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Responding to natural power of soil

A GISBORNE man has developed a new soil rehabilitation product that naturally replaces nitrogen in the soil, the major nutrient that all plants need to grow.

Dugald Hamilton has a patent pending on his Respond product that can grow and store 100 percent of plant-available nitrogen.

“Laboratory results from trials I have conducted with it have been unbelievable,” he said.

The product combines live bacteria, live fungi and other additives in a liquid solution that can be applied to the root zone as a soil revitalisation compound.

“Respond unlocks phosphorous, potassium and other nutrients found in the soil, turning them into a plant-available form and storing both them and water," Mr Hamilton said.

“This creates an ‘online’ availability of food and water to ensure continuous growth production.”

He first started to develop the product more than 20 years ago when he managed the vineyards for Milltons Vineyard.

“There we transitioned existing chemically-managed vineyards into organic ones.

“The things I have seen along the way with soil rehabilitation have given me confidence in what could be done with live bacteria and live fungi.”

Promising trials“Trials I have done, like with Steve Voysey’s crops for example, and in tests conducted by Hills Laboratories in Hamilton, have shown a 34-kilogram per hectare increase in nitrogen over a four-month period, and that is on top of growing a crop with no extra nutrients added.”

Spade Oak winemaker Steve Voysey believes Mr Hamilton’s concept is a good one.

“The science is sound. It’s a nice natural product and I can certainly see it becoming more popular.

“I have been doing trials with it with my own personal cropping because I feel it has got merit.”

Mr Hamilton said the compound is applied to root systems of the host plants, and with proper management one application of the product will last for the life of the plant.

“That is a big benefit to those growing kiwifruit, pipfruit, export flowers, pine trees and multi-varietal grass or fodder crops.

“In intensive growing situations Respond can have supplemental nutrition but because it stores everything, only very low amounts of soluble proteins need to be applied.”

A major benefit is absence of nitrate leaching because the fungi absorb all nutrients produced or applied at low amounts, reducing waterway or soil contamination.

“This is huge with impending changes to agriculture practice. Respond gives growers the ability to transition easily into compliant management with full production.

“It opens doors to environmentally sensitive natural/green or totally organic markets adding value to existing yield.”

He has used patent attorneys James and Wells in Hamilton.

“During the patent process there were New Zealand and worldwide searches done to see if the product infringed any already existing patent.

“I was really shocked to find there was no other formulation or anything close to Respond out there, and I'm really happy about that.

“I've been lucky to have the valuable experience of Steve Breen and his team from Activate Tairawhiti to help me get to where I am now.

Products with results“I feel there's an opportunity for change with all the new high-value markets opening up. Farmers and growers will be looking for solid products that give them results, compliance and performance.”

Mr Hamilton said Respond was a soil rehabilitation system with huge potential to increase primary production in all areas, and do it at a lower cost.

“The bacteria multiply at a staggering rate, turning nitrogen in the air into plant-available nitrogen stored in the ground.

“By using it we can elevate the quality and return price for growth produce, and help to easily transition it to more value-added markets.

“It is also environmentally-friendly. There are lower nitrates in water and less need for expensive irrigation.

“With Respond you are not applying a granule that dissolves. You are installing a living network that multiplies.”

IN THE ROOT ZONE: Gisborne man Dugald Hamilton with a container of soil showing what happens when he adds his soil rehabilitation product. Called Respond, it is an environmentally-friendly liquid solution combining live bacteria, fungi and other additives applied to the plant root zone to naturally replace nitrogen in the soil. Mr Hamilton says he has had “unbelievable” results from trials and has a patent pending on Respond, for which he has found nothing similar worldwide. Picture by Liam Clayton