Renewable Farming

Full-season, biological nutrition generating 300-bu. corn again — on “poor” ground

At a  field day this week just west of Guthrie Center, IA, Dave Schwartz showed farmers his fields of corn which had stayed green weeks longer than neighboring fields. Initial yield checks pointed to over 300 bu. in several fields given his “prescription” of beneficial biological fertility.

October 6, 2017 — Most of Dave’s cropland has an Iowa “Corn Suitability Rating” of well below 50 points. A rating of 100 points is top corn ground. Growing high-yielding corn on ground most agronomists would call “marginal” is challenging. (See the satellite image of his farm area below.) But his yield results show the power of managing soil health, and keeping the crop well-fed all season long. The evidence shows up in the endurance of his crops through stress seasons like 2017. Dave is a strong advocate of the Clean Water Alliance, and managing long-term nutrient reduction.

We reported on Dave’s biological fertility program last fall. He refines it each season, sequencing several treatments for synergistic effect. This is Dave’s personal “research farm” backing his role as the Executive VP of Sales in plant nutrition for Verdesian Life Sciences. The company is a crop nutrient and biological product manufacturer based in North Carolina.

Here are a few rows among this season’s test strips, shown as of Oct. 2. Most of Iowa’s cornfields were dead brown by early October, but note the green on much of this corn. The amount of retained green leaves varied slightly among treatments. In general, an increase in nutrition and biological boosters showed longer “green” retention. That means more time for August and September filling and deepening of kernels. Crop consultant Bob Streit, who has monitored Dave’s work closely, maintains that keeping corn healthy later can add major magnitudes of yield, such as 40-bu. plus. 

Behind some of the hills on Dave’s farm, he used this biological and nutrition program on more commercial fields, not test strips:


Pioneer 1197 AMX with Poncho 1250. Overtreated with Tuxedo at 1 oz. per unit (80,000 seeds) and TakeOff ST at 0.3 per unit. 


One third of the field planted April 27, 2017. Two-thirds planted May 4. “This spring, the few days of delay resulted in improved early performance by avoiding our spring weather stress,” Dave told the assembled farmers at the field day.  “So my advice is, don’t plant all your corn on the same day.”

Broadcast fertilizer:

200 lbs. per acre potash 250 lbs. Pel-Lime.

Tank-mixed and sprayed behind planter:

20 gal. 10-34-0 plus 18 oz. 

18 oz. of MTM (More Than Manure)

12 oz. NutriSphere nitrogen stabilizer

6 oz. Avail

10 oz. Surgent Micro-Nutrient zinc, manganese and copper

6 oz. molydenum

2 oz. cobalt

Broadcast spray after planting:

50 gal. 28% UAN with NutriSphere-N HV

Herbicides Zidua, Roundup, Callisto

Applied June 18:

150 lbs. Urea treated with NutriSphere

50 lbs. ammonium sulfate treated with NutriSphere

Sprayed at V-5:

Take-off LS (a new Verdesian liquid product) sprayed with Roundup plus Callisto

8 oz. Bio Empruv

Helicopter sprayed in late July:

10.6 oz of Quilt Xcel plus 24 oz. Bio Empruv

Example of the lay of the land around Dave Schwartz “home base”



Here are a few of the points Dave made in his briefing to field day participants.

Dave Schwartz

We use a lot of starter fertilizer. An in-furrow application system is essential. The future is adding things in the furrow.

We have to keep our land from eroding and cut costs, while building yields. We need to keep applied nutrients on the field. Nitrogen stabilizers are essential, but not all stabilizers work the same way. Some have a bactericide effect. NutriSphere works differently; it has no bactericide effect but stabilizes N in the soil using a Carboxylated polymer. By using the NutriSphere formulation for UAN, water samples in our tile line dropped from 60 parts per million of nitrogen to 35 parts per million.

Keep in mind that when all applied nitrogen comes from anhydrous ammonia, only 10% of what you apply is recovered and used by the crop. Whatever doesn’t volatilize or leach out feeds soil organisms in a way which also consumes soil carbon — active humus.

We use and recommend the Haney soil health test, including tests during the season. Our Haney tests are done at Brookside Labs.

Ward Labs and Midwest Labs also do this testing, as well as Rick Haney’s lab in Texas. 


Update as of Oct. 9: This afternoon, consultant Bob Streit (who made one of the presentations at the Dave Schwartz field day) posted this summary on his website:

The ‘Show me the Money’ Field Day that was held at the research farm last Monday went extremely well. There were five speakers. The crowd that filled the building really enjoyed the free-wheeling style of presentations and information exchange.

The corn around the buildings showed a bit of browning, but on the flat ground in back of the farm [where Dave raises his ‘commercial’ corn] was still dark green and filling. Most of the plants still had another 7 to 10 days until black layer.

The combination of the use of fertilizer polymers for the P and N worked as expected. The BioEmpruv to control the ‘New Goss’s Wilt’ looked great, and the results should produce yields in the mid 300s.

This fall an application of BioDyne 501 to decay the stalks will be made in preparation for planting no-till corn on corn. Cycling the residue quicker and getting the 2017 residue into the ground as humus and recycled minerals ASAP is the goal.

One mineral several of us are investigating is silica or silicon. We are after ‘silicic acid’, which is the form that plants can take in. One of the authors and contributing editors to the big green American Phytopath book entitled Mineral Nutrition and Plant Disease was Dr Larry Datnoff. His specialty in research was that mineral. In his work he constantly demonstrated that the mineral had value to the plants in areas such as plant strength, water use efficiency and disease suppression/control.

Because it was the second or third most common element in the earth’s crust it has been assumed it could never be deficient. But a few very knowledgeable ag people theorize that the microbes which put it into the plant-available form may have been decimated by certain pesticides, thus the plants may need more. The use of different formulations by several yield contest winners may increase attention to the mineral.        

We have a section of one field that received an early post application of a calcium silicate. The stalks are stronger, the leaves are soft and 3 to 4 times thicker and have a velvety feel. You don’t get any paper cuts while walking thru them.

The use of the mineral on some summer crops was eye-catching this summer. The size increase in tree fruits and flavor at our place was amazing. We saw a 25% to 30% increase in sugar production within 46 hours in a corn plot on one research farm. To get an idea of the research being done, Google ‘Silicon Conference 2014 Stockholm’.

Our note: Here is a direct link to the International Society for Silicon in Agriculture and Related Disciplines, where you can see the speaker list for that 2014 conference, and download presentation abstracts.

Schwartz corn as of early October

Update Oct. 14: Dave Schwartz sent a photo of the corn on his “back acres,” his production fields where he uses the full array of biological tools to keep corn healthy full-season. That includes late helicopter applications of foliar feeding. And this fall, the commercial acreage will get 1 pint of Environoc 501 residue digester. By early October, most of the cornfields in central Iowa were totally brown. Note in this photo that his stalks are still mostly green, with white husks. And remaining upright against fall storms. As long as the stalks are green and corn hasn’t black-layered, the kernels are deepening and adding test weight. Note how ears are filled completely, to the tip. Many of these ears show “dent” only in the midsection of the ear, with kernels on both the base and tip bulging out instead of denting. A signal of full-season nutrition.