily when there exists balanced minerals and diverse and robust biology


Some microbes (gram-positive bacteria) consume pathogens (like botrytis and anthracnose) as a food source. This is especially important in the fall as biological digestion of cellulose can clean the environment that can harbor pests and diseases


The Relationship Between Nutrient Levels in Soil and Weed Growth

Much has been said and little studied on the relationship between nutrient levels in soil and weed growth/suppression.

A long time organic grower and agronomist (and friend) shared his experiences with calcium levels and the reduction of weed growth after planting.

  • One thing that is necessary is good functioning, highly biological soil.
  • The second necessity is highly available calcium.

2017 barley high calcium weed suppresion trial skip

The barley in these photos shows the crop 30 days after planting.

The barley was planted with equipment outfitted to apply a liquid biological (Purple Cow CX-1) right in furrow on the 24 run drill (see picture of planter: the CX-1 goes down on each row/run planted right in the double disc openers) at a rate of 5 gallons per acre.  The day after planting a highly soluble calcium product was spread at 500lbs per acre over the field and left on the open surface.

24 run drill

Purple Cow FortiCal could be an option pre-planting, but in this instance, to be more “tender footed” in application, a finer/drier product that would go through a fertilizer cart was used (vs needing a spreader truck or larger heaver equipment) because it was applied on the planted (not yet emerged) crop.

~James (Sandy) Syburg, Soilologist

As you can see even the area in the field that was skipped by the drill (where the bare soil is exposed), there is almost no weed pressure even 30 days after planting!


60 Days after planting

2017 barley high calcium weed suppresion trial skip60DAYS

The barley looks pretty good for how wet it has been. Probably still a few weeks until harvest but weed pressure is almost nonexistent. I took a picture of skip and still very little weeds even with all the rain. My guess is very little of the soluble calcium is still around but I say it did its job.

~James (Sandy) Syburg, Soilologist

Why does soil biology matter?

The take away is to insure you have biologically active soils by using a liquid biological at planting – at the genesis of plant growth and germination.  Also, balance soil minerals to make sure to have nutrients available to both soil microbiology and the plant.

Mineral form application

Nutrients in an organic form that require liberation via the soil microbial community – meaning in mineral form – are best.  But in planting situations when soils biological activity is low the soluble calcium is what is believed to suppress the weed seed germination.  In this instance I would have to say it worked.  Not all the calcium in the product that was applied is soluble, so the biology is now taking over the job of releasing it due to the soils being warmer and activity returning.

~James (Sandy) Syburg, Soilologist

The Early Bird Gets the Worm

My take on a wet spring… 

Article by James (Sandy) Syburg President of Purple Cow Organics

Farming and the calendar

In organic/biological farming we rely heavily on soil health and function.  Therefore temperature is a key to determining if conditions are suitable for seedbed preparation and ultimately planting.  The first reason is simple plant physiology.  All seed and plant varieties require a minimum temperature to germinate or break dormancy. 

Many of the “old timers” planted when the forsythia bloomed or when the oak leaf was the size of a squirrels ear. 

It’s often hard to resist planting by the calendar.  These old methods used a gauge that took many factors into account and while often occurring very close to the same time each year the plants new best when conditions were right.  Soil temperature can only tell us one aspect of the soils readiness to be planted in.  The other more difficult indicator is biological activity. As soil warms life return.  As bacteria awaken they produce metabolic heat adding to the warming process of the lengthening hours of sunlight.  Planting into cold soils reduces germination and in some instances requires re-planting. 

One farmer friend of mine shared a story recently about a neighbor making the front page of the local paper for being the “first in the field”.  Fortunately they did not come out and take his picture when he had to re-plant. 

Another friend shared the old line:

“If you’re gonna plant twice you need to start early”.

Get your plants off to a good start with more focus on soil.

It’s always a fine line when making the decision to go to the field.  In a wet spring and can become even more troubling.  Often the window to prepare and plant begins to close and you are in the field at less than optimal conditions.  One way to help at planting is with an in-furrow biological support application.  A liquid biological like Purple Cow CX-1 along with biostimulants in the form of sugars, proteins and amino acids found in molasses and fish based products helps get the soil right at the germinating seed in better shape to support the early stages of plant growth.  This works well in any planting condition but when the conditions aren’t the best it’s best to make sure to do what you can to overcome natures obstacles.  And while I have been talking mainly about germination and early seedling vigor let’s not forget the soil.  You may have worked the seedbed just a bit wet or cool.  Giving the soil that jump start will return dividends at planting as well as later in the season.

We all want that strong start to the season.  Sometimes the strongest start given the conditions we are dealt is best.

Purple Cow Organics 100% organic products always work to maximize the potential of your farm. Contact us to learn more.


CX-1 testing has shown earlier emergence due to added energy and biological row support in corn.  In soybeans root nodulation almost doubled by V2 (3 weeks).


Organic farming hay

Foliar Application Benefits of Liquid Biologicals

Foliar applying a quality liquid biological during the growing season can have numerous beneficial impacts, including:

  1. Plants can take up nutrients through the leaves (particularly through young leaves). Plants can absorb foliar sprays 8-20 times faster than soil-applied nutrients. Having beneficial microbes on leaf surfaces can help cycle nutrients like Nitrogen.
  2. Beneficial soil microbes help cycle nutrients for the plant so plants can produce secondary metabolites (sugars and amino acids) which help the plant grow stronger and more resilient.
  3. Beneficial bacteria are known to attack gram-negative fungi which helps protect the plant from harmful fungi.

foliar application

The Association of American Plant Food Control Officials (AAPFCO) includes in its list of benefits that quality compost that it:

  1. Aids in the proliferation of soil microbes,
  2. Supplies beneficial microorganisms to soils and growing media,
  3. Allows plants to more effectively utilize nutrients.

Purple Cow Organics makes some of the most consistently made and tested compost in the Midwest. Purple Cow Organics uses a patented and field-tested extraction process to get beneficial microorganisms, humic matter, and nutrients from the compost into a stable liquid solution that has a shelf life of over 6 months. This OMRI Listed liquid biological product is referred to as Purple Cow CX-1.

Gram positive bacteria consume fungal intruders like botrytis and anthracnose as a food source. This could explain why greenhouse growers who use liquid biologicals (like CX-1) often witness a reduction in botrytis; bean and row crop growers who use a “foliar” can have clean fields, even when white mold is breaking out all around them; and diversified vegetable growers can see disease pressures reduced in their operations, even when conditions are wet and humid.

If you’re already using a liquid, like fish or molasses or even some microbe-friendly fungicides, Purple Cow CX-1 has been known to be a great tank partner that can replace water if/when diluting.

Consider the following:

As the season progresses

As we move on from planting to the growing season, the biological touchpoints move from the “root zone” – where nitrogen fixing bacteria enhance root nodulation, where plants use biology to produce secondary metabolites associated with root zone protection, and where a wide range of other fertility enhancing qualities are derived “in-furrow” – to the expanded opportunities associated with beneficial microbes that can survive on plants’ leaf surfaces. These are referred to as “foliar applications”. Make no mistake, fertility enhancement is still a priority when one makes a foliar application. In fact, plants can take in fertility thru their stomata (openings in their leaf surfaces). Plants absorb foliar sprays 8 -20 times faster than soil-applied nutrients through their roots. So, fertility uptake and efficiency is still a key factor in foliar applications, but there is more…

Protection or Production

While plants have an incredible amount of energy, it is a finite amount. Plants must choose to use that energy for protection or production. Cell production to ward off pests or to fend off diseases are ways plants divert energy they could otherwise use to set fruit or enhance yields. Foliar applications can promote plant health and increase yields. Robust and diverse biology is key. Many beneficial bacteria that can survive on the leaf surfaces are “gram positive”.

Advanced testing on Purple Cow CX-1 revealed a superior, diverse, and robust microbial community. While other liquid biologicals on the market boast 8, 12, 16, or 65 microbial species, having a liquid biological that is bacterially/fungally balanced from dozens of genera (pl. genus) can mimic mother nature. Full of gram positive bacteria that feed off/consume botrytis and other fungus that can cause greenhouse and/or outdoor crop diseases, CX-1 is not registered as a fungicide. It is, however, a useful input to make your other fertility inputs more efficient and help your plants be healthier and more productive.

Purple Cow Organics CX-1 – Maximize Crop Residue (Stover)

Harvest and the joys (and pressure) it brings are right around the corner. Harvest marks an end in some ways; all the planning, tending and worries are over.

Time to reap.

If we look to nature, time never stops. It marches on, and is always looking to the next action. In nature, the next action is to be ready for the opportunity to capture energy and utilize it in a million different ways.

For the farmer, this has been poetically referred to as “setting the table.” How you tend to your field this fall will directly impact next year’s crop. Right now, regardless of the health of your soil, the peak of the season (what you and I see) is also the peak of biological activity in your soil.

The plant-soil relationship favors bacteria during the growing season to cycle nutrients (mostly Nitrogen) to your plants. You push your systems to maximize yields and the resulting crop harvested.

Crop residue is oftentimes hard to digest because the soil requires high populations of fungi to do this job. Now is the time to push your system to maximize the crop you don’t see.

We call this the “Life in the Soil.”

Nutrient sequestration and availability for your next crop begins at the harvest of this year’s crop. High amounts of nutrients are tied up in crop residue. Cycling these nutrients to your soil and next crop helps ensures that they will not be lost or unavailable.

However, this requires a whole set of different organisms than the ones you have been promoting since planting. That’s where we can help.

Purple Cow CX-1 residue program uses dozens of different beneficial fungi that immediately begin to digest crop residue, to help your soil be in prime condition to physically manage next year.

More importantly, this helps get the nutrients they contain back to the soil and in the best position to be available for future crops.

Contact us here for more information on how CX-1 can benefit you or download the full PDF file describing CX-1 and its benefits.