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Using Effective Microbes to Boost Organic Olive Yields in New Zealand

Ross Vintiner, award-winning biodynamic olive farmer in New Zealand, believes that microbes are the future of farming.

Long considered the domain of pseudoscience, one award winning olive oil producer in New Zealand is betting on increasing the effective microbes in his soil.

Ross Vintiner, the co-owner of The Vintiner’s Grove, told Olive Oil Times that since he started using effective microbial mixes in his olive grove, he has cut down costs on fertilizers, improved soil health and experienced higher olive oil yields.

“At Dali Estate (where the Vintiner’s Grove’s olives are grown), we use microbial brews, compost teas, compost extracts – and practice organic and biodynamic farming – to grow diverse living soil and world-class olives,” he said.

“In doing so, we have maintained our production, cut our external nutrient inputs and production costs, thereby improving the triple bottom line for us and the planet,” Vintiner added.

“Effective microbes enhance plant growth and productivity by fixing atmospheric nitrogen and supplementing the plants with the fixed nitrogen as ammonia,” a team of researchers from the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology University in India wrote in a 2020 study published in the journal Sustainable Environment Research.

“Additionally, the release of trace elements, secreted antioxidants, exopolysaccharides, bioactive compounds (vitamins, hormones and enzymes) by the effective microbes stimulate plant growth and productivity,” they added.

Vintiner said effective microbes also sequester carbon and improve nutrient retention in soils.

“Effective microorganisms are probiotics, stimulants and enhancers for soil, plant and waste treatments,” he said. “They are one class of microbial mixes and can be used with nutrients to promote soil and plant biology for performance and production.”

Vintiner added that diverse trees and a mixed sward feed grazing animals above the soil help produce “highly desirable fungal and improved soil for our main cash crop, olives.”

“Microbial mixes cost a fraction of external nutrient inputs,” Vintiner said. “For example, we use olive pomace from the press in an anaerobic brew which tests high in nitrogen, potassium and sulfur, three important nutrients for olive production.”

“The mix has medium amounts of beneficial microbes and is applied as a soil drench, boosted with our own fungal compost extract, for around $10 New Zealand per hectare,” he said.

Along with their low cost relative to synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, Vintiner said using effective microbes helps reduce the global phenomenon of soil loss.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 75 billion tons of soil are lost from arable farmland yearly, costing an estimated $400 billion in agricultural production loss.

“Dali Estate had such origins. Its soil life was poor and sick,” Vintiner said. “This is common in many olive groves I consult on.

Microbes and their environment are on life support. They are little understood by many farmers.” More