Improving the Soil: A Revolutionary Agricultural Technology Rejuvenates Crops Around the Globe From Its Home Base in Hattiesburg.

by Adam Bruns
MISSISSIPPI
SumaGrow, the flagship product of Hattiesburg-based Bio Soil Enhancers, Inc., is not only growing prizewinning crops, but a deep roster of global clients.

Farmers face a dilemma: Synthetic fertilizer overuse has worn out the very soil it’s meant to enhance, often leading to a self-perpetuating cycle that means even more fertilizer applied to less and less arable land. The soil retains less water, continues to degrade, and agricultural pollutant runoff leads to ugly phenomena like “the dead zone.”

“Look at the mouth of the Mississippi River, and you’ll see about a million acres of something that looks like chocolate milk,” says Wayne Wade, co-founder and president of Bio Soil Enhancers, Inc. (BSEI), based in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. It’s an algae buildup caused by accumulated nutrient runoff.

Meanwhile, the world’s food consumers — i.e. all of us — face our own dilemma. Even as we face dwindling water and land resources for growing food crops, by 2050 we need to grow about twice as much to sustain ourselves.

Enter SumaGrow, a product developed by Wade and BSEI Co-founder and CEO Louis Elwell, III, from their work in microbial remediation for the waste management industry. It increases water retention of the soil, fosters crop productivity improvement of up to 20 percent, allows farmers to reduce fertilizer use by up to 50 percent, and helps grow food that tastes better. It won the Google-sponsored “Solve for X” competition. And when it won the award for product design and global marketing potential, John Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, said, “We are talking about disrupting agriculture across the entire planet. I think that is a pretty good opportunity.”

Growth Medium

SumaGrow is the seed of a Mississippi company with rich global export and commerce connections: BSEI received Mississippi’s Governor’s Award for Excellence in Exporting in 2013 and 2015, and was ranked second and fourth, respectively, on the 2013 and 2014 Inc. 500 lists of fastest growing private U.S companies in manufacturing.

Housed in a production, lab, testing and headquarters complex that used to be a Sears warehouse and a Baptist church, BSEI recently expanded its R&D capabilities through The Accelerator, a tech-driven business incubator founded by the University of Southern Mississippi. In 2017, Mississippi public universities received $420.7 million in external research funding, which supported 2,407 projects.

Aimee Murry, BSEI’s public relations & marketing communications manager, says the state continues to help BSEI and others grow their global business ties, from new leads in Central and South America to Israel, several African nations and Vietnam, which today is home to BSEI’s largest customer.

“The Mississippi Development Authority and Mississippi are top notch as far as vetting the companies on the ground before we get to that country,” she says, “so when we go and meet business-to-business, it’s a qualified meeting. That makes a big difference.”

“They do a great job,” says Wade of MDA’s assistance to his team’s trade missions abroad. “And we have one of the most supportive governors in the country when it comes to private business.”

Murry says at a recent networking event at the U.S. embassy in Peru, one attendee asked an embassy official which other states did this sort of networking. His answer? Only Mississippi.

The company does its part too, bringing diplomatic, scientific and business people into Hattiesburg from around the world for training classes and meetings, and thus showing them what Mississippi has to offer.

Tastes Great

Elwell says the company’s R&D with USM has helped in concrete ways, such as an alteration to SumaGrow’s original formulation to increase shelf life. He calls The Accelerator “an intellectual resource, a good brain pool,” as well as a place with certain equipment useful to both BSEI and a craft beer maker down the hall.

Mississippi State University in Starkville contributes too: Dr. Randall Smith of the Mississippi State Extension Service has been a lead investigator analyzing real-world data from growers utilizing SumaGrow.

Elwell thinks a potential new designation of “SumaGrown” could eventually be more valuable than being labeled organic.

“The most common testimonial is, ‘These are the best-tasting tomatoes I’ve ever had,’ ” says Elwell. “We don’t have enough inventory yet to put ‘Sumagrown’ on meaningful amounts of consumer product, but some growers are putting it on their packaging.” Those happy customers include the respected Pigott family in Mississippi, known for their satsuma citrus.

The market for too long has valued shelf life and appearance more than nutrition. Now, says Elwell, there’s a shift, driven by consumer awareness and demand for real food again. “We’re trying to find a way for the farmer to get paid for better taste” as well as better nutrition, he says. Restoring soil to its rightful state seems to lead to restoring rightful taste as well. Watermelon growers can tell the difference. Animals can too: Cattle will munch all the Sumagrown grass before they eat conventionally grown grass.

And because SumaGrow allows plants to essentially grow to their genetic potential, the BSEI photo album is bursting with photos of prize-winning produce.

When the company moved into The Accelerator in 2017, its sales growth was even more dramatic than that of a SumaGrow-assisted crop: 220 percent. Will the firm see further expansion in its near future?

“Of course,” says Wade. “We’ve been growing every year,” says Elwell. The pattern of steady reinvestment is familiar in the state: Among the companies expanding with support from the MDA is General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, with a $20-million investment in Shannon that represents the laser manufacturing operation’s 10th expansion in 13 years, and will boost the site’s workforce to more than 300. Milwaukee Tool is expanding in Greenwood, Jackson and Olive Branch, investing $33.4 million and creating 660 jobs. It’s the company’s fourth expansion investment in the state in six years.

As for BSEI, even the fertilizer companies are starting to see its value, which Wade and his partner describe in a way that serves as an apt metaphor for good economic development:

“The more organic the soil is, the less erosion you’re going to have,” Wade says of the company’s flagship product. “We’re actually improving the soil,” adds Elwell.

BSEI is the prize-winning fruit of the organic business ecosystem cultivated by the state of Mississippi, as it harvests a diverse crop of innovative firms.

 

Eight on Eight: The University of Southern Mississippi is one of eight public universities in the state supporting the Mississippi Development Authority’s focus on eight target sectors: advanced manufacturing; aerospace; agribusiness; automotive; forestry and energy; healthcare; shipbuilding; and tourism and film.
Internet Source: Improving the Soil

Agrigain with SumaGrow: Making Your Soil Work For You

 By Maura Keller

Mike Arnold, owner of Arnold Land and Cattle, is onto something. Spending the majority of his life in the cattle industry, Arnold understands what it takes to produce exceptional dairy and beef cattle. That’s why, three years ago, Arnold founded Agrigain, a company that offers the power of SumaGrow for today’s dairy farmer and cattleman, resulting in exceptional feed for their herds, as well as profitable, sustainable farming practices.

“I’ve been in the cattle business all my life,” Arnold says, “Before I got involved with Agrigain with SumaGrow inside, I watched the product being used for five years. I watched the tests and the trials because I needed to know that it really worked before venturing into starting a company that offers SumaGrow product. Our product can be used for both organic and conventional farm practices. We are reducing fertilizer by up to 50 percent and increasing yield from five to 20 percent.
If there is one thing Arnold knows a thing or two about, its cattle. In the past 20 years he’s backgrounded more than 50,000 cattle and successfully served as a Superior Livestock Representative for 25 years. When he came upon SumaGrow, a liquid concentrate microbial agricultural product designed by Bio Soil Enhancers, Inc. (BSEI), to promote soil and plant health, he decided to market the product to help other cattleman and farmers to meet their yield goals and improve their bottom lines.

Proven Results
And that’s where Agrigain comes in. Products containing SumaGrow, like Agrigain, have been shown to result in higher yields, as well as increased nutrient density in forages.
Agricultural consultant Chuck Grantham explains the beneficial microorganisms contained in Agrigain products are a key part of the product functionality as they stretch the overall plant health and soil health. By producing a healthier plant, the animals are able to take in more of the nutrients from the soil, which results in a higher quality product that the dairy cattle consume.
“In dairy, that means growing a feed that has a higher crude protein, higher total digestible nutrients, and a higher relative feed value. The higher the quality of the forage, the more milk production that these dairy farmers can expect,” Grantham says.
It also means that dairy farmers who use Agrigain products have reported higher stocking rates, higher average daily gains and healthier dairy cows with shiny hair coats. Mineral requirements for dairy herds may decrease as the livestock ingest more natural minerals in the plant from grazing healthier, more nutrient-dense forages.
According to Pam Barr, owner of Barr Farms, a diversified dairy farm in Mendenhall, MS, the cows can tell. “They will walk past a bale of untreated hay to eat the SumaGrown hay. It’s sweeter,” Barr says.
The Agrigain team works with each dairy farmer to determine the proper application protocols of products containing SumaGrow that are specific to the needs of each farm. When used in conjunction with current growing practices, growers can see a decrease in fertilizer inputs of up to 50 percent. The objective is to reach the producer’s production goals while reducing fertilizer inputs.

How?
Agrigain products help improve fertilizer efficiency thus reducing the amount of applied nutrients required. The microorganisms contained in SumaGrow were specifically selected for their abilities to improve nutrient mobilization, unlock soil bound nutrients, and sequester nitrogen.  Different concentrations and application rates may apply based on various factors such as soil condition and crop type.
“Agrigain products will help anything with a root system and can be used on all sizes of crop production,” Arnold says.
Arnold recommends performing soil tests when using Agrigain products because a soil analysis will show the fertility and mineral density of the soil and indicate what Agrigain products will best benefit a farm’s operation to meet production goals and animal health and well-being.

So what does this mean for animal performance?
In a study of beef steers’ summer grazing performance, the research indicated that the animals that grazed on SumaGrow treated sorghum plots had a cost advantage of +$101.45 over the conventionally fertilized plots. SumaGrow grazed cattle gained an average of .27 lbs per day more than the cattle grazing the untreated plots, and the SumaGrow treated pasture could handle two animals more per unit than the conventionally fertilized fields.
Conducted by Murray State University in Western Kentucky, the primary focus of this study was to determine the effectiveness of different methods of alternative pasture inoculations compared to traditional nitrogen fertilization. Thirty-two cross-bred steers were divided into four equal groups that weighed an average of 628 pounds at the beginning of the grazing period. BMR sorghum was planted no-till at a seeding rate of 19 pounds per acre. The four groups of steers were moved to fresh grazing paddocks when approximately 50 percent of the available forage dry matter in each paddock had been consumed.
The SumaGrow treated plots of BMR sorghum, showed a higher Average Daily Gain (ADG), a higher Animal Unit Month (AUM), and a significant cost advantage when compared to the nitrogen fertilization, raw milk, and a control (no treatment).
The ADG for the steers grazing the SumaGrow treated forage showed an additional gain per steer of 40.5 pounds for a 150-day warm season grazing period when compared to either the fertilizer only or the control group.
In calculating AUM, which for this trial was defined as the number of beef steer that one acre of forage could support for every 30 day period, once again the SumaGrow treated forages were significantly greater than the fertilizer only or control treatments.
Per acre cost analysis for the treatment and application costs indicated an advantage of $101.45 per acre for the SumaGrow treatment compared to the control. The SumaGrow had the best overall performance with higher ADGs, increased AUMs, and better return on investment.

Improving Soil Water Efficiency
“Everything above ground is dependent on what’s going on below ground. So the fertility of the soil is paramount,” says Chuck Grantham, agricultural consultant at SumaGrow. “When you have an increase in soil fertility, you have an increase in the water holding capacity of the soil. So instead of running off or standing, the water is held within the soil leading to increased water holding capacity therefore retaining vital nutrients that are available for the plants. This is key when evaluating the water stress that is occurring across the agriculture industry today and what is predicted for the future.”
Every state in the US is predicted to experience water stressors within the next ten years and uncertainties well beyond that. As thousands of acres are left fallow as drought conditions prevail in some parts of the country, wet and muddy farmland has frustrated other producers and delayed planting and harvesting. Both conditions will adversely affect producers’ crop production and earning potential.
“It has made a significant difference with drought tolerance,” says Barr, who has been using SumaGrow products for three years. “We planted our rye grass around October and had such a dry season that my neighbor’s fields didn’t germinate. They are literally across the street from our fields. Our neighbors told me that we were the only ones around that grew any grass.”
As Arnold further explains, it is because the biologicals in Agrigain increase the soil’s fertility and nutrient efficiency that plants and forages produce longer, denser root systems that capture untapped water and nutrient resources. This produces the healthy, resilient and higher-nutrient crops and forages.
“This winter we had some ice and our grass recovered much quicker than the neighbors. It’s also convenient because we can mix it with our herbicide applications so we have to make only one pass over the fields,” said Barr.

The Future is Here
There have been unprecedented shifts in agricultural production in recent years. From polarizing policies to the growing concern over the environmental impact of conventional agricultural production, the agricultural industry has seen a dramatic increase in the emphasis on using products and procedures that will positively impact the environment.
Agricultural industries and publications all now increasingly publish informative material that stress a healthy community of microorganisms are essential to improving soil health and reducing the environmental and economic impact of agriculture while meeting our global nutrition demands.
While many in agribusiness may be newly aware of the benefits of agricultural biologicals, BSEI has been recognized for being in the forefront of this biological movement for almost a decade, nationally and internationally. Consider way back in 2011 when SumaGrow was highlighted in “Bison World.”
“A new organic soil microbial introduced by Bio Soil Enhancers, Inc. shows significant promise for increased forage and crop yields, improved brix levels and significant or elimination of chemical and forms of fertilizer.” (Bison World, 2011)
“Bottom line,” says Arnold, “We are reducing nitrate runoff because we are putting something back in the soil. We know which microbes work best in the soil, and which ones do not. That’s why we are so far ahead of anybody in the industry.”
For more than a decade, SumaGrow biologicals have been in production, following more than 20 years of research and development by BSEI. Ongoing research that includes numerous field trials from universities, third parties, and specialized testing facilities, demonstrates the benefits of using agricultural microbials for higher yields, lower input costs, and improved water-holding capacity of the soil.
Specifically, using Agrigain, SumaGrow inside products help repopulate the soil with beneficial microorganisms that work in the root zone of the plant to help retain water and nutrients for the plant’s use. This supports higher yielding and hardier crops.
“At the end of the day what we really want to do it is leave it better than we found it,” Arnold says. “At Agrigain we realize it is about maintaining a healthy balance, and if we don’t do something soon—because we have fertilized with mostly harsh alkaline commercial fertilizer for so long—we aren’t going to get as good of results as we want, both now and in the future.”

Internet Source: Agrigain Article

Mississippi State University Trial Documents 13% Yield Increase in Soybeans While Reducing Fertilizer

From the report’s conclusion:  “Summa Grow (SumaGrow) at 1.0 gallons per acre did positively improve soybean performance (growth and yield) in low P2O5 and K2O soils despite having the recommended fertilizer rate reduced by 30%. This indicates that properly used, bio-stimulants can improve plant health and thereby improve yield. Even where no fertilizer was used, Summa Grow (SumaGrow) increased yield and performance of soybeans…”

This study is somewhat unique for a university study in that the study compared a product to both a Control and to a Grower Standard.  We have long maintained that the typical study (touted by many of our competitors) compares a product to a Control of nothing but soil.  This is NOT the real world.

Farmers want to know how a product will improve _their_ results in the real world.  This means comparing what they are presently doing, referred to as Grower Standard, to whatever is recommended using a new product, in this case SumaGrow.  While we believe the yield increase would have been higher than 13% if fertilizer had been reduced more than the 30% reduction used in this study, the 13% yield increase is a real world number which a farmer would have achieved since it compared what they are doing now to using SumaGrow with a reduction in fertilizer, which is recommended.  SumaGrow with zero fertilizer even out-yielded the Grower Standard.

For the record, when comparing the SumaGrow results to the Control, again, used by most of our competitors, the yield increase was 20% according to this study.

The full study can be accessed by clicking on this link:  Mississippi State University– Soybeans

 

 

 

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

Video to Promote the State of Mississippi

Bio Soil Enhancers, Inc., the manufacturer of SumaGrow products, has won several awards from the State of Mississippi for exporting, including the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Exporting, which is designed to recognize Mississippi companies for their success in maintaining or increasing export sales.

Due to Bio Soil’s exporting success, the company was asked to make a promotional video promoting the State of Mississippi:

Mississippi State University Study Validates SumaGrow Benefits, 16% Yield Increase in Irish Potatoes

Irish potatoes are of great economic and dietary value as a food-source worldwide ranking as the third most important food crop after rice and wheat.  Potatoes require high levels of fertilizer to produce high yields with marketable quality. However, in some countries fertilizer is very difficult to obtain and very expensive. Using SumaGrow would greatly reduce this need for, and cost of, fertilizers.  With SumaGrow, it has been shown that equivalent yields and growth can be obtained at reduced fertilizer rates when compared to full recommended fertilizer treatments.

In almost all trials, SumaGrow actually increases the yield compared to the existing grower standard — what the farmer is obtaining now using the best available technologies without SumaGrow.  In this particular trial, growing Red LaSoda Irish potatoes, “combined yields from the grading process at ten days following harvest showed the same results where the SumaGrow treatments were as much as 2,509 Lbs/acre greater than the 100% fertilizer treatment without SumaGrow.”  This equates to a 16% yield increase.

Additionally, “at harvest criteria did show the strengths of the SumaGrow product in reducing fertilizer rates, hence reducing input costs and minimizing environmental hardships.”  Better plant health and vigor, as well as higher brix levels were also noted.

Here is the link to a copy of the study report: Mississippi State U — Irish Potato

Mississippi Raised Bed Gardener Raves About SumaGrow

Arthur Herrin, resident of Petal, Mississippi, heard about Bio Soil from a news story which aired on WDAM (a local NBC affiliate).  When he planted his garden, he decided to treat it with only [SumaGrow]. This is what he had to say:

“After seeing a news article on TV about your product, I decided to give it a try. I have a raised bed vegetable garden in the back yard of my home. I’ve gardened this way for the last several years. It has always been a successful way to garden, but I have never had such dramatic results as I have seen since using [SumaGrow] only one time!

The plants are greener, healthier, and stronger than they have ever been. They are larger, and each plant is loaded with fruit.

I was very skeptical about the product in the beginning, but I believe it will be a very beneficial tool in gardening vegetables and flowers. All my plants have grown so green and so sturdy that I cannot wait to see the harvest. [SumaGrow] has made a believer out of me.

I have not used any commercial fertilizer at all and still have these great results using your completely organic product.”

Herrin and Wayne with cabbage

Arthur Herrin, with one of the huge cabbages he grew, and Wayne Wade, company President.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loblolly Pine Tree Seedlings in Mississippi

This study started in February of 2013 on approximately 30 acres in Hancock County, Mississippi.  ArborGen improved second generation Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) seedlings were planted at the rate of 550 seedlings per acre.  The seedlings were treated with a solution of water and varying amounts (2 oz. to 14 oz.) of SumaGrow by briefly placing the seedling roots in the solution, a “root dip.”

The treated seedlings are growing approximately one extra foot per year versus the control.

Below are progress reports in chronological order:

Forestry Seedling study 4-26-13

SumaGrow Southern MS Pine Trial — 2015 Update

June 2016 Pine Trial Analysis

October 2016 – SumaGrown Loblolly Pine Trial Summary