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A company for the farmers

January 21, 2002|By JASON ZARA, Special to this newspaper

IMPERIAL — While farming may bring to mind images of planting and harvesting, it is not as simple as throwing some seeds in the ground and watering what has been planted.

Advanced Crop Technologies Inc. in Imperial specializes in soil analysis, providing season-long breakdowns of nutrients and chemicals in a field. That allows farmers to use the proper amount of fertilizer, keeping costs down by not overfertilizing and maximizing the benefits crops receive from the nutrients in the soil.

Amin Abdelmoien, agronomist and partner in Advanced Crop Technologies, said the company cooperates with farmers, working in partnership to find out what the soil needs and to solve any problems.

"We take analysis during the season of the crop and we guide (the farmer)," Abdelmoien said. "If a certain area of the field has a problem, we can go check it."


The technology of farming has come a long way, Abdelmoien said. While fields were once fertilized using an average of data from different locations, that is no longer the case.

Now with the aid of a global positioning system and variable rate spreading from fertilizer companies, it is possible to provide exactly what is needed in each section of a field. Abdelmoien said fields are sampled every 2.5 acres.

The company checks soil for nematodes — microscopic worms that attack roots. If nematodes are found fumigation is required for the field.

Another service of Advanced Crop Technologies is checking salinity levels. Analysis of the soil can tell the farmer if leaching is necessary.

"We try to figure out why the ground is collecting salt," said Abdelmoien.

He said it is not enough to tell the farmer there is too much salt. The root of the problem must be addressed as well, whether it is clogged tile lines, bad drainage or other problems.

Advanced Crop Technologies can provide a single soil analysis but its true value is in the whole-year program. Soil is analyzed from before planting to the end of the harvest season and beyond. Tracking data from the same sample locations over time allows a detailed breakdown of the soil and its nutrients.

Angela Humes, chemist and partner in Advanced Crop Technologies, said the company has one of the few labs that is certified in the state. She said the information provided to the farmers is invaluable.

"We present the farmer with a report and a graph," she said. "The graph will tell him on this stage of the plant the maximum (nutrients) should be this much, the minimum should be this much — if he's deficient he can see it visually."

She said precise data is important; some farmers mistakenly think if some fertilizer is good, more is better.

"That's not necessarily the case," she said.

Added Abdelmoien: "In order to have a good crop you have to have a good balance of nutrients."

Not using too much fertilizer is especially important as farmers face issues over runoff.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is cracking down on how much chemical runoff is acceptable.

Advanced Crop Technologies has been involved in a lot of field testing and crop trials in the Imperial Valley, Humes said. The question is often not whether a new crop will grow here but whether it will be profitable. The company has been involved in recent sugar beet testing and in the expanding citrus orchards in the Valley. The firm also has been involved in a trial of snap peas.

"Farmers are always trying to find a new crop to grow here so we have diversity in our crops," Abdelmoien said.

Abdelmoien said ultimately his company is trying to help cut costs and increase yields.

"It's like fine-tuning what they're doing," he said.

Added Humes: "We're just trying to improve the general farming community."

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