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Healthy Soils, Healthy Livestock, Healthy People

Healthy Soils, Healthy Livestock, Healthy People

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Published by Steve B. Salonga
Renewable Farming Systems Mean Enhanced Nutrient Cycling. Dean Craine.
Dean Craine was raised on a livestock farm in Bureau County, Illinois, and graduated from Black Hawk East College, Kewanee, Illinois, in 1982 with an associate’s degree in agriculture production. He initially started working with Dave Larson, the founder of AgriEnergy Resources, on renewable farming principles in 1982 on his family farm with his father and brother. A Certified C
Renewable Farming Systems Mean Enhanced Nutrient Cycling. Dean Craine.
Dean Craine was raised on a livestock farm in Bureau County, Illinois, and graduated from Black Hawk East College, Kewanee, Illinois, in 1982 with an associate’s degree in agriculture production. He initially started working with Dave Larson, the founder of AgriEnergy Resources, on renewable farming principles in 1982 on his family farm with his father and brother. A Certified C

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Published by: Steve B. Salonga on Jul 06, 2011
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01/15/2014

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ACRES U.S.A.
You are following in thefootsteps of Dave Larson, who started thecompany AgriEnergy in 1988. He had avision and a mission. Are you still on tar-get with that?
CRAINE.
Yes. More so all the time.We’re closer to fulfilling the company’smission statement today than we’ve everbeen.
ACRES U.S.A.
What is that missionstatement?
CRAINE.
Dave put it together manyyears ago. It says, “Our mission is todevelop renewable farming systems andto assist producers in their implementa-tion by providing products and education.The result will be healthy soils that pro-duce plants of high nutrient density andgood nutrient balance. The consumptionof this produce will result in healthy live-stock and healthy people.”
ACRES U.S.A.
That’s a wonderful state-ment.
CRAINE.
We’re really proud of it.
ACRES U.S.A.
Education, then, is a bigcomponent of what AgriEnergy is allabout?
CRAINE.
Absolutely. We run two semi-nars a year — one in August and one inFebruary. We travel around the countrywithin our customer base and also put onmany field days. We also put out newslet-ters that are educational. We try to get outat least four of those per year.
ACRES U.S.A.
That’s to your customerbase?
CRAINE.
Our customer base plus any-body who’s interested. The mailing list ishuge, overwhelming. Anybody who’sinterested gets the newsletters for free andare notified of all the seminars and fielddays so that they can attend if they wish.
ACRES U.S.A.
Facility-wise, are youdoing your own laboratory work?
CRAINE.
We have a soil lab and amicrobiology lab. The soil lab does theReams or LaMotte soil test. We do ammo-nium acetate tests to get the Albrechtmodel. We also do water-soluble testingfor troubleshooting.
ACRES U.S.A.
That’s where the connec-tion comes in with K. Chandler?
CRAINE.
He’s interested in the testbecause we’re putting so many differentextracts into it in order to look at a bigpicture. Chandler is extremely interestedin the tissue-testing end of it, and we arecooperating with him on that.
ACRES U.S.A.
Do you do petiole test-ing?
CRAINE.
Yes. Under his guidance we’vedone more petiole testing along with theleaf-tissue testing.
Reprinted from
December 2005  Vol. 35, No. 12
Healthy Soils, HealthyLivestock, Healthy People
Renewable Farming Systems Mean Enhanced Nutrient Cycling 
 Dean Craine was raised on a livestock farm in Bureau County, Illinois, and grad-uated from Black Hawk East College, Kewanee, Illinois, in 1982 with an associate’sdegree in agriculture production. He initially started working with Dave Larson, the founder of AgriEnergy Resources, on renewable farming principles in 1982 on his family farm with his father and brother. ACertified Crop Advisor, Craine works in theagronomy department of AgriEnergy Resources, planning fertility programs and rec-ommending products to naturally enhance nutrient cycling. He also continues his farming operation in Bureau County, where much of the acreage is used for research and development of AgriEnergy Resources products. Since the fall of 2001, Dean has been the general manager of AgriEnergy Resources.
 Dean Craine
“We go to the biologyin the soil first, but inorder to get the biologyright you must have thechemical balance atleast close to correct.”
 
ACRES U.S.A.
We’re emerging fromthat chemical/physical paradigm in whicheverybody felt that if you had the inorgan-ic chemistry correct you would succeed,or that you could take dynamite and blastthe soil apart again after it gets rock hard.Your message has been that without min-istering to the unpaid livestock in the soil,you’re going nowhere.
CRAINE.
Yes, we go to the biology in thesoil first, but in order to get the biologyright you must have the chemical balanceat least close to correct. The further youdrift away from the conventional line of thinking, the more alive the soil generallyis — and that’s when you see really excit-ing things happen, one example beinggrazing dairies that have decided to goorganic. We’ve got some examples of cus-tomers that struggled, even using com-mercial fertilizers, to get the crops tothrive and the cows to do well. Several of those have moved to organic and haveactually seen production increase as aresult. When you get the soil really right,the natural system kicks in and nitrogen’snot a big problem — it still takes manage-ment, but it
is
manageable — and you canreally see exciting things start to happen.That’s been one of the most fulfillingthings we’ve ever worked on.
ACRES U.S.A.
This is cows on grass?
CRAINE.
Yes. We work with a lot of grazing dairies.
ACRES U.S.A.
Let’s say that a farmerwho’s been following Extension and theUSDAfor the last 20 or 30 years comes toyou and says, “We’re going in the wrongdirection, we’ve got to straighten out.”Where do you start?
CRAINE.
With a soil test. That’s not anuncommon statement at all. We like to seea soil test first, then we like to get on theirfarm and get the spade in and dig andobserve and see where that farmer is at.Oftentimes we’ll also do microbiologicaltesting in order to see which organisms aredominant in the soil that day and try toshow the farmer a progression over a peri-od of years. If he has a specific problem, if he’s got some disasters, then we woulddefinitely do the microbiology testing, thenwe can tie those results together with thesoil chemistry results and paint a reallycomplete picture of what’s going on.
ACRES U.S.A.
What do you do by wayof extracting solutions to approximatewhat nature does?
CRAINE.
The LaMotte test is close. In atrouble-shooting scenario for a farm thathas an immediate problem, water-solubletesting can really give a good picture aswell. It’s not uncommon for soils that areextremely high in calcium to show a cal-cium deficiency on that water test, there-fore it can sometimes lead us in a direc-tion to help the producer.
ACRES U.S.A.
Do you make use of thecarbon dioxide test?
CRAINE.
K. Chandler uses it, but wehave not done that yet. We’ve talked aboutit, though.
ACRES U.S.A.
The reason we bring thisup is because K. Chandler seems to bequite impressed with your entire operationand thinks that it’s one of the best in termsof biologically correct agriculture.
CRAINE.
We sure appreciate that.Carbon dioxide testing is still under con-sideration. Because of the volume of testswe run through, we’ve been a little nerv-ous about whether it can be automated orhow labor intensive it would be.
ACRES U.S.A.
Well that’s the problem— it’s labor intensive and not too easilyautomated.
CRAINE.
Right, and we’re not totallyautomated by any stretch because of allthe different extracts we’re doing, butthat’s one that’s still to be considered. Ipersonally think we probably should headin that direction.
ACRES U.S.A.
What’s the big deficit outthere among these people who’ve beenpracticing this so-called conventionalfarming all this time?
CRAINE.
Soil life — specifically, diver-sity in soil life. Conventional operationshave so much disease and insect pressurebecause they don’t have the diversity inthe soil to keep the plant healthy. There’sno doubt in our minds that the more natu-ral you are, the more likely you are tobuild a really diverse chemistry within theplant that gives it the ability to repelinsects and disease. That’s been stated foryears. It’s more obvious to us all the time.I wish there was a way to test for that!
ACRES U.S.A.
You do have a test so youknow how many units of life are out there.
CRAINE.
Yes, you can do that, but itwould be exciting to test that plant andactually lay something in front of a scien-tist and say “this is why this plant is stay-ing healthy and not attracting insects.”
ACRES U.S.A.
The trouble is, there areso many variables out there in nature —but our science, which is largely statisti-cal, likes to isolate things into little air-tight compartments and draw conclusions.But let’s turn to remedies. Let’s sayyou’ve got the soil test. You’ve got a pret-ty good audit of what’s going on out thereand you see a deficit in the life factor.How do you install it again?
CRAINE.
After doing the testing — if thefarmer truly wants to improve the soil —then we would work with microbial inocu-lants and get his chemistry balanced so thatthe microbes will thrive — because if we’regoing to put microbes out there, they have
Reprinted from
December 2005 • Vol. 35, No. 12
“The further you driftaway from theconventional line ofthinking, the more alivethe soil generally is —and that’s when you seereally exciting thingshappen.”“The energy in the soilcreates the growth of theplant. . . . It’s all aboutenergy. We’re trying tocapture solar energy withthe plants to developgrains or fruits, etc.”
 
to have the correct environment. The envi-ronment doesn’t have to be
 perfect,
but ithas to be close enough to allow the soil lifeto thrive and propagate. Again, it’s nutrientbalancing first and then putting microbialinoculants on as often as possible. Set abudget and go at it often. Don’t go out therein the spring and just put on one application— take every opportunity that farmer has toput small doses out there, which increasesthe odds that they would catch and start tofunction well.
ACRES U.S.A.
What role have youfound for humates and humic acids?
CRAINE.
They have always been part of our program. They work very well, partic-ularly on heavy clays or lower humic mat-ter soils. Humic acid has been part of theprogram since day one.
ACRES U.S.A.
What form do you use?
CRAINE.
We find the liquid form to bevery reactive. There are occasions wherewe will recommend dry, but we get thequick response we really like with the liq-uid.
ACRES U.S.A.
You don’t use much irri-gation agriculture up there in Illinois, doyou?
CRAINE.
We don’t work with a lot of itin Illinois, but we have a lot of experiencewith it in the West. Just north of us here atPrinceton, there’s a tremendous amount of irrigation, but it’s new irrigation that’s juststarted in the last five years.
ACRES U.S.A.
What kind of irrigation?
CRAINE.
Center pivot. But, yes, wework with a fair amount of irrigation, andit is a wonderful way to put microbials on.
ACRES U.S.A.
How far do you travelwith your educational program and yourfield days and so on, in terms of geogra-phy?
CRAINE.
We have the two main semi-nars here at Princeton each year. We’vebeen running a small seminar and a largefield day-type situation in eastern Indianaor western Ohio; we’ve also done some ineastern Nebraska and south-centralWisconsin.
ACRES U.S.A.
Pretty much in the CornBelt, huh?
CRAINE.
Mostly Corn Belt, but we havedealers from Pennsylvania to Colorado.We’re working from North Dakota downto southern Texas to some degree. Thecore business is right here around theMidwest, but it’s scattered more widelyall the time. During the winter we domeetings virtually everywhere. Duringthe winter there are meetings fromPennsylvania to Colorado up into theDakotas and down into Tennessee.
ACRES U.S.A.
What is the scope of yourshort courses? Where do you start, how doyou progress, and where do you end up?
CRAINE.
It’s evolved over the years. Itused to be that the winter seminar was athree-day event and the summer one wasa two-day. Over the last several yearswe’ve done one and a half to two days inthe winter and a one day in the summerbecause folks are so busy then.
ACRES U.S.A.
How many participantsdo you draw?
CRAINE.
Winter meetings will be 160 to250. This summer we had about 160,which was good for a summer.
ACRES U.S.A.
You do those out on thefarm?
CRAINE.
Mostly. Part of it’s in town, inair conditioning, and then we’ll go out tothe farm for plot tours and tour the facili-ties. It used to be that the first half-day ormaybe the first whole day was introducto-ry —where we’d show some videos,we’d talk about paradigms, the impor-tance of shifting your thinking patterns,we’d show the video
 Life in the Soil
thatwas done in Japan —a wonderful videothat you’re probably familiar with.
ACRES U.S.A.
We’ve shown it at theAcres U.S.A. conferences for years.
CRAINE.
It is so enlightening for grow-ers. It’s one of those films you can watchover and over, and every time you getsomething new out of it. Well, we’ve keptthe original focus in our current courses— we start off the seminar for beginners.If you’re new to us, then you’re new tothese concepts, you know —What’s it allabout? What’s the big picture? Then we’llwork into staff presentations, our microbi-ologist Kathleen Draper, for example,oftentimes will talk about the importanceof life in the soil and how we’ve adaptedthat into our system, how the products areput together, the quality control that weuse, how we’re always working on stabil-ity so that these products can be stored fora month or two or three or four beforethey’re used — that’s a huge issue. We’lltalk about the microbiology, then some of the agronomists on staff will talk aboutreal-life programs or examples — thisfarm has this soil test, which we showthem, then ask, what are the deficiencies?What do we see as the limiting factors?Then we’ll build a program which willinclude dry amendment, liquid amend-ment, maybe starters, solutions, foliars,and residue management — where weincorporate the residue — is a huge deal
Reprinted from
December 2005 • Vol. 35, No. 12
“Each different cropstimulates differentmicrobes in the soil, so ifyou’ve got a good croprotation you stimulate a lotof diversity of micro-organisms — thereforesuppressing disease andinsect pressure.”“For farmers —especially the commercialfarmers — who can’trotate crops, or choosenot to, and don’t havemanures, that’s where ourmicrobial inoculantscome in: to try to rebuildthe diversity of theorganisms in the soil.”

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