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Investigating potential benefits of soil additives

When white bean growers started asking questions about the efficacy of charcoal soil additives, the Ontario Bean Producers launched a research project to put these products to the test. After two growing seasons, the results remain inconclusive, which the association says is good for growers to know.

“This project was an opportunity for us to evaluate these products locally to see if they offer any production advantages,” says Tino Breuer, General Manager of the Ontario Bean Producers. “Our support of this research meant that individual growers weren’t faced with having to do their own individual field trials, which is a definite benefit to the industry.”

With the help of a FIP grant and some willing farmer participants, researcher Chris Gillard of the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus conducted field trials in 2010 and 2011. Ten tests were conducted using two different products: one applied in the seed furrow as the beans are being planted, the other sprayed on the soil after planting. “We showed no significant differences in yield using either product,” says Gillard. “We do show trends towards a yield increase, but at this point, they’re not high enough for us to come to a definitive conclusion on the product benefits.”

A similar number of sites were tested in 2011 but those results have not yet been summarized, something Gillard hopes to complete in 2012. Although the jury is still out on whether these products will ultimately provide benefit to growers, Breuer says the actual project itself has already yielded savings to the industry.

“By conducting these field trials through a FIP project, we spent $30,000 as a sector on the research instead of each grower having to spend that kind of money on their own,” he says. “Now we can share the research results with all growers to help them in their on-farm decision-making.”

Final research results will be available on the Ontario Bean website, through Gillard’s annual research report published on the University of Guelph website, and presentations at conferences and grower meetings like Southwest Ag Conference. Gillard also intends to publish his findings in an academic journal, which will make them available globally.  “FIP is a terrific program because it allows us to address emerging issues quickly and through targeted, on-farm research that provides results relatively quickly,” says Breuer.