Former Santa Cruz County Farmer of the Year, Ken Kimes of New Natives, is best known for growing microgreens at his greenhouse in Corralitos. What you may not know is that Kimes and his associates at Farm Fuel are at the forefront of developing an innovative replacement for methyl bromide, a toxic fumigant and pesticide widely used by conventional strawberry growers throughout California.
Kimes and other growers from the Central Coast began growing mustard several years ago as an oilseed crop to produce biodiesel under the banner of a new company, Farm Fuel. Mustard is an excellent cover crop, because of its ability to scavenge nitrogen and break up compacted soil, according to Stefanie Bourcier, CEO of Farm Fuels.
Methyl bromide is being phased out for a variety of reasons, mainly due to its toxic nature as well as being a powerful greenhouse gas. Berries are a multi-billion dollar business in California, so finding an effective replacement for methyl bromide is a critical as well as gargantuan task.
Methyl bromide sterilizes the soil, killing soil-borne pathogens while producing bountiful berry yields. A new organic approach developed in Japan and the Netherlands uses mustard seed in a process called Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation, or ASD. In this process, mustard seed is spread over the field and the area is flooded and tarped, creating an anaerobic, (oxygen free) environment. After three weeks, the tarp is removed and the soil requires a week to recover. The soil is now pathogen free without the use of toxic chemicals.
“We grow our own mustard as well as purchase seed from other growers, which we then cold press to make mustard oil and mustard meal,” Bourcier said in an interview recently. “We use the oil to make biodiesel, and we use that to run farm equipment, and the meal is used as a fertilizer.”
Farm Fuel is packaging the meal in pellet form and selling it as a balanced fertilizer for the home gardener as well as in commercial quantities. “Pescadero Gold,” rated as a 4.5-1.5-1.15 fertilizer, is an OMRI certified input that does not contain any GMO seed and is permissible to use as an input on a certified organic farm.
For more information about the products, contact Farm Fuel at (831) 763-3950 or online at farmfuelinc.com.
Here’s a video for more information about Farm Fuel’s mission and organic soil amendments.