Renewable Farming

An inexpensive way to encourage deep, vigorous corn rooting early in the season

One of our earliest corn-growing experiments — in Spring 2009 — revealed that spraying WakeUP on non-GMO corn at the two-leaf to three-leaf stage generated visibly greater root development. We tested this in a “terrarium” — a four-foot deep, one foot wide and twelve foot long frame filled with soil. That fall, we peeled off one side of the frame and hosed enough soil from roots to reveal the root structure on WakeUP-treated and untreated corn. 

May 22, 2020 — The photo at right shows completely washed roots from the four untreated stalks, and the four stalks sprayed with WakeUP. The larger photo below shows treated roots still in the ground, with soil partially washed away. In 2018, research agronomist James Porterfield of Illinois helped explain why corn responded so dramatically: He measured sugar levels (brix) in roots with and without a foliar spray of WakeUP. Sugar levels in treated roots surged more than 70% within two days of a foliar spray with WakeUP in combination with minerals in SEA-90 and a light application of UAN. See the Porterfield chart below. The root brix levels remained about 60% higher in WakeUP-treated corn when checked eight days after application.

We’ve learned over the years that WakeUP’s surfactant benefits include far more than helping leaves absorb foliar-applied nutrients. It helps accelerate sugar transfer from leaves to roots and growing points.

Another fact we’ve learned the hard way over the years: It’s astonishingly tough to convince corn growers to spray WakeUP on corn that’s just pop-can high. We hear lots of reasons: “I’m still planting beans when corn is at the two-leaf stage.” “It just doesn’t look like there’s much corn leaf surface out there to spray, I’m wasting so much on the ground.”

Growers in 30-inch rows who have sprayer nozzles set on 15-inch centers typically plug every other nozzle, cutting the per-acre solution cost in half. With this tactic, the WakeUP Summer cost is about $1.75 per acre. Some growers include a pound of sugar per acre. With lots of cloud cover and cool temps so far this spring, corn producers are often looking for other energizers to perk up yellow corn. WakeUP in the mix makes such additives more quickly absorbed and therefor more effective.

The rationale for spraying at this time is that corn at V-2 to V-4 stage is moving into its metabolic “decision” on how many kernel rows to set, within the range of its inherent genetic code. If the young corn senses healthy roots, abundant nutrition and decent moisture, it can nudge kernel rows higher — say from 16 rows to 18. So corn’s early life and root energy has a major impact on yield. 

Roots exude about a third or more of the sugar sent down from the leaf sugar factory. The energy in root exudates fuels and multiplies growth of beneficial mycorrhizal fungi and bacteria, which have 10 times the nutrient-dissolving power of the weak acids of root hairs. The fine web of fungi become a huge extension of the root’s nutrient-collecting system early in corn’s life. That web helps corn carry through dry spells without losing growing days.

We’ve seen similar early-season benefits from using WakeUP Spring in-furrow, along with nutrients and biological products which energize rapid root development. But again, it’s tough to convince a grower with a huge 24-row planter to pause occasionally so the tender truck can refill with an in-furrow solution. Mid-sized corn growers are typically most interested in cashing in with in-furrow application.  

Roots of corn which was sprayed with WakeUP at V2.