Renewable Farming

Corn growth advantage widens with time as farmers test in-furrow Environoc 401 biological

Usually, the visual differences in corn growth caused by planting dates or early fertilizer fade as corn accelerates into its rapid growth phase from V5 through early tassel. But so far this spring, corn given an in-furrow microbial boost, Environoc 401, is showing a consistently widening growth advantage over untreated corn in adjacent rows.

This comparison represents entire rows
of corn planted with the same hybrid,
same time, same soils. The difference
was with and without in-furrow
Environoc 401. In-furrow treatments
are one of the few “ideal” field-trial
tests because they’re so easy to manage
in strips across the field.

June 12, 2018 — The field photos sent us this morning by Biodyne USA President Gil Farley indicate that the trillions of beneficial bacteria in the Biodyne USA product are proliferating around the rhizosphere as the growing root pumps out sugar and other nutrients.

This leverages a natural system you already know: There’s a symbiotic benefit between roots and the biological life around them. That applies to both bacterial and fungal organisms. The 401 blend contains bacterial species selected for their ability to mobilize soil nutrients. When that nutrient flow amplifies, other naturally occurring organisms in the soil such as beneficial mycorrhizal fungi also join the feast.

The accelerating  growth differences we’re seeing from in-furrow 401 will, hopefully, translate into greater drought resistance and higher yields this fall. This is our second season of working with farmers on Environoc 401 in the Midwest.

Bored yet? We’re seeing several such results sent
by farmers who are testing in-furrow 401 on both
corn and beans. This is only a sample of photos
from those farms.

As the corn crop pushes past V6, one observation we’re eager to make is this: Will there be any difference in treated versus untreated corn when you check for disease symptoms? Such as Goss’s wilt. This is a good time to dig roots, split stalks and examine the root crowns. The vascular system in the crown should remain white and clear, rather than turning brown and mushy. Plugging at the crown indicates infections that will curb flows of nutrients and moisture via the xylem tubes. Staying healthy longer could be a major advantage of greater diversity of beneficial microbes in the rhizosphere. 

Other biological products, like AgriEnergy’s SP-1, contain fungal species including mycorrhizae, which in effect become extensions of root hairs because they grow within the root while reaching out from the root. The SP-1 label says it “is a blend formulated to supply the greatest diversity of bacteria, fungi, algae, enzymes, carbon substrates, vitamins, and minerals to help support the growth of microbial life.”

Mycorrhizae are so tiny you can see them only with a microscope.

A network of hyphae in undisturbed soil. The integrated network
is known as mycelium. The network constantly explores for nutrients,
breaks down toxins and reduces tough high-carbon residues.

Larger species of fungus, living permanently in undisturbed soils, grow larger and long-lasting fibers called hyphae. These are big enough to see, often near the soil surface. When they create a network, the collective web is known as a mycelium network. The colonies of underground fungi and bacteria all work together to enhance plant growth — if you encourage them with good nourishment from crop roots — including cover crops. And if you disturb their growth networks  as little as possible. The underground network is often labeled the “internet of the soil” because the long branches transmit nutrients, water and growing signals for long distances underground. 

Our little 20-acre research patch here at Renewable Farming is transitioning from the first generation where we field-trialed corn and soybean nutrients to the second and third generations. The new generations are building toward mostly perennial crops. Those crops will grow on undisturbed soil which is mulched heavily to encourage a huge mycelium network like the one in the nearby photo. Crops will be trees, berry bushes, perennial crops of all kinds.

We hope to learn how to enhance the full range of soil biology. Ideally, perennial high-value and highly nutritious crops will be grown here with little or no salt-based NPK. No herbicides, insecticides or fungicides. No tillage. And no loan officers because credit won’t be needed. 

Ideally, any grain crop could be no-till planted into a permanent low-growing cover crops that fix nitrogen and encourage a flourishing underground mycelium network. We anticipate that the “biological” firms like Biodyne USA will have a substantial edge in this new era.

A few farmers and ranchers, like Gabe Brown’s family in North Dakota, are already achieving much of that goal. They’re enthused and profitable. Gabe tells us, “We’re passionate about it.”