SEEDSTOCK Article: Too Good to be True?


Too Good to be True? Not so, says Founder of Yield Boosting, Fertilizer Reducing Soil Enhancement Product

July 5, 2012 |

Lou Elwell makes some mighty big claims about Bio Soil Enhancers, Inc.’s SumaGrow, a sustainable and organic microbial formula designed to enrich and rehabilitate soil. He will readily tell you that SumaGrow’s 10 microbes work together to increase crop yields, significantly reduce the need for chemical fertilizers, and improve the water retention of the soil. He started singing that tune in 2009, but says he ran into skepticism. “It became obvious that our story sounded too good to be true,” Elwell says, adding many customers suggested that he might as well be selling snake oil at the county fair. So, in 2010, he started looking for third-party confirmation to lend some validity to his claims.

Since, Elwell says that he has had SumaGrow field tested in 20 states and examined by five different universities. One study conducted by the department of molecular biology and microbiology at the University of Michigan confirmed that application of SumaGrow reduced the need for both pesticides and fertilizers, while enhancing crop productivity and improving soil health. The SumaGrow website points to field trials all over the country detailing promising yields for a variety of crops including, alfalfa, corn, cotton, forage/hay crops, lawn/garden, soybeans, and vegetables.

Creating SumaGrow

Elwell says that he has been cultivating microbes for 20 years, first under the name Bio Solutions Franchise Corp. Bio Solutions remediated waste from restaurant grease traps, boasting 42 service locations at its height, ranging from fast food restaurants to some of the swankiest restaurants in the country. When Hurricane Katrina hit, it took the factory’s roof with it. By the time the factory was operational again, Bio Solutions had lost several customers. Those lost accounts lost combined with accounts they had lost while pushing clients to move from remediation to recycling forced Elwell and Wade to rethink their company. Elwell says that Bio Solutions is still around serving those customers that stuck with him through the rough times, though he no longer actively promotes the original business. All his energy and investment lies in Bio Soil Enhancers, Inc and the cultivation of microbes for agricultural purposes.

Bio Soil Enhancers, Inc. is a research and development company and manufacturer, which licenses the SumaGrow formula to independent distributors across the country and the world. In the early years, Elwell says that he and his business partner Wayne Wade funded the venture entirely. Since, they have brought in strategic investors that are active collaborators in the company.

Elwell said that one reason for creating a business around soil enhancement was that the science had already been established indicating that live microbes play a key role in soil performance. Intentionally making these microbes work for the farmer in an accessible and profitable way, however, was another story. “Getting those microbes from the petri dish to the greenhouse is an achievement, but getting them from the greenhouse to the field is a herculean achievement.

Microbes are live, albeit simple, animals. Some strains are compatible with one another and others are not, Elwell explains. The scientists working in his factory and labs have experience cultivating large-scale microbe populations and learning to deal with the intricacies of microbe interactions, he says. The result is a formula rich with 10 different microbes that live together and perform multiple functions. Elwell says that while there are competitors that offer microbial soil enhancers, most of them rely on a single microbe.

Putting Microbes to Work

According the SumaGrow website, much of what the microbes found in SumaGrow do is convert resources naturally found in the soil into a form that can be used by plants. A certain percentage of nitrogen, phosphorous, and minerals such magnesium and calcium can lie locked in the soil and Elwell says SumaGrow can change that. Beyond that, the website boasts that SumaGrow can help to maintain an optimum ph, even under extreme environmental conditions.

If SumaGrow does half of what it claims to do, it could have tremendous potential for sustainable farming. Because fertilizers kill microbes, Elwell recommends that farmers cut back their fertilizers by at least 50% when applying SumaGrow, adding that the plants should perform better than they did with the full fertilizer regimen. Currently, a portion of the fertilizer that is applied to most crops leaches phosphorous and nitrogen, two key culprits in the formation of dead zones in bays, gulfs and lakes.

Elwell says that the roots of plants grown with SumaGrow are bigger, deeper, and broader than conventional roots. Bigger roots not only support more productive plants, but they better equip plants to deal with fluctuations in rainfall. Roots that reach deeper take longer to dry out as soil tends to dry out from the surface down. They are also better at finding their own water sources than shallow roots.

Additionally, Elwell says that the microbes in SumaGrow can gather sandy soil into clumps that are better able to retain water while also breaking down clay that might get water logged and contribute to root rot or fungal growth. By altering the absorbency of the soil, Elwell believes that SumaGrow can both enhance drought tolerance and help to reduce runoff.

It is not hard to see why SumaGrow has been compared to snake oil. The list of purported benefits to the plant, farmer, and environment goes on and on. Elwell recognizes this and continues to commission studies and trials to support the product.

Testimony from the Field

Jodie Cammack, a former USDA employee, who worked on field trials for organic rice was so impressed by the results of SumaGrow that when the USDA announced that his office was moving, he opted to stay in Beaumont, Texas and sell SumaGrow himself. In a telephone interview, he talked about the first time he tried out a gallon of SumaGrow on his rice crops. “At the end of the season I started to calculate these [crop] weights and was just amazed at what I saw.” He added that when he first saw the numbers he went back and reweighed everything himself to make sure there had not been any error.

In 2011, the press started to notice a growing crowd of cheerleaders like Cammack were throwing their support behind SumaGrow. By year’s end, Popular Science had named Bio Soil Enhancers a grand award winner in the Best of What’s New for 2011 and the company had turned its first profit.

Internet Source:  Seedstock Article

Mississippi Muscadine Grapes Grow Better With SumaGrow

The following pictures were taken at Breckenridge Farms in Quitman, Mississippi.   You can see a noticeable difference in the development of the vines.  Where SumaGrow was used the vines of adjoining plants are full and meeting in the middle on the trellis.  The untreated vines lack fullness and are not even close to meeting in the middle.

Muscadine Grapes without SG Quitman MS Muscadine Grapes with SG Quitman MS

Last summer the treated vines produced over 4 tons per acre and untreated was only close to one ton per acre!

These grapes are juiced at a winery in North Carolina.  In the southeast U.S.,  they are mainly eaten fresh and used to make jelly and home-made wine.

The effect of SumaGrow on young varieties of muscadines has been proven to be significantly noticeable.  After using once on half of a selected field of young plants we had a increase in growth of up to 50% per plant.  SumaGrow has become part of our program to grow young plants faster. It not only enhances growth but also seems to improve the overall health of the plants.”
Elliott Phillips

This vineyard was written up in the news:  Breckenridge Vineyard News Article

Here is a link to one page summary:  Muscadines_Breckenridge_Mississippi_Testimonial

South Africa Lucerne (Alfalfa) Achieves 130% Yield Increase

Lusern-Alfalfa-South Africa -- field comparison160126

Mr. Francois van Rooyen, a lucerne and pecan nut agriculturist, carried out the following interesting controlled test on his lucerne.

  • The right-hand field was treated with ExploGrow™ (SumaGrow).
  • The left-hand field was not treated.
  • The soil is the same in both fields: very brackish and shallow water table, and is well drained with underground pipes.
  • In all other respects the two fields were treated the same, except a variation in the type of Lucerne.
    On the left hand field: Sardi 10 cultivar. On the right hand field WL 711.
  • Both fields were therefore top producers with low dormancy and both fields were also treated identically with organic acids, clay minerals, macro-elements, micro-elements and activated carbon, to provide an effective and balanced soil due to brackish conditions prevailing in the area.

ExploGrow™ (SumaGrow) has just raised the maximum yield ceiling for my land and a 130% increase in yield represents a massive increase in profits.”

Mr Francois van Rooyen, Lucerne and Pecan Nut agriculturist

UPDATE: Results after harvesting Lucerne

  • Harvesting took place during March/April 2016
  • Yield increase: 130%
  • The ExploGrow™ (SumaGrow) treated area produced 23 tons per hectare versus 10 tons per hectare from the untreated area.
  • Better plant health on the ExploGrow™ (SumaGrow) treated area showing a “remarkable difference compared to the untreated area”.
  • After a severe and damaging drought, I would attribute the radically superior yields on the treated land to the bigger root systems, reduction in watering requirements and improved plant health, delivering over 23 tons per hectare compared with only 10 tons per hectare for untreated area.” Mr. van Rooyen

Lucerne-Alfalfa -- South Africa close up

Based on his expertise in balancing soil, Mr van Rooyen offers his analysis as follows:

I believe that the carbon and organic acids act as excellent food for the ExploGrow™ (SumaGrow) microbes.

In nature, manure (for example) releases organic acids and then feeds organisms from the animal’s intestines that generates diverse populations of ground microbes. Without the dung, the microbial populations would not develop, because some form of energy needs to drive the microbial activity. It is not enough to only use a balanced vitamin and mineral supplement. You also need protein, carbohydrates and other energy-rich compounds to function at the optimal level.

I therefore believe that the organic acids in my fields provide the energy to the microbes to develop a diverse strong population. This diverse population can now execute various tasks like (a) extracting minerals from the soil solution and (b) helping the plant to absorb the minerals. 

Microbial activity fuels a high rate of multiplication. This impacts positively on the plants also acting as a precursor to the plant’s own productions of hormones, resulting in stronger growth, like I observed with ExploGrow™ (SumaGrow).

The ExploGrow™ (SumaGrow) microbes develop a diverse population in symbiosis with the plant. This diverse group of microbes carry out several critical functions such as binding of atmospheric nitrogen, releasing phosphates etc. In this specific case of brackish soil, the microbes make the excess iron available to the plant for consumption, which would otherwise be detrimental to root establishment and growth.

I believe this is clear from the photo, when looking at the left-hand field. One can clearly see in the photo that on the untreated left field the plant microbial interaction is poor, although this field has an otherwise absolutely balanced fertilization program.

The soil in the left field is simply poor in essential microbes.

Looking at the right-hand field treated with ExploGrow™ (SumaGrow), the picture speaks for itself!

On my farm I noticed an extraordinary difference in the presence of lice (“Bladspringers”). The ExploGrow™ (SumaGrow) treated areas were virtually unaffected compared with the untreated areas that were severely affected. Furthermore, three other farmers that I supplied with ExploGrow™ (SumaGrow) experienced similar results.

Mr Francois van Rooyen, Lucerne and Pecan Nut agriculturistLucerne - Alfalfa -- South Africa -- bush view

Photo: Note how many leaves there are on the treated plants compared to the low leaf count on the untreated plant

At the end of the season Mr van Rooyen shared the following observations:

  • A very intense drought hit the central and western regions in South Africa. 
  • Insects such as Bladspringer (Leafhopper) that normally survive in the field, fed on Lucerne for the whole summer, causing severe damage.
  • The ExploGrow™ (SumaGrow) treated area had a very positive effect on the resistance of the plants against insects.
  • Where farmers applied ExploGrow (SumaGrow) in the spring, there was visible resistance. The population of the insects were much smaller on the ExploGrow (SumaGrow) treated areas. Also, there were far less marks on the leaves in the ExploGrow (SumaGrow) treated areas.
  • Within six days of the end of March we had 150 mm of rain. 
  • The treated Lucerne survived much better in the wet conditions than the untreated Lucerne.
  • In the end, production varied from 10 tons for the untreated Lucerne and 23 tons for the treated Lucerne.”
 “ExploGrow™ (SumaGrow) is a winner!
Mr Francois van Rooyen, Lucerne and Pecan Nut agriculturist

Pecan Nuts

“I made the same observation on Pecan Nut trees, in an orchard where 40% of the trees were dying – although the soil was perfectly balanced with organic acids elements etc.  After treatment with ExploGrow™ (SumaGrow) there was a total recovery.”

Mr Francois van Rooyen, Lucerne and Pecan Nut agriculturist


Garden Testimonials

“I used SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] in my garden, with my tomatoes, sweet corn and peppers. With SumaGroulx [SumaGrow], my tomatoes went 50% better yield increase from the previous year!”

Tom Earls
Sandusky, Michigan


“This past year, I used SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] on my garden. I had the largest and healthiest carrots and onions than I had ever had before. The garden itself was stronger and healthier, because of SumaGroulx [SumaGrow].”

Paul Thomson

Vestaburg, Michigan


“I put a little SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] on my cabbage plants, highly diluted, and within two days they just shot right up!  I could not believe the growth rate!  I am very impressed to say the least!”

Dale Larson
Owner Ohio Garden Systems

“My tomatoes – they are so big, it’s unreal!  I couldn’t control them, they grew above the wire cages and my additional added on stakes.  I have pictures to prove it.”


A. Nellett
Fairgrove, Michigan


Corn Testimonials from Michigan and Wisconsin

“We applied SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] and 130 lbs. of actual nitrogen to our Leapy farm. The soil looked good, was healthy, and produces great yields at 262 bushels [of corn] per acre.  I am using SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] on all our acres!“

Jeff Steinacker

“Seven years ago, H & J field was a very wet, heavy, sticky soil.  After 7 years of using SumaGroulx [SumaGrow], it drains much better, it is much healthier, and it is much softer soil.  We enjoyed our first 303 bushels [of corn] per acre yield.  Definitely going to use SumaGroulx [SumaGrow]next year. Thank you SumaGroulx [SumaGrow]!!”

Nick Steinman



“On our sandy soil, with JUST SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] and nitrogen, our field yielded 285 bushels per acre. SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] is a great investment.”

Eric Thick
German & Farley
Munger, Michigan

“Dekalb 102 day corn went 298 bushels per acre.  Best corn ever grown with just SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] and nitrogen. The field is softer, healthier, and drains better. Will use SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] on all soil now. Fantastic product!”

Dave Block
Reese, Michigan

“Corn Test Plot (Pioneer), weighed by wagon, with SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] I had 177 BU, 24.6 MO and 57 TW.  Without SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] I had 151 BU, 28 MO and 48 TW.  During the season I noticed the stalks were healthier where SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] was used and lodging was greatly reduced.”

Steve Koroleski
Ubly, Michigan

Grain Testimonials from Indiana, Michigan and Nebraska

“I am a no till farmer.  I had the best yield I have ever had on my corn, even with considering the cold and wet year we had.

SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] is easy to use.  I just sprayed with my round-up.  I used only 1/2 the amount of fertilizer on my corn this year too!  This is my 3rd year to use SumaGroulx [SumaGrow].  I now use it on my corn, soys and alfalfa’s.”

Kendall Leach
Millington, Michigan


“I purchased reclaimed woodland and found out that it would not produce.  In 2012, I planted soy beans on this field.  My results were only 18 bushels per acre and I lost money.  In 2013, I planted corn on the same field.  The results were only 118 bushels per acre and I had a tremendous loss.

I used SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] on my soys in the 2014.  The results were UNREAL.  I got 52 bushels per acre! Which is a difference of 34 bushels better than 2012!

In 2015, I planted corn on this field and I got 206 bushels per acre using SumaGroulx [SumaGrow], which was 88 BPA [bushels per acre] better than 2013!  My corn roots went down 3 feet in yellow clay. The land was better, less compacted, dried out faster, and had over all had better drainage.”

Kevin Schmitt

Haubstadt, Indiana


“We used SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] for 2 years.  Last year we used the SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] on corn, and this year on our soybeans.  Even with losing 42% of our crop this year, due to bad weather and hail twice, we still made 49 BPA!

Last year, the first year for our corn, we made well over 160 BPA. The corn had a real dark green color and super wide leaves. This will be my third year using SumaGroulx [SumaGrow], coming up, and we’re sure to have better numbers, as long as the weather cooperates.”

Stephen Mills
Greenwood, Nebraska

“We have been using SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] for the past 7 years.  We have stopped using commercial fertilizers.  We are amazed at our crop yield increase and plant size increase.  Even in extreme rain and drought, we seem to have the best fields around.”

Richard & Audrey Nellett
Akron, Michigan

“The decision to use SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] on my corn and soybean crop came after several years of debating whether to use it or not.  The idea of using SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] meant taking a risk and trying something different.  It took many years of seeing and hearing about SumaGroulx [SumaGrow] before taking the first step of trying some myself.  I was so happy to see that my yields were much better by using this product.  My soybeans were an average to 7 to 17 bushel better and my corn was 8 to 15 bushel better when I used SumaGroulx [SumaGrow].  I don’t have the expense of fertilizer now and I was so impressed that I became a dealer for SumaGroulx [SumaGrow].  I am so excited about the savings and yield increase that I want to share my knowledge and use of it with the farming world.”

Steve Koroleski
5 – K Ag Supply
Kinde, Michigan


Michigan Potato Farmer Grows 8 Inch Potatoes

Richard Nellett, a Michigan farmer, brought these pictures a SumaGrow distributor and said he was amazed.  The Nellet family leaves their potatoes in the ground and digs them when they need them which looks like it was the end of November according to the date on the picture.  Nellet had no idea they were this big until he dug them up for dinner! His wife said that was the first time she only needed two potatoes for dinner.
These are not sweet potatoes, they are regular potatoes which measure almost 8 inches long.   The ones on the left, of course, were grown without SumaGrow.  Nellet said these were not special seed potatoes, just what they had left over and he wasn’t all that careful about he applied the SumaGrow, just poured it around the plant.
Richard Nellet Potato Comparison