Recap: Farmer-to-Farmer Workshop at Foster Bros.

The Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition kicked off our new Farmer-to-Farmer Workshop Series at Foster Brothers Farm in Middlebury on September 6. For our first event, we welcomed Dan Mower, Territory Sales Manager for Pivot Bio.

When Dan Mower first heard of Pivot Bio’s alternative to synthetic nitrogen fertilizer several years ago, he was initially skeptical.

“It’s too good to be true,” he thought.

Nitrogen is a critical building block for all life, including plants. Farmers have come to rely on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer in order to feed the world’s growing population. Unfortunately, the production of synthetic nitrogen accounts for 2% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and much of it winds up in our waterways, lakes, and oceans.

To address these mounting concerns, the founders of Pivot Bio created a product that aims to boost farmer productivity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air and water quality, and sustainably feed the world’s increasing population. 

That’s an ambitious goal, to say the least.

But Mower was convinced when he started receiving positive feedback from the farmers who had purchased the product through him. In fact, he opted to leave his role as an Independent Sales Representative at his father’s seed agency to work for Pivot Bio directly.

This is the story Mower shared to a group of Farmer Coalition members and friends gathered at Foster Brothers Farm on a drizzly September morning. 

Foster Brothers is one of 5 farms in Addison County experimenting with Pivot Bio’s product, known as PROVEN 40. All together, these 5 farms are testing the product on 6 fields covering 5,153 acres. 

George Foster decided to give the product a shot because he was aware of another farm over in New York that had used it with great success. 

So, let’s address the holstein in the room: What is PROVEN 40?

PROVEN 40 is a liquid containing two different kinds of microbes. Farmers apply the product in-furrow at the time of planting, or they can put PROVEN40 OS directly on-seed. As the seeds germinate, the microbes from PROVEN 40 attach themselves to the root structure. They feed on the exudates released by the roots and convert atmospheric Nitrogen (N2) into ammonia (NH3). This means that each plant has access to Nitrogen everyday throughout the growing season, with peak nitrogen production when the crops need it the most. 

Data from field trials conducted nationwide by Pivot Bio suggest that corn plants treated with PROVEN 40 have more nitrogen in the corn plant, more biomass and higher leaf chlorophyll concentrations than untreated corn plants. More biomass, of course, means more silage for livestock in the food bunk. 

Treated plants sampled in Addison County, in particular, had: 

  • 30.52% more in-plant nitrogen during the vegetative phases, and 7.44% more in the reproductive phases 
  • 27% more overall fresh weight biomass in the vegetative phases and 5% more in the reproductive phases
  • 10% more chlorophyll concentration in the vegetative phases and 1% more in the reproductive phases
Corn treated with PROVEN 40 at Foster Bros.
Untreated corn at Foster Bros.

The Champlain Valley farmers in attendance, who contend with heavy clay soil, as well as significant rain events induced by climate change, had quite a few questions for Dan.

Does it matter what kind of soil you apply it to? According to Dan, PROVEN 40 performs consistently across all soil types and topographies.

How does PROVEN 40 perform during heavy rain? Data collected by Pivot Bio suggest that the product does not runoff or leach like synthetic nitrogen products. Provided that the soil is healthy enough to absorb the rain, the microbes will continue to flourish. However, the microbes will not survive when covered by standing water for 24-48 hours.

For his part, Foster is “very impressed” with how PROVEN 40 has performed on his corn. 

“The treated corn doesn’t have the drought stress that the non-treated corn has,” he observed. Foster plans to use PROVEN 40 again next year on more acreage.

As with the adoption of any new agricultural technology, practice, or product, we encourage our farmers to do their own due diligence to determine what will work best for them and their farms. To learn more about Pivot Bio’s PROVEN 40, visit them on the web.