UNIBEST International: The Future of Precision Nutrient Management
Mark Riess, CEOIn the agriculture industry, current soil fertility analysis methods often provide information to make decisions about the feeding of plants reactively. They measure the nutrients that are present in the soil, but not the bioavailable levels that are impacted by the soil’s ability to release those nutrients at a rate that matches plant uptake demands at critical growth stages. Specializing in innovative agricultural testing and environmental sustainability, UNIBEST International is looking to replace this reactive approach with a predictive and balanced feeding method using its Predictive Nutrient Intelligence (PNI) software. “By measuring the amount of bioavailable nutrients for plants in various growing mediums, we predict those nutrients’ adequacy in a crop and a plant tissue,” explains Mark Riess, CEO of UNIBEST International. This information helps make critical decisions to improve soil quality and plant health.
During the growth stage, every crop has a specific nutrient uptake demand from the soil that needs to be fulfilled for maximum yield and quality. UNIBEST Ag Manager, a component of PNI, provides data concerning the active, dynamic components of each soil type. It helps growers, agronomists, and product developers adhere to the 4Rs of Nutrient Stewardship for determining the right source of fertilizer applied at the right rate, in the right place, and at the right time. With a number of fertilizer products available in the market, it is challenging to quickly evaluate their effectiveness in different types of soil. To compare how different products will bestfit a specific soil and grower’s soil, UNIBEST offers its Try-Before-You- Apply kit. “Our patented Ion-Exchange Resin technology is the core component of this kit, which provides the product performance information,” states Riess. Unlike conventional testing methods that change the physical and chemical characteristics of soil by drying and grinding the samples, UNIBEST uses field-moist soils to quantify the bioavailability of nutrients to plants.
UNIBEST uses a single extraction method for all samples, where the influence of soil, pH, biology, and mineralogy on nutrient availability is directly measured by the quantity of nutrients in the sample. To illustrate this capability, Riess mentions how UNIBEST provided a client with insights to select a fertilizer that would work best in the environmental conditions of their fields. The client wanted to apply a micronutrient to aid the growth of a plant in a particular regional soil. They had narrowed their choices to three fertilizer products, but according to UNIBEST’s evaluation, all three were inadequate in the soil type to meet the plant’s nutrient uptake demand. The only viable option was to either use a more expensive fertilizer or a foliar technique of feeding plants by applying liquid fertilizer directly to the plant. Thus, using PNI, UNIBEST was able to determine site-specific fertilizer performance in a matter of days, helping save time and costs while also reducing the risk of using sub-optimal products.
Conventional farming practices need to be optimized to keep up with food supply demands from an ever-increasing population that relies on rapidly shrinking arable land. The answer to this problem lies in understanding the nutritional need of plants to determine which products and placement are best for them. To achieve this, UNIBEST will utilize artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide growers with the information for quantifying all components of the 4Rs of Nutrient Stewardship, which is tied to the future of commercial agriculture. “UNIBEST reduces the uncertainty associated with soil health and plant growth,” concludes Riess.
By measuring the amount of bioavailable nutrients for plants in a growing medium, UNIBEST can predict their adequacy in plant tissue