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AgPro magazine reports:

When Matt Quist first started working with the technology that would eventually become the Nutrio microbial product line, he expected to disprove the value of biological materials.

"Traditionally at Wilbur-Ellis, we had a healthy skepticism of biologicals because there's been too much work in this space that hasn't proved out," says Quist, soil health portfolio manager for the company.

In High Gear. Instead, Quist soon realized his research team was working with something special that added to the quality of farmers' soil and crop results beyond what fertilizers alone provided. Ultimately, Wilbur-Ellis trialed the product line-which features seven beneficial microbial strains-across multiple sites and locations with third-party researchers for three years. In each trial, it was a consistent winner.

"Bottomline to anything is yield, and across all crops we saw an average 8.1% yield increase," Quist says.

The result was the company launched the Nutrio microbial product line on a national basis in 2016.

"Focusing on microbials for soil health is still a fairly new frontier for the industry, and Wilbur-Ellis recognized its vital importance in the agriculture ecosystem," says Mike Karasiewicz, Wilbur-Ellis vice president of branded products. "Plant health begins with soil health, and the company heavily invested in biochemistry to build a soil-first foundation with our new line of eco-friendly products."

Contest Details. AgPro readers reacted with enthusiasm to the Nutrio microbial product line during the 10th annual Readers' Choice New Product of the Year contest. Ultimately, they voted the Nutrio microbial product line into the championship ring during the online competition, which concluded the end of December.

"It's important to recognize innovation, and we want to congratulate our winner and all 10 companies that qualified for the contest," says Matt Morgan, publisher of AgPro.

Runner-up honors in the contest go to Layco Tower Blender by Yargus Manufacturing. Honorable mention goes to Take Off ST by Verdesian.

Winners of the 2016 Readers' Choice Award were selected from dozens of new products registered or introduced during 2016. To qualify for the contest, each product had to be available for stocking or pre-order sales for the 2016 season.

AgPro editorial staff evaluated candidates for the award and selected the top 10 products for readers' consideration. As the editorial staff evaluated candidates, they took into consideration each product's market potential, uniqueness, publicity and the industry excitement it generated. AgPro staff did not solicit entries for the contest; instead, they reviewed the year's announcements to evaluate and identify which products to include. Readers then voted and selected the ultimate winner.

One Of A Kind. Quist says each of the seven biological strains the Nutrio microbial product line features is incredibly effective. The technology improves the availability of nutrients that are "locked up" in organic matter and unaccessible to growing plants.

He notes that plants can only take up their required nutrients in very specific forms. For instance, nitrogen is a dominant nutrient and can only be taken up as ammonium or nitrate.

"It (Nutrio microbials) helps get these complex organic compounds broken down into forms that the plant can digest," Quist explains.

He adds that Wilbur-Ellis has a rich pipeline of biological-based products it is evaluating. One showing promise is a stubble digester that breaks down cornstalks, so a planter or drill can move through the field easier. In addition, the digester makes nutrients in stubble more accessible to the next crop.

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