Getting ready for Soil & Nutrition Conference 2018!

The website for the 8th Annual Soil & Nutrition Conference is now live at a new, dedicated URL:  We are still adding speakers as their schedules and details are confirmed, but be sure to check it out!

For a preview of this year’s conference speakers, go to our YouTube channel:

Also, check out our playlists of content that have been curated to keep you informed on all BFA-related topics. While you are there, please subscribe to our channel!

Call for Conference Sponsors and Exhibitors
Participant registration opens next month, but registration for sponsors, exhibitors, and advertisers for the 2018 Soil & Nutrition Conference is available now. For more information about the opportunities available, please visit the conference website – signup forms are online for Sponsors and Exhibitors/Advertisers.

The inaugural GOAT Conference

The BFA helped create, plan, and sponsor a new initiative to connect those building out open technologies for agriculture. Starting last fall, we brought together a core organizing team to create what is now called GOAT (Gathering for Open Agricultural Technology).
Our inaugural conference (actually, an "unconference") was held May 7–9, 2018, at Omega Institute.

It was a fantastic experience! Nearly 60 people attended, from all over the world, from farmers using technology to enhance their operations, to software and hardware engineers working on open source ag technology, and university and government agricultural researchers. We had people there focused on social issues, the environment, and even two separate carbon-focused crypto-currency companies.

Many valuable connections were made, and it has energized our open ag technology forum. We invite everyone to check it out – there are a wide variety of topics to plug into, and some major initiatives to get involved with. Even some agricultural technology job postings!

Interested in learning more?
We are in the process of putting together a follow-up gathering at the upcoming 2018 Soil & Nutrition Conference, what we are cheekily referring to as the "Kid" Conference - a half-day series of discussions during our pre-conference on November 30, where those interested can learn more, connect with others similarly inclined, and continue to move this important dialogue forward.

We are grateful for the generosity of the 11th Hour Project and their financial support.

Chapter updates & upcoming events

This has been a busy spring! There is much interest in forming new BFA Chapters and Discussion Groups all around the United States and also in Canada, and continued commitment among existing Chapters and Groups.  There are so many dedicated people in our midst, working tirelessly in running their families and farms and businesses, and yet they are committed to sharing their knowledge of restorative biological growing and their time with their fellow gardeners and farmers.
Headquarters of BFA Chapter Coordinator,
Kris McCue
Read more about chapter updates and what's going on in your neck of the woods...

Upcoming chapter meeting and events

July 8 Troubleshooting real gardens - Westminster, MA

July 15 Sprays, drenches, and irrigation - Chicago, IL

July 17 Chapter meeting - Bedford, NY

July 22 Growing & Preparing Nutrient-Dense Food for Better Health & Resilient Communities - Amesville, OH

July 26 Biological Homestead/Farm tour - Southwick, MA

August 12 Troubleshooting real gardens - Westminster, MA

August 23 Evergreen Berry Farm tour - Watertown, CT

August 25 Cover crops & sharing perennials - Chicago, IL

September 6 Chapter meeting & soil testing - Simsbury, CT

September 11 Cover crops & wintering techniques - Westminster, MA

September 15 Soil testing & cover crops- Chicago, IL

Seasonal agronomy tips

by David Forster, BFA soil & farm consultant

Biological "fungicides" and disease suppressants
Sometimes, despite doing our best to support plant and soil health and a vibrant and diverse ecosystem, our crops will still experience pest and disease pressure. While, philosophically, perhaps we should view it as nature taking care of our imperfect management practices and the whims of the natural world, our practical, need to feed our families, response is often to try to figure out the cause and address it to minimize the negative effects of the issue.

Pest and disease issues are often the single biggest barrier for farmers adopting more biological/regenerative agricultural practices. Farmers need to make money, and gardeners are reticent to give up on their efforts to grow their plants, so when faced with the threat of pests and disease, most immediately reach for a treatment. And most of these treatments are chemical-based. Even many organic treatments are often simply a naturally derived pesticide... something designed to kill with variable levels of specificity.

But there is a relatively "new" option that is showing some intriguing results. The category known as biological pesticides.

This is growing out of research in IPM (integrated pest management), where you use things like predatory insects to control crop pests. We all know about the benefits of ladybugs, and we now have many other options, like green lacewings, praying mantis, beneficial nematodes, and even pest-specific beneficials like Mesoseiulus longipes (a mite predator) or Eretmocerus eremicus (a whitefly parasite).

But in a rapidly expanding new class of options, we now have bacteria and fungi that hold promise to control, or prevent, outbreaks of various crop diseases. Many of these are quite new, and as such, it can be hard to find them, and information about their use or effectiveness.

Below is a partial list of some of these. Most I have never used before, but I am testing many of them and research indicates they can be useful tools to help manage a wide variety of disease issues.

While I am not arguing that this is THE answer, and that regenerative agriculture need only adapt the chemical treatment protocols to use organic options, many of these hold promise to enable commercial success while moving toward more regenerative agricultural practices. If an insect infestation, or disease outbreak, has the potential to push a farmer, or gardener, off the path to becoming a regenerative grower, then these tools may provide the important stop-gap measure to enable success. Furthermore, many of these options use microbes found in healthy soils everywhere, so these can be seen as improving microbial diversity. These are tools to learn more about, and I think they will find increased acceptance and use, especially in conjunction with the soil balancing, ecosystem diversity, and other "tools" in the regenerative ag toolbox.

If you learn more about these, or others, or use them and want to report on your results, please check out the new forum topic on IPM on our website:

Bacillus amyloliquefaciens (brand name/s: Garden Sentinel™ Biofungicide, Triathlon® BA)

Streptomyces lydicus (brand name/s: Actinovate® Biological Fungicide)

Bacillus subtilis (brand name/s: Companion® Biological Fungicide wettable powder)

T. harzianum strain T-22, and T. virens strain G-41 (brand name/s: RootShield® Plus WP Biological Fungicide)

Beauveria bassiana Strain GHA (brand name/s: BotaniGard® ES) - for insect pests

Agronomy conference call

with David Forster, BFA soil & farm consultant

Tuesday, July 10 at 8:00pm EST – don't miss this free hour-long call – your chance to get your questions answered, and the answers to questions you didn't even know you had. Tell your friends... everyone's invited!  (BFA membership is not required).

If you have specific topics you'd like to hear about, please post ahead of time in the forum to be sure we get to your questions, and to make our limited time more effective and efficient.
Agronomy Conference Call
Tues, July 10 at 8pm EST

Call-in details

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