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Dr. Johann Buck began working in agriculture 24 years ago as a tomato picker for a small family-owned hydroponic greenhouse in north central Kansas. That experience coupled with active involvement in the local high school FFA chapter led him to pursue a career in agriculture. He attended Fort Hays State University in Hays, KS earning a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture. Upon graduation he relocated to Arizona to attend The University of Arizona. There, he studied Plant Sciences at the university’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (CEAC). While at CEAC, he conducted applied research on the effects of increasing EC on the yield and quality of cherry tomatoes. After Arizona he attended the University of Arkansas where he continued his focus on Plant Sciences. His doctoral research focused on alternative soilless media for ornamental crops. Specifically, ground parboiled rice hulls as an alternative to sphagnum peat. Upon graduation, Dr. Buck decided to enter the private sector. Over the past 12 years he has worked in various roles including technical services, product development and sales. These roles have involved plant measurement technologies, supplemental lighting using LEDs, soilless media, soil amendments, and humic substances across many facets of agriculture including field and greenhouse production of food, ornamental and turf crops.
A personal note directly from Dr. Buck:
I am fascinated by humic substances and biostimulants in general. My agriculture career began with controlled environment agriculture (CEA) and for many years my attitude was biased toward CEA. It offers many benefits and advantages to crop production that soil-based field production does not. Being able to manipulate the growing environment and reduce inputs along with pesticide reduction are all great attributes of CEA. However, this can also lend itself to the belief that soil is “dirty”.
Many years ago I was fortunate to be introduced to humic substances and re-introduced to soil by focusing my attention on field agriculture. It was during this time that soil health was experiencing a renaissance so to speak. During that time I had an epiphany; the only thing missing from soilless agriculture is…THE SOIL! Healthy soil is alive! The soil-plant interaction is a relationship formed over millions of years. The organisms and compounds that bridge the soil-plant relationship have meaning and purpose. Soil is not simply an anchor for plant roots and nutrient reservoir. Sure, those are attributes of soil, but soil is so much more. Humic substances are a natural and vital part of this relationship. The idea that soilless agriculture must be sterile and void of life is in my opinion, wrong. High yields can be achieved, but are we maximizing yield, crop quality, and achieving a crop’s full genetic potential without the incorporation of inputs such as humic substances? My answer is no and peer-reviewed research also suggests the answer is no.
Recently I became aware of an opportunity to join BioAg. After meeting with Dr. Bob Faust and Vik Sakhalkar and learning the history and mission of the company I was all in. To be able to return my attention to controlled environment agriculture with a focus on humic substances and other sustainable crop inputs is exciting!