Former federal official hoping to test soil enhancer in Colo.; Touted to up yields 45 percent, shorten growing season
April 5, 2014
When Weld County resident and Colorado Agriculture Hall of Famer Chuck Sylvester learned of a product that is touted to increase crop yields by 45 percent and shorten the growing season, he came away interested but still wanting some proof.
Lyle Laverty, a former U.S. Forest Service official, visited Sylvester's family farm last week to chat about the product that he believes could be a miracle when it comes to growing practically anything.
Laverty is working to test the product in Colorado to give potential consumers the research they'd want to see.
"When you look at this from the standpoint of agricultural producers, it becomes incredible," said Laverty, who also served as the assistant secretary of the interior for wildlife and parks under the George W. Bush administration. "It's one thing to say it's going increase the yield by 45 percent, but I'm the kind of guy who says, 'Show me the result of a good, credible test.' "
The result of 20 years of research conducted by Thai doctor Charoonkiat Phattharamontrisin, the soil amendment is a special blend of living micro-organisms that are touted to help crops grow in even the rockiest of soil conditions. Laverty said Phattharamontrisin's tests show the product encourages quicker, more productive growth, and it can be catered to any kind of plant — from trees and flowers to crops like corn and rice.
"From an agriculture perspective, it really is a huge breakthrough because it replaces the need for chemical fertilizer," said Laverty, who served as Colorado's director of state parks.
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Laverty said the product, which he hopes would be even cheaper than traditional fertilizer, has the potential to have a huge impact on multiple sectors of the agriculture industry. He said Phattharamontrisin's research showed the product increased rice yields by 40-45 percent and, when added to hog feed, eliminated the stench of the feedyard.
Laverty said the product has the potential to help grow crops on even the most barren of soils, so he's also looking into testing it on mine lands for the purpose of reclamation.
Outside of agriculture, Laverty said as a 40-year veteran of the forest service, he's excited about the product's impact on trees.
"I'm a forester, so I really believe if we can do something to enhance the seed when you go out and plant trees, you're going to improve survival rates," he said. The non-chemical organic compound would also help improve groundwater quality, Laverty said.
Laverty visited the Sylvesters' farm on Thursday with Phattharamontrisin and his Australian colleagues.
Sylvester, former general manager of the National Western Stock Show, said he was glad to see their interest in agriculture, and he enjoyed showing them around his farm.
As far as the product goes, Sylvester said he would want to see more information on the product before testing it on his grass hay crop.
"A person would really have to take a look at it, the feasibility and so forth," he said. "It all boils down to the economics."
Laverty, now president of his own natural resource consulting firm called The Laverty Group, said he is working to get the product approved through the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and he hopes to work with farmers like the Sylvesters and with Colorado State University in testing the product.
He said if the product improves agricultural production, it could provide a way to address the growing issue of hunger around the world.
"It's just an amazing thing," he said. "This product, that's exactly where I'm putting my energy." ❖