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Progressive Magazines

“Going from 65% to 90+% stand is a dramatic improvement . . . .

Next year it will even be better!”

by Leon Leavitt

IMPERIAL VALLEY, CA ~ Thousands of years ago a giant sea covered this southernmost part of California, leaving a flat area waiting to be discovered. Early settlers harnessed the Colorado River and built the All-American Canal to bring water to over 500,000 acres of farm ground. To get the salt out of the soil, underground tile lines were installed to drain the salt away through a drainage system that eventually takes it to the area’s Saltine Sea.

Andy Burnett’s dad started farming east of Brawley in 1947 after the war. Andy has since acquired additional ground adjacent to the home place, raising nearly 1000 acres of alfalfa hay and 1000 acres of Bermudagrass with smaller fields being planted to oat hay and Sudan hay.

Andy recalls that when he first started farming, they could keep a stand of alfalfa in for 4-8 years. Due to the extreme heat of 120 degrees f and humidity of 25-40% in late summer, he’s now lucky to have hay fields producing well after three or four years. He began looking for a way to assist the hay to withstand the heat and not lose the crop.


On a field he planted last November, he started applying microbials in January to stimulate root growth. This was done with the first irrigation after each cutting. As a result, that particular field has appeared healthier and is looking better with a slight increase in production.

And then there is the continual salt issue that plagues the valley.

Andy says, “We had two adjoining hay fields (130 and 145 acres, respectively) that had salted up pretty bad because the tile lines shut down. We lost the hay crop on both fields. After cleaning out the tile lines, we planted the fields with giant common Bermuda mix grass at 8-10 pounds/acre. Due to the salt problem, had to reseed again.”

The first irrigation was in July of last year and the first cutting was in early November with very poor yield, maybe 1/2 ton/acre. There were huge spots (5 to 7 acres in size) of non-productive areas. Both fields were a disaster with a 65% stand. It was time to take action.


Andy applied Bactifeed (microbial) with the first irrigation on February 20th of this year. The first cutting was April 20th and every 30 days thereafter. Microbials continued to be added (in the first one of two irrigations between cuttings) at the rate of one cup per acre.


Andy explains, “On a field that has a good stand you will see faster results because there is already a good stand, but on a field where there is a lot of healing to do it’s going to take a period of time. It didn’t take long though, as we saw the changes come on gradually as the Bermudagrass filled in the bare spots.”

The results were convincing. On the last cutting, the south field (at 90% stand) produced 2.3 ton/acre and the north field (at 95% stand) topped 2.5 ton/acre.

Andy summarizes, “Bactifeed’s microbials tremendously helped the salt problem on this ground. The soil opened up so that the salt could be taken down and drained away. I can now get a stand. Going from 65% to 90+% stand is a dramatic improvement. Next year it will be even better. I have been happy with the results.”

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