12 days after planting, corn with in-furrow biologicals shows more green

Our "test tube" trials — germinating corn with an array of in-furrow products — is sending a fairly consistent "signal" indicated by vigor of seedling growth. Inoculating with a mycorrhiza blend apparently helps energize sprouting corn to accelerate leaf development. We haven't measured roots yet.

April 9, 2018 — It would take many replicated trials, using your own soils, to "conclude" much from greenhouse tests like this. But after watching corn emerge and grow for 12 days in 70-degree soil, the clues are consistent: Beneficial mycorrhizal fungi placed with the seed help emerging corn roots convert soil nutrients into metabolic energy. 

The top row of 12 treatments in the photo below all had the same inoculant, Biodyne USA's "Environoc 410," applied over the planted seed, to simulate in-furrow placement. These microbial treated kernels generally showed more vigor after emerging. That was fairly consistent, whether or not the seed had a biostimulant such as Vitazyme or LigniSeed, and whether or not WakeUP Spring was included in the tank mix. But at this stage we have nowhere near enough data to indicate whether the inclusion of a biostimulant and WakeUP Spring will reinforce root growth and ongoing development. 

We had only enough tubes and rack space to fully compare Environoc 401 in combination with other products. But other tests, not shown here, indicate that AgriEnergy's SP-1 in-furrow would also show a similar early-foliage advantage. We tested SP-1 in field trials years ago, tank-mixed with WakeUP Spring in-furrow, and found a reliable positive 14-bu. yield response with this synergism. (See the update photo below taken April 10, showing some tubes with SP-1 versus controls)

Synergism is what we're looking for. Our theory is that an in-furrow blend of a microbial, a biostimulant and WakeUP Spring as mobilizer offer a synergistic effect together.

In the photo below, the lower rack of tubes shows three control seeds on the left side. Control seedlings consistently lagged a few days' growth behind their fungal-fueled comparisons. 

In case you're encountering these products for the first time, some definitions:

LigniSeed and Vitazyme are what we describe as biostimulants. They contain no bacteria or fungi; just enzymes and plant growth regulators such as auxins, brassinosteriods, gibberellin and vitamin complexes. 

WakeUP formulations are surfactants and mobilizers which create colloidal micelles with water to reduce the surface tension of water, attach ionically to nutrients in solution, and accelerate nutrient absorption into leaves and roots.

 This grow-out experiment is intended mainly to encourage you to screen some of the widening choice of microbial and biostimulant products coming at you from all sides. Your soil's own "microbiota" could react differently from any company's field trials in their own soils. For example, our soil used in these tubes has never seen glyphosate. We water with Pursanova energized water. We added no NPK or trace nutrients. If your soils have accumulated 20 years of glyphosate applications, you may see a very different response than ours to any live bacterial or mycorrhiza inoculant. Glyphosate is a patented bactericide, and it can persist in soils.

Although it's late for much testing this season, Upper Midwest growers could still get some idea of how soybeans would respond to biologicals and other in-furrow products — or seed treatments. In future seasons, this technique would provide an excellent experiment for your youngster's high school or FFA science project. Free labor. You just provide the tubes and test materials. 

Further technical suggestions as we learn some techniques:

1. We built a wooden test rack to make it easier to arrange and view treatments, in groups of 24 tubes. The bottom of the tube can rest in a trough which is lined with aluminum foil to make it watertight. Bottoms of the tubes have caps with drilled "weep holes" so water can soak up with capillary action. The tubes can "clip" between long screws placed on an upper support, every 2.25 inches. We've heard that roots prefer growing in the dark, so can cover the tubes using a black plastic trash bag (of course leaving the top open for emerging sprouts).

2. Our suggestion is to use 18-inch long or even 24-inch tubes, two inches in diameter. Roots grow quickly to reach the end of a 12-inch-long tube.  The 18-inch tubes are $1.60 each from ULine in cartons of 25.  We ordered another 50 tubes, omitting the green plastic caps with the idea that aluminum duct tape could provide a cheaper cap. Just puncture the tape with a few weep holes. 

3. For objective measurement of total root mass, we intend to flush out the soil from these tubes by removing the bottom cap and inserting a small tube with water under pressure. With the roots clean of dirt and fairly undamaged, roots can be laid out for comparison and also weighed on a gram scale. So far, just viewing root development through the sides indicates more fine root hairs reaching out from taproots in the tubes where a mycorrhiza mix was applied over the seed. We may try to get a view of roots through the microscope, but nobody here is a microbiologist to identify the critters.

And just in case you wondered:  This photo was taken April 9, looking out the south window of our greenhouse/atrium. And yes, that's six inches of snow in the background, blanketing the ground around our pond.  So.... if it's too cold too wet, to plant corn outside, you can at least experiment inside.  Please let us know any questions or suggestions!

Warm sunshine melted our snow and we could move outside for a followup photo of additional test-tube grow-outs late in the afternoon on March 10. Corn seedlings in the photo below indicate that in-furrow SP-1 is also an effective generator of additional rooting and top growth. This was also the conclusion of one of our WakeUP clients in Indiana who germinates seed in petri dishes with various microbial mixes. He says that Environoc 401 and AgriEnergy's SP-1 "are both good products."

This photo also shows you the structure of the rack we designed to
hold seed test tubes and make them easy to water.