Early spring gives you another opportunity to spray crop residue digester

This morning, our Renewable Farming team met with four agronomists who have substantial experience with the Biodyne USA residue digestion products on Iowa and Minnesota crops. These are Environoc 401 for in-furrow application and Environoc 501 for broadcast spray.

Jan 30, 2018 — As these experts analyze 2017 field data and monitor stalk decomposition in overwintering cornfields, we're seeing opportunities you can use:

1. Enhance the biological foundation for higher and more consistent yields, by quickly converting stalk carbon to humus and more abundant soil biological life.

2. Enhance performance of cover crops by building active biodegradation of residual herbicides — which can constrain vigorous cover crops like fall-planted cereal rye.

3. Improve quality of grain, including test weights and possibly several measures of nutrients. Data will accumulate slowly on grain quality, but it's going to be more important in the future, especially for the farmer who feeds his crops to his own livestock.

The Biodyne USA rep for the region west of the Mississippi River, Bob Wagner, approved release of several yield reports including the two below. We concur that aggressive stalk conversion to humus can't assure a big yield kick immediately on every farm. But we are regularly seeing clear-cut yield responses with encouraging frequency, as seen on the yield map below. That 14-bu. yield gain in northern Iowa occurred where Environoc 501 was applied in early spring of 2017.

Here's the significance of that field result: If you plan now to broadcast spray Environoc 501 on stalks early next spring, accelerating the residue digestion can improve biological life and enhance your 2018 yield. Even if stalks are still visible at planting time, they may have degraded enough to make for smoother planter travel and more consistent depth, leading to more consistent emergence.

Another opportunity: Biodyne USA has also developed a formulation of residue digester intended for tank-mixing with liquid nitrogen fertilizers, like 28% or 32% UAN. It's labeled Environic 801.  It's new and not yet detailed on the company website, but will be available this spring. You can mix it with premerge herbicides and fertilizers.

Even if you didn't hear about Environoc 501 in time to spray last fall, there's still benefit from spraying it on stalks this spring.

Years ago we learned by applying another excellent residue digester — Residuce from AgriEnergy Resources — early spring spraying can bring benefits which are a close second to spraying right after the combine in October or early November. Many farmers are reluctant to spray a residue program in the fall. Harvest pressure is severe; the sprayer might freeze overnight, and "I put the sprayer in the shed."

One of the questions we discussed with the four Midwest agronomists: Are the yield benefits of broadcast Environic 501, followed by in-furrow Environoc 401, cumulative, or is just one treatment adequate?

Bob Wagner noted that the bacterial / fungal organisms in 401 and 501 are almost entirely different, except for two species. Those species are "specialists" in breaking down tough hydrocarbons and other types of toxic residues in the soil. Thus, if your particular soil biome responds only moderately to one microbe mix, it could get a very positive response from the other one.

This season, we'll have a field trial or two which attempts to answer that question. Meanwhile we'll presume that the answer is, yes, use them both. See our previous story on per-acre costs.

Here's another combine monitor map, provided to us by Biodyne USA's Bob Wagner, who attended the meeting at our farm today:

Environoc 501 applied in the fall of 2016 on cornstalks prepared the way
for a 7-bu. gain in soybeans in 2017.

Note in the combine yield monitor map above that the treated area forms a definite "T" image that's mostly green. That's where Environoc 501 was applied on stalks in fall 2016.

The four agronomists were clear that not every field where Environic 401 and 501 were used showed a yield advantage when they studied the fall 2017 harvest maps. Agronomist Mike Williams, Gold Eagle co-op, monitored test fields closely all through the 2017 season. 

"I'd see a very visible difference — treated versus untreated rows — early in the season," Mike told us. "Bigger roots, larger stalks, greener stalks. I expected to find yield variations, and usually did.  But not always."

But those are the variables we're accustomed to, even with routine NPK programs. The season, the soils — all these factors exert a powerful dominance for variability.

But our bottom line is that in a season where every dollar invested next spring cries for a high-odds rate of return next fall, here are our best bets:

1. Get some Environoc 501 laid in now, and be ready to spray on stalk ground as soil temps stay above freezing most days. 

2. When planting corn, pump out an in-furrow blend of Environoc 401, Vitazyme and WakeUP Spring. We built a case for that in previous reports.

3. Strip-spray corn at V2 (or at the latest, V3) with WakeUP Spring. Agronomist Larry Eekhoff notes that more farmers are pushing ahead with postmerge herbicides 21 days after planting corn, which could allow you to tank-mix WakeUP Spring with your broadcast herbicide.  We've long wished for a weedkiller program like that. It would help blunt a frequent objection to spraying V2 corn with WakeUP Spring because "there's hardly anything out there to spray."

4. Tissue test or sap test corn around V5, and add any needed traces or NPK to a foliar which include Vitazyme and WakeUP Summer.  We're also encouraging some foliar field trials with two other products we have available, Lignition and Symbiosis AGx.