Renewable Farming

14 days after planting, lateral roots are proliferating in microbe-inoculated corn

We’ve waited two weeks since planting to detect foundational differences in root growth in our test tube corn. Now we’re seeing how seeds given an in-furrow squirt of beneficial microbes, plus a biostimulant, plus WakeUP Spring, are growing hundreds of root hairs laterally from multiple, deep taproots.

Corn in both tubes was treated
with microbial mixes

April 11, 2018 — The photos here show samples of 18 in-furrow treatment mixes we’re screening, as described in our preliminary reports the past two weeks. What we tried to photograph here is the thick forest of fine lateral roots bursting from the taproots which have now mostly penetrated to the bottom of two 18-inch-long, two-inch diameter tubes. Such an experiment reveals the miracle of mycorrhiza: They multiply. And they exude powerful solvents which amplify the flow of soil-borne nutrients into roots. 

Corn grown in control tubes with no benefit of microbials — or plant growth stimulant or WakeUP Spring — show very few lateral roots in other tubes not shown here. That may change as roots develop further. But it’s unlikely that corn lacking the early stimulus of inoculated beneficial fungi/bacteria will completely catch up. 

The seed in the left half of this image was in-furrow treated with Environoc 401, our LigniSeed biostimulant and WakeUP Spring.  

The seed in the right-hand tube was treated with AgriEnergy’s SP-1, Vitazyme biostimulant, and WakeUP Spring.

You would probably see a growth pattern emerge if you replicate such tube tests a dozen times in identical soils, identical temperatures and uniform watering. We’re not trying to be conclusive here. It’s more about testing a method of screening biologicals than proving which is the ideal combination.

The only generality we’ll venture so far:  A vigorous biological blend placed on or with the seed gives those emerging roots a more vigorous start. The kind of healthy start that applied NPK alone doesn’t provide.

Sometime in the next week or so, we’ll wash out the soil from around these roots, lay them out and compare the total size and structure of the bare roots. Please check back occasionally. There’s still a little time to make last-minute decisions on what goes into your in-furrow tank mix. Call with any questions.

Update: The next two photos, shot early in the morning on Day 15 after planting, offer you a closer view of two treatments:

First photo: Roots inoculated with in-furrow Vitazyme and WakeUP Spring, but NOT a mycorrhiza and beneficial bacteria blend.

Second photo: Roots inoculated with in-furrow Environoc 401 and WakeUP Spring, but NOT a biostimulant such as Vitazyme or LigniSeed.

No fungus among us: Rapid root extension
but not many lateral root hairs yet

Treated in-furrow with a biostimulant and WakeUP Spring, but no microbial inoculant: This test-tube experiment shows rapid taproot extension, but not a prolific bloom of lateral feeder roots. Fine branching rootlets are the nourishing hairs which contact the most soil. Their fine filaments are inhabited by mycorrhiza and beneficial bacteria, which dissolve soil NPK and micronutrients. They extract energy from root exudates of sugars, amino acids and other nutrients in a symbiotic relationship. On the test-tube label, the word “none”  indicates no microbial in-furrow was included in the mix. 

Of course, a single photo can’t give you the rest of the story. You need to hold several such tubes in your hand, rotate them to see all sides, and eventually wash out the soil for a final look. This is why it’s essential to do it yourself, with your own topsoil.  What you test and see yourself becomes much more credible and raises the odds that the next $8 an acre you spend will give you back $24 or more. 

As we’ve tested biologicals for several years, a few of our clients are asking where they can locate a certified crop consultant who’s familiar with benefits of live biologicals.  One wheat grower tells us, “Our crop consultants do a great job of scouting and soil analysis, but they only talk NPK and sulfur as the answers.”  The challenge you face is that so many companies are offering new bugs in a jug that there’s not enough time to sort out the ones most effective on your farm.

This test tube kernel got in-furrow
Environoc 401 and WakeUP only,
and has a rapidly growing
web of feeder roots

What we’re hoping to see more of: Abundant root hairs reaching out from multiple taproots, early in the season. You can see that the fine lateral feeder roots have already grown an inch or more out of the main taproots. And there’s abundant smaller taproots still emerging from the root crown. This is the kind of early root structure which sponges up moisture and nutrients all season. 

We saw that happen in this tube, and a second one like it, even without a non-microbial biostimulant in the liquid blend popped into the soil at planting. It’s a clue that the inoculant is giving the seed a chance to gain an early colonization with beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi. Plant pathologists tell us that healthy microbes are a defensive army against pathogenic fungi which attack young seedling roots.

What we would normally see in a healthy seedling planted without friendly fungi is in the last photo here. Good root extension, and some laterals, but not the explosion of multiplying mycorrhiza which emerged in other seeds given beneficial in-furrow support.

No in-furrow support at all here

In the race to get everything planted, many farmers avoid hanging tanks and pumps on their big planters. There’s a little less time for tank refills, but non-supported seedling roots need more time to extend their nourishing feeder roots and allowing only soil-available microbes to colonize the roots.