From Coffee, Carnivale and Caipirinha to Samba and Soybeans


Our third and final visit to the very large and diverse continent of the Americas was Brazil, to learn more about how a nation went from a food importer to one of the largest food exporters over a period of only a few decades.

Brazil has managed to evolve from a food insecure country in the early 70’s into one of the most important food producers and exporters in the world and this has been made possible by a coordinated and well-funded research program. To achieve this significant turnaround, all research efforts were consolidated with the establishment of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Cooperation (EMBRAPA) in 1973. It was founded under the premise to focus research and development on critical nutrient levels, optimum fertilizer sources and efficient application methods. EMBRAPA now consists of a network of 43 R&D centres spread across the country. Until the beginning of the 1970’s Brazil was troubled by low yields and all agricultural production was limited to the South and Southeast of the country. Identified as some of the biggest issues at the time were a lack of knowledge on tropical agriculture that would allow agriculture in the north and a lack of appropriate policies that would facilitate this. Brazil’s first agricultural (r)evolution therefore began with the tropicalisation of soybean (Glycine max) varieties and the development of liming and fertilisation technologies that transformed the poor acidic soil into fertile land. The second significant agricultural (r)evolution arrived with the introduction of the No-Tillage practices in the 1990s as well as better short-cycle soybean varieties that enabled double cropping of soybean and corn (Zea mays), significantly increasing the yield per hectare and year. Progress and change continued to emerge during the 2000’s where work focussed especially on the Cerrado region for the integration of crop, livestock and forestry systems (ICLF), heralded as the third agricultural (r)evolution for Brazil. Planting deep-rooted grasses such as Brachiaria species into soybean or corn fields, either as a cover crop or pasture for cattle during the dry/winter season, has become a viable option adopted successfully on 4.5 million ha throughout the region. The incorporation of these grasses has been shown to increases plant residue adn soil carbon content, provides soil protection during the dry season and contributes to a more biologically active environment. Further on the soils topic and what happens out of sight below the ground; biologicals and especially the introduction of Azospirillum as a plant growth promotor has further enhanced the yield and stress tolerance of the different broad acre crops, making it an interesting technique with considerable potential in other growing regions around the world. The long-standing research effort coordinated by EMBRAPA has resulted in highly efficient inoculants and a thriving inoculant industry that is supported through the strong adaptation of growers across the nation.

To see this in person and meet the people behind the significant ongoing efforts in Brazil, our tour started in Brasilia with a visit to EMBRAPA Cerrados, where we met with the teams of Dr. Fabio Bueno dos Reis Junior and Dr. Ieda Mendes, both passionate about sustainable farming practices. It was fabulous to see and understand the evolution the Cerrado has gone through and how the targeted innovations have resulted not only in yield increases, but also reduced soil erosion and increased carbon sequestration. The Cerrado research facility also holds a bacteria research collection of 1,200 strains of which 70 % alone are specific to soybean and common bean. This incredible repository holds future potential for further inoculant improvements, also beyond the borders of Brazil.

Considering the size of the biologicals market, we made sure to include visits to a range of remarkable and impressive inoculant companies including Total Biotecnologia (now Biotrop), SuperBac, Bayer (Cambé site) and Forquimica. We started in Curitiba where we were shown around the production facilities of Total Biotecnologia, which were established in 2005 and recently acquired by Aqua capital and merged with Biotrop. The multinational research team focuses on the production of an extensive range of biologicals with application for nitrogen fixation, stress resistance, silage stability, plant growth promotion and increased inoculant efficacy. The successful development of highly competitive products has allowed them to reach a 25% market share against a strong national and international competition. Further to its own brands, Total Biotecnologia produces inoculants for other companies in the Brazilian market. The R&D continues to focus on further improving effectiveness and product QC of their products, and they collaborate with EMBRAPA as well as other national and international partners to achieve these goals.

SUPERBAC has been developing and delivering high performance biotechnology solutions for the agriculture, sanitation, oil and gas and consumer goods segments for more than 20 years. They are continuously on the hunt for the true beneficial super-bug, and not to be mistaken for the nuisance that causes great concern for hospitals and doctors. With research and development centres located in Brazil, the United States, Colombia, and Singapore, SUPERBAC is consolidating its position as a leader in bio-innovation.

They produce fertilisers starting from chicken manure that get mixed with plant growth promoting bacteria to increase uptake and effective usage by the plant. In the oil and gas industry they focus on remediation of spillage by using bacteria mixtures, whereas the consumer goods segment is focusing on the removal of undesirable odours in sewerage pipes. There is an increased push into the agricultural market and hence their fermentation laboratory was moved to Londrina, next door to EMBRAPA Soja one of the world leaders of soy research, to focus on new products, optimisation of existing processes, scale-up testing and pilot production testing. SUPERBAC is using the latest in genomics and biochemistry to assist their R&D aims in agriculture, as well as undertaking ground-breaking research in mapping the Brazilian soil microbiome. To remain competitive in the global market, future expansions are planned with an aim to produce their own inoculants on site in Londrina.

One of the largest global players, Bayer has around 15,000 employees in the Latin American market which generated around A$9B in 2018. We were fortunate to visit their Cambé site neighbouring Londrina, where around 3.4 million doses of liquid inoculant are produced per year. Their research strongly focuses on biologicals, improving seed treatment, nodulation and nitrogen fixation. However, due to the merger with Monsanto the R&D directions are being consolidated and refocussed. The main goal for the Cambé site is to obtain ISO accreditation and increase production efficiency.

One of the established players in the region is Forquímica founded in 1985 with the main objective of bringing unique liquid inputs and fertilisers to the agricultural market. The success of their work and high economic growth rate together with the favourable market conditions in the following years allowed the diversification of their activities. Therefore, the Forus Group was created to unify the administration, storage and distribution of the manufactured produced by a range of associated companies including Forquímica, Dominus, Domclor, Stevia Natus, Laborfort, Ecoforest, Mademax, For brothers and Transagil. The Forquímica headquarters and production plant are located in the city of Cambira one hour drive south from Londrina, where they are currently establishing their own inoculant production facilities. This will allow them to offer a more personal approach for their customers, by combining the expertise in nutrition and protection into an optimised product portfolio that is designed to work synergistically without interference.

Tracing our route back to Londrina, we caught up with Prof Mariangela Hungria and her team from EMBRAPA Soybean in Londrina. As mentioned above, the contribution to the remarkable evolution of soy agribusiness in Brazil over the last few decades, places the Unit on top of the worldwide list of renowned institutions in the development of technologies for cultivation in tropical regions. Among the long list of its achievements are the development of cultivars adapted to low latitude regions, biological pest control, soil management and conservation techniques. Although mostly known for its work on soybean, the Unit is also responsible for research on sunflower farming for the entire national territory. In addition to this already extensive range of research areas, they are also deeply involved in wheat research developed in partnership with Embrapa Wheat (Passo Fundo – Rio Grande do Sul) and the Paraná Agronomic Institute – IAPAR (Londrina, Paraná). For the best possible integration of multi-crop farming systems, Embrapa Soybean also participates in research activities of other Units, such as Embrapa Maize and Sorghum (Sete Lagoas – Minas Gerais) and Embrapa Rice and Beans (Santo Antônio de Goiás – Goiás) to ensure the best possible outcomes and synergies between the institutional units as well as the crop systems.

The team of Prof Hungria has been at the forefront of inoculant development and improvement both with rhizobia and a range of plant growth promoting bacteria. The unit proudly houses the inoculant mother collection and services the inoculant industry with verified type strains, product QC, field trials, quarantine testing and new product registration.

Incidentally during our time in Londrina, the annual agriculture expo was in full swing showcasing the newest offerings, market trends and latest achievements in national and international agriculture. Given the nature of the expo, it provided us with a great opportunity to see some of the showcased animals and crops including the famous Brazilian coffee as well as engage with distributors servicing the Brazilian, South American and global agricultural market.

Our final stop lay along the way back to Rio de Janeiro in Seropédica where we met with Prof Jerri Zilli and his team at EMBRAPA Agrobiology. This unit is a decentralized Unit of EMBRAPA and linked to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA). It has approximately 150 employees, including researchers, analysts and technicians. It was interesting to learn from Jerry about their main research focus around biological nitrogen fixation, agroecology and organic production, microbiology and biological inputs, recovery of degraded areas utilising molecular genetics and biochemistry. Embrapa Agrobiology also houses the Johanna Döbereiner Biological Resources Center (CRB-JD) named after the Brazilian pioneer in early Azospirillum research and other beneficial soil bacteria, who was a key figure in the rise of Brazil as one of the world soybean farming leaders. The institute named in her honour today houses a wide collection of microorganism cultures, with about 3,700 bacteria and 50 arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. CRB-JD’s mission is to maintain the microbial germplasm bank with the ambition to continuously enriche its collection through the incorporation of new microorganisms, whether this be via discovery or exchange with other centres around the world. They continue Johanna Döbereiner’s legacy by developing new biological inputs and sharing the knowledge and insights through training and engagement in microbial taxonomy for academia and other professionals in related industries.

After a long but interesting and highly rewarding trip across many boarders, it was time to return home to Australia and start unravelling the many lose or tangled threads of information and sorting them into neat and manageable coils with which we can continue our own efforts to improve Australian farming.

We believe that there are great opportunities on both sides to learn and benefit from each other and we aim to support our local agriculture industry as well as work towards a sustainable farming future where biologicals will assist in nitrogen fertilisation worldwide.

We would like to sincerely thank the WA Department of Jobs Tourism Science and Innovation for the grant that made this trip possible.

For the next edition of this little mini-series, we plan to share our experience and thoughts from a trip across the ditch, visiting the land of Hobbits, lots and lots of birds of which some are named like fruit and of course a large number of sheep and cows grazing on pastures.

We wish everyone a relaxing and peaceful break and a great start into a hopefully successful 2020.

Best wishes from the MALDI-ID team

Argentina the land of beef and soybean!


In the second part of our 2019 agriculture innovation review we continue to explore the American continent. After spending two weeks in northern America in two of the major agricultural centres as described in our previous blog-post, we moved south to Argentina the land famous for its steaks, Gauchos, Tango and of course Soybean.

Argentina has a land area of 278M ha of which 150M ha are used for agricultural purposes. The grassland which is present both in the north and south is known for its extensive cattle and sheep production. In total 39M ha of Argentina is arable land planted with annual crops and permanent pastures for intensive cattle production.

Soybean has been the main crop for the last 15 years with an area of 17-19M ha per year yielding approximately 54M tonnes, followed by corn (43Mt) and wheat (19.7Mt) as the most commonly grown crops. Interestingly the acreage for wheat and maize has remained consistent over the past 20 years, however it had almost doubled for soybean. Those significant improvements have mostly been due to the implementation of no tillage practices and increased usage of biologicals.

Argentina has a highly diverse climates due to its unique geography. Wedged between the Andes to the west and the Atlantic to the east it is influenced by the cold and often rough weather around the southern tip close to Antarctica and the warm reaches of the Amazon basin in the north. The main agricultural production is focused in the provinces of Santa Fe, Cordoba and Northern Buenos Aires. Together they produce 70% of Argentina’s total soybean. The beneficial climatic conditions in this area allows for a double crop with either wheat or barley during winter and soybean or corn in summer.

Producing such large amounts of crops requires some level of transportation or processing before it can reach the customers. Rosario lies roughly 300km to the north-west of Buenos Aires. It is home to the biggest soybean crushing hub in Argentina processing 20,000 tonnes/day, which produces both soybean meal and oil, and makes Argentina the world’s largest exporter of soybean meal and oil with 47% and 49% of the global export. Sitting on the banks of the Paraná river which has its source in the Amazon, the Rosario port also services small boats from Paraguay, Brazil and Uruguay that make their way down to Rosario for crushing and export. It is therefore no surprise, that large international companies like Cargill and Louis Dreyfus also have terminals along the river.

While the production numbers are certainly most impressive, they do not inform us who the growers are and whether there are differences to farming in Australia. In total 70% of farming is done on leased land, which is a trend that started in the 90’s as the new generation of land owners kept the land but did not want to do farming. The cost of land lease also increased due to the succession law in Argentina, which led to a fragmentation of farms, rendering some of them uneconomical. As demand for farmland did not subside, an increase in farmland prices made acquiring farms more expensive and therefore also less economical. This unusual constellation leads to a lack of soil maintenance or care as it is not their land and the farmer might not have the same land to work with in the following year. One example that can be observed as a result of this is that the amount of P fertiliser application often decreases if uncertainty over the lease of the land exists.

Other practices such as using contractors for harvesting, seeding and spraying are also very common. It is therefore interesting to realise that in Argentina a farmer can be a farmer, even without owning land or equipment, a concept that may not be obvious or preferred, but possible nevertheless.

Although export is strong and yields are high, farming in Argentina is often difficult due to government regulations and frequent changes, sometimes over-night. Some of these regulations included the implementation of high tax rates of sometimes up to 60-70%. These taxes can also originate from federal, provincial or local levels. Because the economics and politics are complex, agriculture needs to be highly flexible. This adaptation to flexibility has allowed agriculture to remain Argentina’s main economic activity responsible for a third of the GDP and more than a third of its export. Importantly it also generates income opportunities in the rural areas, which is an issue for many nations globally.

Considering the success and importance of soybean today, it is a relatively young crop, as it only arrived in Argentina in the 70’s. Given its importance it is therefore also somewhat surprising, that the same inoculant strain (E109) has been used since ’77. The South American inoculant market is estimated to be worth $85M annually with more than 95% of the market dedicated to soybean. Argentina together with Brazil have around 85% inoculation rates with 20M ha in Argentina alone. However, the soybean seed practices differ significantly between the two nations, as Argentina is using 80% saved seed rather than certified seed, compared to only 20% saved seed in Brazil.

While much knowledge can be learned from books and statistics, meeting people on site and seeing things first hand provides a much deeper experience and detailed impression.

The first stop on our trip to Argentina was a visit to the National Agricultural technology institute in Buenos Aires (INTA), which is tasked to solve issues in forestry, agriculture and the associated agro-industry. The focus of the visit for us was to understand the local legume inoculation process, problems faced by farmers in Argentina and the solutions currently available to them. We learned, that inoculant quality control is currently not obligatory in Argentina, but INTA maintains a culture collection and provides type strains to inoculant manufacturers if they request so. In addition, it is also possible for companies to hold their own collections and produce inoculants with them. Interestingly, not only rhizobia inoculants are used but also plant growth promoting bacteria such as Azospirillum are frequently used in soybean and maize production to reduce artificial fertiliser inputs.

Our next visit brought us to Novozymes in Pilar, an hour’s drive from Buenos Aires. Novozymes has been part of the BioAg Alliance with Monsanto (now Bayer) since 2014, while Novo A/S, with its Danish roots, is still the majority owner. Agriculture and feed make up 15% of the portfolio with a diverse range of products focusing on biocontrol, nutrient uptake, signalling, nitrogen fixation and phosphate solubilisation. As indicated above, quality control is not legally required, but every batch is tested in house, considering the same official parameters including the total bacterial count, optical density, gram stain, pH, visual colony inspection and box PCR. It was further impressive to see the extensive QC performed in the R&D department with a focus to increase shelf life of the liquid inoculant, increase the CFU/ml, on seed survival and to understand the effect of field conditions on the effectiveness of the final product.

The final visit was made to Rizobacter in Pergamino which is a proud Argentinian owned inoculant company with carbon neutral status and ISO certification established in 1983. Through their strategic alliances with Bioceres, Syngenta, De Sangosse and Momentive they aim to become leaders in the investigation, development and production of microbiological products. Their product portfolio contains microbiological products (growth promotors, biological fungicide, rhizobia), chemical crop protection (Adjuvants, fungicide, insecticide), crop nutrition (fertiliser), seed (soybean, wheat) and seed treatment services. However, 51% of their revenue is generated by inoculants followed by 31% adjuvants. As mentioned, the head office, R&D laboratory and main production facility are located in Pergamino in the heart of the northern agricultural region, 220km inland from Buenos Aires and a 90-minute drive south of Rosario with its soy industry and port. However, they have subsidiaries around the world in Europe, Africa, India, the USA and other Latin American nations. In Argentina, Rizobacter holds 24% of the inoculant market followed by Novozymes with a 17% market share.

Significant efforts by the R&D department are put into increasing the shelf life of their products, concentration, effectiveness in the field and compatibility with additional chemical or seed treatments. With an equally strong and ambitious team, the QC department is focused on researching raw material of strains sourced locally or internationally, Quality Assurance, R&D control and environmental control. The purity and concentration of the product is monitored during the whole production process by their in-house department including identification, pH and nodulation test, using established or traditional methods of plating and dilutions. From each batch, samples are retained and checked on a monthly basis until the expiry date is reached, setting high standards in a global and competitive market.

After an eventful and informative time in Argentina it was time to make our way across the border and visit Brazil, of which we will report more in our next blog post.

2019 agriculture innovation review – USA


With the end of the year nearing, we thought it was time to review all the things we have learned from our travels and interactions with our clients, farmers and experts in different areas of agriculture.

This week we will start with a report about the trip to the World Agritech summit in San Francisco earlier this year where our CEO and co-founder Dr Sofie De Meyer, joined the March 2019 Austrade USA mission. Together with Agersens, AgriFutures Australia, Aware Water Group, Bridge Hub, Digital Ag Collective, Escavox, Farmbot Australia, Farmscan Ag, FluroSat, GRDC, Monash University, Nexgen Plants, ProAgni, thingc and UTAS, MALDI-ID was immersed in the agricultural industry in the US to learn about its different aspects.

The information-packed program started with an overview of the Austrade USA landing pad assisting in understanding on how to conduct business in the US. We had the opportunity of talking to Australian businesses with successful trading histories in the US and gained particular insights into the relevant cultural differences between the US and Australia.

After this insightful introduction, we fully embraced the opportunity to engage and learn about innovative technologies during the World Agri-tech summit in San Francisco. The summit included a vast array of great speakers and interesting discussion points on a wide range of topics regarding the future of agriculture worldwide.

It is becoming apparent that a tailored approach to farming is quickly becoming more prevalent with the inclusion of various sensors, satellite data, robotics, precision sowing/spraying/harvesting and Artificial Intelligence amongst other things. A truly smart farm might be closer to reality than we think as global players like Amazon, IBM, Bayer and Corteva show a strong interested and have started to invest in the sector.

While we embrace this new age of data-driven agriculture, we fully agree with Abe Hughes from Trimble who mentioned that “At the end of the day, none of this technology means anything unless it shows a true Return On Investment” and this is going to be one of the major challenges for farmers in the near future. It will be important to understand how they will be able to integrate the technology that suits their needs instead of just jumping on board with what is often referred to as the latest and greatest new tech.

A little closer to our own interest were signs of a renewed focus on soil health and attention to minimising soil degradation of arable land. After focusing on everything above ground for the past few decades to increase performance of livestock and crops, the major industry players are refocussing on the soil to increase production to feed a growing world population. This was evident by the large number of “biologicals” on offer. These products from Micro-organisms come in a wide range of applications from enhanced nutrient uptake to plant growth promotion and pest/disease control. A highly important aspect for the success of these, however, will be the quality and appropriate application of these living organisms to provide farmers with the return on investment. With the fast and accurate identification of microorganisms a core aspect of our business, quality assurance is exactly what MALDI-ID can offer to manufacturers providing a great opportunity for us in the future. Supporting the manufacturers will help to insure that investments by farmers locally and internationally will result in that “Return on Investment”.

After an information packed first week, we left the San Francisco Bay area to explore the Salinas valley, getting to know successful local farmers and learn from their experience.

The Valley in Monterey county California, is cradled by mountains to the east and west, yet opens to the Pacific Ocean in the north which cools the valley. Together with great soil it is a highly productive growing region which has earned it the name of the Salad Bowl of the World due to its large production output serving the majority of the US lettuce market. Valued at of over $1.9 billion, this region is the fourth highest agricultural producing area in California. Around 600,000 ha of land is used for agriculture of which more than 80,000 ha are irrigated. As the name suggests, there is a strong horticultural focus in the north on cool-season vegetables like artichoke, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, Asian vegetables, spinach and lettuce. Further south where the effect of the cool pacific climate is less pronounced, warm-season vegetables including carrots, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes are grown. On the sweeter side of things, the Salinas valley is also producing a third of the Californian strawberries and has a thriving viticulture industry.

The week-long road trip started at the Western Growers Centre for Innovation and Technology. Of course, the idea of co-working space is not new, but the implementation and the focus on innovation in the Agricultural industry was very inspiring. The centre does far more than just providing an office space and meeting rooms for potential start-ups and companies. It was created to help identify industry priorities and then assist to address them by attracting small businesses with novel technologies, facilitate testing and networking to meet the needs of the industry. It was great to see how differently things can be approached and how a supportive industry is tackling their problems together to the benefit of everyone involved.

Making our way along the valley, we were introduced to Andy Boy who contrary to his name can look back at an eventful long life during which he developed and established the amazing fresh produce cooler pipeline that he was proud to show us in person. The benefits for the manufacturer and ultimately the customers are clearly evident, observing the short processing time from field through the cooling stages to loading the trucks.

One aspect that became clear visiting Pessagno winery, Sundance Berry Farms, PlantTape and Church Brothers Farms was that the main problem across the region is the difficulty of finding reliable labour, as a large portion of the production still requires manual sowing, weeding and harvesting. Once more innovation plays a big role to improve capacities when staff numbers are limited and PlantTape is a great example implementing  such innovation and working a treat on farm. Check out the video here.

Exploring innovations and how they can help the farmers and benefit the customers was a key aspect of the trip. At Sundance Berry farm they produce both conventionally and organically grown strawberries and Jackie Vasquez proudly told us how they innovated the growing of their organic fruit which resulted in larger good-looking strawberries. When these however hit the market, complaints were soon made on social media that these could not be organic strawberries as they were too big or did not look organic enough. So, innovation is great but what if the customer does not (yet) want it? Therefore, market pressure and how consumers drive innovation and production on farms was another eye opener for all of us.

After the great introduction to the horticulture in California we headed east for a better understanding of broad acre cropping in the US for which the Midwest is known globally. Our first stop was St Louis (Missouri) visiting the former Monsanto campus now operated by Bayer Crop Sciences. A tour of the facilities highlighted the latest and greatest in greenhouse technology and gave us an overview of the future directions they have chosen as a global player in the industry.

Moving from one of the largest established ag-bio companies to the start-up scene, where the Danforth Plant Science Center and the Helix Biotech Incubator demonstrated how important pathways of innovation are for establishing successful start-ups, providing general and specific support including the building of networks.

Further exploration of Missouri led us to a local cattle farmer, where we learned more about the local practices, allowing a great comparison to those used in Australia.

Leaving the cattle enjoying their feed, we turned our attention to the Missouri Bay Research Facility to hear all about soybean. This was especially important for us to get a good understanding of the soybean market and how soybean is grown in the Midwest specifically in regards to the inoculation practices. Associations like this example for Soybean in the US can be compared to our own Research Development Corporations (RDC) which are levy-funded and provide funding support to projects which target key issues for the growers.

The USA are the top producer of soybean in the world with 120.4M tonnes of which 38% are exported as beans, 17% as meal and 8% as oil.

In the afternoon we took a brief trip across the state boarder into Kansas visiting the John Deere Ag Marketing Centre in Olathe to heard about their recent innovations and integration of novel technologies.

Kansas State University is highly regarded for its agricultural research and renowned as one of the US land-grant universities. With the abundance of expertise in agriculture, participants were matched with researchers for an exchange of thoughts and ideas. This was not only highly informative and invigorating, but further allowed us to establish the first contacts for potential future collaboration with the university.

It was interesting to learn that soybean is used in rotation with corn and due to the large amount of fertiliser used in the corn cycle it is unclear what the effects are on the natural nitrogen fixation ability of soybean. There is a belief among farmers that they do not need to inoculate as the high N content in the soil is inhibiting the nitrogen fixation making the investment for inoculation redundant. However, there is no evidence from field or glasshouse studies to support or confirm this believe or elaborate at what exact levels of N in the soil nitrogen fixation in legumes is reduced or inhibited.

The excessive application of artificial N-fertiliser has also been identified to cause pollution with dramatic effects on the waterways and aquafers. With the concern of environmental damage threatening the agricultural industry of the region, the counties and state government are interested in reducing fertiliser usage without compromising yields. MALDI-ID is committed to collaborate with US partners to find solutions that enable a stable soybean production with minimal impact on the environment. A transfer of knowledge from the international market would of course also benefit Australia’s soybean production worth AU$20M in 2019 to grow further.

The Midwest spreads across multiple states that are within driving distance, making it easy to once more cross the state border into Nebraska. The state is the top producer of beef and feedlot cattle and ranked in the top 5 for soybean, kidney bean and pinto bean production. Farming is the biggest industry in the state and contributed 5.7% to the US total economy in 2017. There are around 47,400 farms with an average size of 386ha which cover 91% of the state’s total land area. Again, here soil erosion has caused the loss of the top 12 inches (30cm) of the top soil due to the limited corn/soy rotation and the lack of cover crops during winter. Moreover, the N-contamination load allowed by the US Environmental Protection Agency has been set to 10 ppm and Nebraska has an increasing number of areas going above this level. Therefore, similar to Kansas, efforts are being made in Nebraska to reduce the N-fertilisation use during the corn rotation to reduce runoff into the waterways and facilitate or improve nitrogen fixation in soybean rotation instead. Visiting the University of Nebraska and Valmont facilities provided a valuable insight into smart irrigation systems and the importance of using technology to incorporate appropriate management systems to control water wastage.

Crossing a state border for the last time into Iowa for our final stop we spent the day at Corteva Agriscience and their Granular team sharing insights with us about legislation and future directions for GMO crops with a focus on innovation integration along the way rounding up the trip that has provided all of us with a wealth of valuable knowledge that we are integrating into our research to benefit our customers.

If you like to hear more news about soybeans and other legume stories from Brazil and Argentina keep an eye on this space over the next few weeks.

Farmers feeling the dry start to seeding.


Although winter might officially be here, this year’s rainfall has been significantly lower than in previous years. The last 6 months have had little to no substantial rainfall leading to almost no moisture in the soil which is leaving farmers concerned. Many across the state have been dry seeding and are not sure how they are going to get through the rest of the season with little rain due in sight — leaving many to create significant changes to the cropping program. According to Wagin Farmer Ben Ball “The way this season is panning out, we are in danger of burning a bit of money.

Mr Ball has had to change his 2019 program to abide by the dry climate. Previously he planned to put in 500 hectares of canola, but with no summer rain, there was no subsoil moisture to be able to put into the growth for the crop. He has had to make dramatic changes to his program as the lack of moisture has deterred him from cropping canola.

Traditionally lupins have always been a consistent part of the program with up to a third of their crop in lupin. Mr Ball says “Lupins don’t like a dry start, finish or frost. When they are good, they are excellent, but when they are poor, they are very poor.” This has led to the demise in hectares they have put in because of the variabilities being too high to crop. With farmers having to dry seed as a result of the lack of rainfall. There are plenty worried about the germination of their crops.

The Bureau of Metrology has predicted a warm and dry winter for the South-East. Which coincides with Grain Industry Association of Western Australia (GIWA) releasing reports saying the intended canola areas had decreased with only 1.4 million hectares of canola production planned. BOM Spokesmen Neil Bennett stated “We’ve had a very dry autumn, but we also had a very dry summer and late spring” “It’s been an exceptionally long dry period and that has meant it is unlike previous years where we have had rainfall in the summer season” “We didn’t see that this year”.

Perth posted its second-driest May on record as it collected 17.8mm. These conditions are certainly putting the pressure on farmers. Welcomed rainfall hit over the weekend which was seen across the Midwest and Wheatbelt including Southern Cross who scored 14.2mm, Cunderdin with 10.5mm and Dalwallinu with 10mm. Luke Rushby from the Wheatbelt who works for CBH said: “Any rain out this way is good for the farmers,”.

Source: Farm Weekly, Dry could see lots of money burnt – Travis King,
ABC, Perth weather shows the second-driest May on record as winter starts with a warm stretch – Irena Ceranic

More good news on chickpea popularity


The popularity of chickpeas is on the rise in the US.

Not only is it a very versatile and tasty legume, but according to The Atlantic roasted and spiced chickpeas are also a healthier alternative to fried potato chips.

For many more exciting examples of how versatile chickpeas and legumes are check out the article here.

Delayed Lupin flowering important to increase yield.


UWA postgraduate student, Candy Taylor, recently delivered her thesis on lupin flowering times at the University of WA’s Frontiers in Agriculture showcase.

During the presentation, Ms Taylor highlights that Australia accounts for 51% of the global 1.3 million tonnes of Lupin production. And Western Australia produces a staggering 70 – 80% of Australia’s lupins.

Lupins tend to flourish in the Northern Wheatbelt thanks to the short seasons. Because of the Lupins early flowering time, parts of WA don’t capitalise on later season rains which are perfect for lupin crop.


Image source:

Ms Taylor has concluded that by delaying the flowering time of a narrowed leaf lupin for 22 days, you could increase yield by up to 16%.

Whereas, the best delay of flowering for high rainfall areas to boost yield is 18 days.

Click here to learn how our RHIZO-ID kits can help increase your legume yield.


How RHIZO-ID can increase crop yield or pasture performance


Knowing if your legumes contain the correct rhizobia, and if the rhizobia is working the way it should be to increase crop yield or pasture performance is vital. 

What do you need to know about legumes?

Legume roots produce a natural fertilizer. 

The nodules that form on the roots of legumes contain rhizobia bacteria.

For the rhizobia bacteria to take nitrogen from the air and produce ammonia (fertilizer) it is important to know if the correct rhizobia is in your legumes.

Did you know?

The Australian agriculture industry uses 5.3 million tons of fertilizer each year! Legume roots are a sustainable farming fertilizer.

A successful farmer does two things very well:

First, they reduce their environmental impact as much as possible.

Second, they find cost-effective farming methods which transcends into increased yields.

So, how exactly do we help farmers achieve these two things?

With the power of science and our easy to use RHIZO-ID kits, we can identify what type of rhizobia is in your legume root nodules to improve production.

legume root
What do you need to do?

All you need to do is order a RHIZO-ID kit from our website or through our distributors.

1 kit is sufficient for the analysis of one legume species.

Each kit contains four sample bags.

Simply send in roots from four different locations in a 100-hectare paddock and we will begin the analysis.

It really is that easy.

We are trusted leaders in the farming industry:

Our kits are sold through leading farming organisations such as;

ALOSCA Technologies, CSBPElders, and Landmark.

What’s our method?

RHIZO-ID explanation

Traditional ways to identify root nodules include growing the bacteria. This method can be time-consuming, labour intensive and expensive for farmers.

Here’s the deal:

We have combined an innovative method which incorporates both previous methods to save time and money for farmers, whilst being environmentally friendly.

Our scientific-led research team use a mass spectrometer machine and genetic sequencing of protein markers to detect and identify the different strains and their unique fingerprints.

We generate a fingerprint of root nodules and then we compare that fingerprint with the database that we have comprised of the current rhizobia inoculants.

This means that there will be less fertilizer needed because nitrogen from the legume is put into the ground and it’s available for (wheat or barley) crop after the legume component.

We ship world wide.

MALDI-ID wins 2018 Science and Innovation Award


MALDI-ID has won a 2018 Science and Innovation Award from the Australian Government.

The grant worth $22,000 was sponsored by the Grain Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and will help to expand our root nodule identification tool RHIZO-ID to include grain legumes.

This will allow for quick and accurate feedback to producers regarding the type of rhizobia in the legume root nodules.

During the official ceremony, Dr De Meyer had the honour of personally receiving the award from Daryl Quinlivan, secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Water resources in Canberra on March the 6th 2018.

In the picture from left to right: Robyn Cleland, Daryl Quinlivan, Dr De Meyer, Bondwen Maclean, Richard Heath