Renewable Farming

Here’s a $44 per acre yield benefit — for a $14 per acre investment

An in-furrow liquid delivery system on your planter is a yield-enhancing essential for the upcoming “biological age” of crop production. As we start 2018, less than one row-crop farmer in 10 equips his planter with an in-furrow setup. That needs to change, fast.

Jan. 18, 2018 — Right now is an ideal time to fire up the furnace in your shop and install a basic in-furrow system on your planter. A simple 12-volt pump, controls, tubing and 300-gallon tank can equip a 16-row planter for about $5,000, depending on how much of the installation work you want to do yourself. That estimate comes from Jim Fettkether, owner of Fettkether Fertilizer Co., a nearby independent fertilizer firm near Dunkerton, Iowa.  

Simple in-furrow pump system using existing planter tanks

In 2015, we built a research in-furrow system with two Delavan 12-volt pumps, pressure controls, electronics, flow gauges, hoses and push-connectors for $600 in parts. We could use existing tanks on a 6-row JD 7000 planter and apply a different rate to the left and right side of the planter. Worked fine, as long as we remembered to switch it on and off to match the test-strip plan.

You can get much more sophisticated with a variable-flow pump and electronic monitor, commercially installed by your dealer, for about $15,000 for a 16-row planter. Our local John Deere dealer at Waterloo, IA says that they install such systems. “Not many of our customers have them on their planters,” says our John Deere dealer, “but those who’ve used them say they wouldn’t farm without it.”

A simple, reliable unit is all that’s needed. You probably plant at a consistent speed and need to apply a uniform rate per acre, somewhere in the 4 to 6 gallon per acre range. Tending the in-furrow tank won’t slow down your planter much. You can plant around 75 acres per filling with a 300-gallon tank and a 4 gal. per acre rate.

Last fall during a field day, Dave Schwartz of Verdesian Life Sciences showcased dramatic responses from in-furrow applications. He told visiting farmers, “An in-furrow application system on your planter is a vital necessity to widen your profit margins in the future.”

Environoc 401C 16 oz. /acre $8.56
Vitazyme 8 oz. /acre 3.69
WakeUP Spring 3 oz. /acre 1.99
  Total per acre $14.24

One of our clients in central Iowa reports a 14-bu. corn yield benefit in 2017 with an in-furrow biological package costing $14.24 per acre. Corn treated with this mix yielded 223 bu. while untreated corn on both sides of the treated area averaged 209 bushels. The adjoining table shows what he applied in-furrow with a 16-row planter, with the solution carried in about 4 gal. per acre.  He is compiling more data from further field trials, and we’ll bring them to you in subsequent reports.

Other growers not far from us were earlier users of the Biodyne microbial products, two of which are a stalk residue digester named Environoc 501C and the in-furrow colonizer, Environoc 401C. The benefits of these bacterial and fungal blends used in fall 2016 and in spring 2017 showed up clearly as Pocahontas County endured the acutely dry summer of 2017 in parts of Iowa. For example, Pocahontas County had less than a half-inch of rainfall during 9 weeks of July-August 2017. 

One 2,500-acre continuous corn farm in Pocahontas County has a long-term corn yield average hovering just over 220 bushels. In 2016, with normal rain, the whole farm yield was 223 bu. per acre. That was well above the Pocahontas County average of 206 bu. for the 2016.

In 2017, although the county average was significantly below the previous season (official data not yet available), this 2,500-acre farm virtually “held its own” with a 217-bu. average. The operators credit their consistent yield for the dry season to the fact that in fall 2016, their entire corn acreage was sprayed with Environoc 501C, which accelerates conversion of raw stalk residue to moisture-absorbing, moisture-holding active humus. There was more of a “sponge” to hang onto spring rains. 

The second benefit came from a spring 2017 in-furrow application of Environoc 401C, which colonizes the corn root zone with beneficial mycorrhizal fungi. These filaments extend out from the root hairs and become extensions of the root. They absorb moisture from the thinnest film of water around soil particles. Thus they’re extremely helpful in pulling corn through extended dry periods. The fungal mycelium also convert soil nutrients to soluble, plant-available form with 10 times the dissolving power of root hairs alone. 

The bloom of biological activity from both fall and spring treatments of 501 and 401 helped sustain corn through the dry weather of late summer 2017. That kept corn filling. Meanwhile the leaves in many cornfields in Pocahontas County fired and quit supporting growth.

A few innovative farms like this have occupied lots of coffee-shop talk this winter. We’ve been promised more data on the 401 and 501 products by Midwest Biodyne field personnel.

SP-1 and WakeUP Spring lifted corn yields
about 14 bu. in a difficult season

We’ve previously seen synergism between in-furrow microbials and WakeUP Spring. One of our field trials on corn showed a 14.6-bu. gain with the combination of AgriEnergy Resources SP-1 applied in-furrow with WakeUP Spring.  AgriEnergy also has an excellent residue digester which we market: Residuce.  

Adding Vitazyme, which is a biostimulant, generates another nudge for yields when applied in-furrow when tank-mixed with WakeUP Spring