TriEst Ag Group: Partners in Profitability

There is a lot of talk about sustainability and regeneration in agriculture these days. But what do those terms really mean? If you ask five people, you might get five different definitions. But for Josh Mays, Director of Agronomy for TriEst Ag Group, it all starts with profitability. Mays says “We should all be critical of how farming practices impact the ecosystems around the farm, but we can’t be sustainable without being profitable. There is nothing sustainable about the loss of farms in the United States due to financial instability.”

To put that statement into perspective there are only an estimated 1.89 million farms to feed 332 million people in the United States or 0.5%. According to Yahoo Finance, America has had an average loss of nearly 1.8 million acres of farmland per year since 2015.

He says profitability always has been important, but it is even more so today when there are so many factors that could take valuable farmland out of production. Challenges include competition from urban development, trouble sourcing labor, regulatory burdens, foreign competition impacting markets and the aging demographic of specialty crop growers.

“How do we keep our growers profitable? The economics need to be better for them to farm their land than to sell it for development or other uses,” Mays says. “Our intention at TriEst Ag Group is to help farmers keep farming.”

The company’s core customer base is in plasticulture specialty crops like strawberries, tomatoes and peppers. Other key customers include bare ground sweet potatoes, potatoes, snap beans, sweet corn, and vegetable crops.

Green Bean Field Trial in Florida


Mays says TriEst Ag Group helps growers key in on profitability by learning about their operations and finding ways that their products and services can be a benefit.

“We go very deep working with growers. That is what my job is all about,” he adds. “We take a step beyond just our products to discover what is the best approach to profitability for each farm. We work with growers to go over fertility programs, to consider variety selection, field selection and testing for what levels of pest problems they have in their soils. We holistically build a program that includes our products where they can help the grower but also are a part of a larger program.

“We are a spoke in the wheel. We want to better understand everything farmers have going on, so we can help them figure out the most economical solution to the challenges they face.”


TriEst Ag Group has a wide range of products and services that can help growers achieve profitability. The company specializes in soil fumigation, irrigation, crop nutrition, equipment, grafted plants, polytunnels, substrate and associated growing systems.

Soil fumigation with two key products, chloropicrin and 1,3-D (TELONE™), has been foundational in helping growers get their specialty crops off to strong, clean starts. Mays says these products have been studied extensively to maximize crop yield, quality and performance, especially since methyl bromide was phased out.

“These two products have been the subject of years of research and millions of dollars invested by universities and the private sector,” he says. “They are now the foundation of what we do to make up for the loss of methyl bromide. 1,3-D is effective in managing nematodes while chloropicrin manages soil-borne pathogens.

“We’ve seen advancements in plasticulture and tarps to create a better barrier that holds these products in the ground longer at higher concentrations. This allows us to consider rate reductions and achieve more efficacy. And it forced us to be more integrated and innovative in our approach to better manage pests. We’ve been successful in doing that through our collaboration with our grower customers.”


Mays says another area of intensive research has been maximizing soil health in fields. The study of the soil microbiome is a hot field now in all of agriculture.

“We are doing a lot of research on how our products interact with the soil microbial system,” Mays says. “We know we must manage nematodes and soil pathogens to produce a healthy crop. We are seeking the best ways to utilize our fumigants to provide the best suppression and have been studying how our fumigants alter the microbiome.”

The research has turned up encouraging results. The use of chloropicrin and 1,3-D has been shown to not ‘sterilize the soil’ as some have said.

“Science shows when you apply these products, you shift the microbial community. You get shifts of certain organisms, and there are others that take their place that are often beneficial organisms. We are learning now how to better utilize that shift. There is an entire new science emerging around the interaction of those microbes and our products, across a wide range of rates and new crops.”


The goal of TriEst Ag Group’s relationships with growers is to help them get more productivity and profitability from each acre of their crops.

“If we can learn new ways to innovate and create more yield on an acre and seek ways to be more efficient and reduce costs where we can, that is key to profitability,” Mays says. “If we were to take our core soil fumigants out of the equation, then you might see specialty crop yields drop by 30%. That will take 30% more acres of land to replace, and all the other inputs needed to grow the crop. That is not sustainable or profitable. We take great pride in working closely with our growers to bring them solutions that keeps that acre of farmland in farming.”


If you are interested in learning more about TriEst Ag Group’s products and services contact us today.

Erwin Newell of TriEst Ag Group Joins the IA Board

At the close of the 2023 Irrigation Show, the IA (Irrigation Association) added four newly elected directors to the IA Board. One of those four is Erwin Newell of TriEst Ag Group.  Directors are elected to three-year terms by members of the association. The IA Board of Directors monitors current and evolving industry trends, determines strategic priorities, defines public policy positions and acts as a steward of the IA’s financial resources.

Erwin Newell and the other three newly elected directors join 13 other members who serve on the IA Board. Their contributions are essential to the IA’s work to elevate the impact and value of the industry and create an environment where irrigation businesses can grow and thrive.

You can read about all four newly elected IA Board Directors on the IA Board of Directors page on the IA website.

Erwin Newell is the Vice President of Business Development and Irrigation for TriEst Ag Group. He started in sales and design as the first full-time employee at B.B. Hobbs in 1990. His responsibilities at B.B. Hobbs over the next 25 years ranged from sales manager to overseeing operations to managing a construction division and being named vice president. Following two mergers, Newell began his current position with TriEst Ag Group. He currently participates on the board of Landmark Irrigation as well as the Board of Reddick Equipment Company. Throughout his career, Newell has served as an advisor on boards of the North Carolina Tomato Growers Association and the North Carolina Vegetable Growers Association. He has been involved in his church and participated in mission projects in Africa and Mexico.

“The agricultural irrigation industry is changing at a rate greater than anytime during my over 30-year career. Mergers, acquisitions, aging industry leaders, changing markets, water supply, technology, urban development and other factors are impacting the agricultural irrigation industry. Ag irrigation distribution is largely doing business the same way it has for years, but in order to be profitable, attract the best and brightest talent, meet the needs of a changing customer base, most efficiently use resources and be sustainable, it needs to change. I am excited about the potential to work as part of the IA Board to identify and promote ideas and initiatives that foster positive change.”

The Badger Common’Tater: An Interview with Josh Mays of TriEst Ag Group

Today, we’re absolutely thrilled to share some news with you. The July issue of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association’s The Badger Common’Tater features a wonderful, in-depth interview with our own Corporate Agronomist, Josh Mays! This entertaining conversation delves into Josh’s background, why he joined the company, the innovative techniques that TriEst uses, and a detailed conversation about chloropicrin-based products in crop protection.

Don’t Miss the July Crop Protection Issue by the WPVGA The Badger Common’Tater.

If you’re curious to learn more about Josh Mays and the dedicated work happening at TriEst Ag Group, be sure to grab a copy of The Badger Common‘Tater’s July Crop Protection issue. You can find the article on their website here: JULY 2023 ISSUE of the Badger Common’Tater

This interview is a must-read for farmers, industry professionals, and anyone passionate about the future of agriculture.

Soil to Substrate: Key Irrigation and Fertigation Ideas for Long Cane Raspberries

The Comparison

Traditional soil production for soft fruit crops is a buffered system that is slow to change, whether good or bad. Fertigation mistakes in a traditional soil system isn’t necessarily going to be detrimental, or result is major pH or nutrient changes. For the same reasons, soil deficiencies or incorrect pH ranges are more difficult to correct in traditional systems.

The difference in a substrate system is significant. It is a low volume potted container area that is essentially fed by an IV nutrient solution, so fertigation changes can result in major nutrient or pH shifts within a matter of hours. So, this situation is both good and bad – you can correct your mistakes very quickly and you can make mistakes very quickly. Think of substrate as a high risk, high reward type system where your attention to detail is very important.

Moving forward with those differences in growing systems pointed out let’s lay out some key ideas for growing.

Plant Nutrition and PH

Starting with the right pH is key in a soil system for berries, or you’ll be fighting it all season long, but impact in season is minimal with the right fertility program. Most soil systems are high volume of fertilizers and water, with low frequency of runs for irrigation and fertigation. Fertility in soil systems are referred to in terms of pounds per acre. The southeast typically has programs of 150-30-200#/acre NPK with 30-50# S and 40-50# Ca. Fertigation is supplied commonly with potassium nitrate/calcium nitrate/UAN style blends (a 5-1-7 with 2% Ca for example). We do a lot of these type blends in traditional soil production of soft fruit, with sulfur being supplied as a supplement.

In a substrate system, the program is the opposite of a soils system. Low volume and high frequency systems run typically for 2-3 minutes at a time 20-30 times daily. Fertigation is driven by PPM (parts per million) to target crops by each stage every irrigation cycle. Fertility isn’t driven by pounds of nutrient applied per acre, but crop demand of a balanced nutrient solution based on irrigation needs. It is also critical to realize that rapid pH manipulation is possible through water treatment and fertilizer selection. Just think about the size of the pot and the tight area the plant is in. So, as a grower, you have to re-calibrate yourself in this type of system to be more targeted and understand how quickly changes can be made.

Water Quality

Water quality is the first factor in determining a proper nutrient and irrigation plan for a substrate crop. Well, municipal, and surface water is variable and should be regularly tested for pH, EC, and iron. Managing pH is very important particularly in substrate systems as highlighted earlier. Making assumptions about your source water can lead to big mistakes, test first.

Injection Systems and Fertilizer Sources

When you look at injection systems to create a fertility base like we’ve been discussing it is generally a two-stage injection system that will allow growers to run one tank that is calcium based and another being sulfur based. Calcium and sulfur don’t play nice as fertilizer concentrates, so this split is the most natural way to begin your fertility program. Both tanks can be run as a diluted mix simultaneously, pending quality and dilution rate.

Nutrient form matters! The form you choose to use can have a large impact on your pH (especially nitrogen). Water-soluble blends are the recommended best option for a substrate system due to the ability for customization. Drip grade liquid fertilizers are an option with reduced labor, but it can’t be customized as much, as the scale for drip fertigation is much larger and is made in greater quantities typically. There are many options to find the same end goal for nutrition, as long as the product form/ratios are correct.

Last Thoughts

There are a lot of factors that need to be monitored in both substrate and soil systems. You can go from a very simple, labor intensive style to monitor pH, water quality, nutrients, and E/C which does work or you can start adding layers of sensors and automation. To learn more you can reach out to our team and they can help you research solutions that will work best for you and your substrate production needs.

The Importance of Irrigation in Pecan Production

Three of the most important factors in pecan production are: Water, Water and Water!

Pecan trees have high water requirements, as much as 350 gallons per tree per day for mature trees.  In addition, they have been shown to take most of the water they require from the upper 32 inches of the soil profile for normal seasonal growth. The deeper the trees have to reach for available water the more energy they use to obtain it. If ground water levels are very low the pecan trees will go into “survival mode” and divert their energy from developing leaves and nuts to simply surviving the drought stress.

Adequate soil moisture is important at the beginning of the season to stimulate strong, vigorous growth, from bloom through shell hardening for nut size, and during the nut filling stage for better overall nut quality. At the end of the season it is important to prevent shuck split, early nut drop, and low energy reserves.

One of our customers once said “I’ve never made money trying to save money”.  In other words, you have to spend money on the things that can make you money.  When it comes to pecan production, one of the best investments you can make is the installation of an irrigation system.  It is the best way to ensure that adequate soil moisture is available when the trees need it. 

There are several types of systems to choose from including solid-set sprinklers, micro jets, punch in emitters, and drip tubing.  No matter which type of system you choose, it is important that an irrigation schedule be developed based on the type of system and soil type that will meet the water needs of the trees.

Micro-jets, emitters, and drip tubing are the most common types of irrigation systems currently being installed for pecan orchards.  Some of the advantages these system types have over more traditional solid-set sprinklers are:

  • Minimal evaporation/water loss since water would be discharged at or below ground level.
  • Lower pressure requirements.
  • Ability to maintain more constant soil moisture levels.
  • Irrigation can be applied during mechanical operations.
  • Fertilizer and other chemicals can be applied through the system.
  • Systems are readily adapted to automatic controls.
  • More efficient and uniform application of water.

A properly designed irrigation system coupled with a proper watering schedule can prevent drought stress, boost crop yields, and improve quality.

Contact us your local TriEst Ag Group location about designing your irrigation system today.


Wells, M.L., Harrison, K.A. 2006. Cultural Management of Commercial Pecan Orchards (B 1304) UGA Extension

Harrison, K.A. 2009. Drip Irrigation in Pecans (B936) UGA Extension