Bio Soil Enhancers, Inc organic SumaGrow liquid product was evaluated in 2012 at the Allison Organic Research Farm in southern Warren County and the conventional WIU farm near campus in McDonough County. SumaGrow is a polymicrobial formulation containing multiple strains of naturally occurring soil microbes with humic acid and is intended to inoculate soil to improve plant and soil health and crop yield. Soybean and corn plots were sprayed with the product and grain yields were estimated and compared to control (no spray) plots.
Results: Statistics for the SumaGrow treatment of 1 application at 1.8 gal/a at the WIU site reveal a significant soybean yield improvement using the product with an increase of 9.8 bu/a over the highest yielding control.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
The following results are from a study which was conducted by Dave Ringuette, a Professor at University Hawaii Windward Community College. He studied the effects of a SumaGrow (SG) product on Cacao. The only difference in the plant treatment was the SG product.
Mean height: 5.9 inches
Mean height: 6.5 inches
Mean height: 12.6 inches
Mean height: 9.3
The SumaGrow treated plants had a mean height of 12.6, while the control plants had a mean height of 9.3 inches, so SumaGrow increased the mean height by 35.5%
Professor Ringuette noted the water only plants had approximately 15% more mealy bug and beetle damage.
With the advice and assistance of the National Fertilizer Testing Center and the Dat Viet Xanh Farmers’ Association, in collaboration with Gia Lam District, fertilizer trials were performed with EarthCare with SumaGrow Inside broccoli at Yen Vien Commune, Gia Lam District, Hanoi.
The plant height increased, fewer pests were noticed, soil organic matter increased 67.5%, and, of course, the yield increased 37.5% while the chemical fertilizer was reduced by 50%, which resulted in a net increase in profit of over $431/hectare (May 8, 2018 exchange rate).
The use of EarthCare with SumaGrow inside reduced the urea nitrate residue in the broccoli. This is an important criteria for evaluating the product as safe or not before being used.
This trial was supervised by Dr. Ngo Thi Dao, Former Head, Department of Soils University of Pedagogy in Hanoi, who is also the author of two books on agriculture.
The report also contains detailed soil analysis reports.
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 report (link below) was written by a government agency with assistance from Nanjing Forestry University. The report did not specify an exact increase in yield, however, it stated, “all parameters related to plant growth vigor increased by more than 25% as compared with those of untreated tea trees” and SumaGrow “produces positive effect on the soil.”
The height, width, number of buds and size of buds all increased by at least 25%, leading us to conclude that the average yield increase was over 80% (see link to report below).
The tea leaves (right) appeared shiny after treatment with SumaGrow.
Click here for the full report with additional pictures:
This article was written by Dr. Lalithakumari Janarthanam who served for six years as our Director of Research & Development (now retired). In the U.S., we are not allowed to make any biopesticidal claims, so the article title and abstract are copied here with a link to the article below, without comment:
Bioprotectant with multifunctional microorganisms: A new dimension in plant protection
ABSTRACT In the present investigations it is proved that the inoculation of multifunctional microbial formulation to the soil improves soil quality, soil health, plant health, growth, yield, and quality of a broad spectrum of crops reducing chemical fertilizer and pesticide input. These microbial populations consist of selected species including plant growth promoting rhizo-bacteria, N2-fixing bacteria, Phosphate solubilizers, phytohormone producers, plant disease suppressive bacteria and fungi. To make it very simple a different dimension as „Bio Protectant” is given in this presentation to the collective synergistic effects of beneficial microbes stimulating soil, plant and environmental health reducing chemical fertilizer and pesticide application. A healthy plant does not require unwanted, poisonous chemical pesticides. Review of literature is focused in multiple ways on the growth promoting ability along with the biological activity of beneficial microorganisms. The present SumaGrow-F2 formulation contains multi-functional Rhizobium species, Pseudomonas spp., Bacillus, and Trichoderma spp. The recorded novel benefits of SumaGrow-F2 formulation in the Green House and Field are discussed here as microbes increasing plant health, soil health, and root health of a broad spectrum of crops. Not only can it eliminate almost all insect infestations and reduce fungal or bacterial infection, it also creates a healthier environment for plant growth. The result is healthy crops with a corresponding increase in the yield of fruits or vegetables or grains. Modern trend is to look for inspiring intelligent multi-functional microbial Plant protectant or bio protectant for sustainable agriculture.
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.
This university study doesn’t have many specifics, however, we do know the lint (what the farmer actually gets paid on) yield increase went up 28.3%. Three gallons of SumaGrow were used per acre due to poor soil health.