Renewable Farming

How endophytes can defend your 2022 yields against weather stress

High grain prices and high input costs mean that good, consistent yields are critical to your bottom line this season. If dry weather threatens the western Corn Belt this summer, cash corn and beans could exceed 2012 highs. Here’s how you can help your crops endure through stress.

February 28, 2022: Last year, farmers around the world protected 2,225,000 acres of crops with stress-protecting organisms from Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies (AST). This season, we estimate that growers will expand that coverage to 3 million acres or more.

Here at Renewable Farming, we’ve worked with growers plus our own experiments for two years using AST’s “endophyte” microbes, BioEnsure and BioTango. These beneficial microbes live symbiotically inside your crops. They strengthen your crops’ tolerance against weather that’s too dry, too wet or too cold. In our greenhouse tests with corn, we’ve seen huge increases in root structure, plus endurance and recovery through weeks of dry stress. You can apply these biological products with seed treatment, in-furrow and foliars. 

BioEnsure (Trichoderma harzianum fungi) is an endophyte which colonizes within cell structures of the host crop. BioTango (five beneficial bacillus species) colonize roots and soil, accelerating conversion of soil nutrients to plant-available form.

AST’s founders, Rusty Rodriguez and Regina Redman, discovered how endophytes enable plants to withstand stress from heat, cold and salt. Rusty, a wilderness enthusiast, first noticed this “symbiosis” more than 20 years ago in a wide variety of plants and microbes growing near geothermal springs in Yellowstone National Park. This is a locale with violent temperature and soil mineral extremes. For a dramatic description by Rusty of that discovery, see Rusty’s 14-minute video of a TED talk. It has been viewed thousands of times since 2016. 

In recent years, Rusty and colleagues have researched how certain fungi and bacteria create a mutually benefical symbiosis with plants by living within them and colonizing roots. Together, the microbes and plants gain superior survivability against environmental extremes.

Commercial success has enabled AST to enhance on-farm application systems and learn how to protect viability of BioEnsure and BioTango for highly effective colonization of crops. Currently, AST provides a simple water buffering protocol, as they’ve found that some local water supplies reduce longevity of AST fungi and bacteria.

AST has confirmed that there’s no viability impact on their microbes from WakeUP Spring. That’s our surfactant/penetrant which we recommend using with foliar and in-furrow applications.

This is a farm operated by one of our clients.

Here’s what we recommend to protect your corn in 2022:

In-furrow application:

Liquid fungal inoculant BioEnsure, 0.01 fluid ounce per acre. A 4-ounce container treats 40 acres. $7.20 per acre.

Powdered bacterial inoculant BioTango, 1 gram per acre. These microbes mix with water and symbiotically enhance nutrient uptake. $2.70 per acre.

Thus the blend of AST microbes cost a total of $9.90 per acre. If you encounter moderate stress from June-August dry stretches, field trials and grower experience indicate a yield gain over untreated acres above 25%. This season, just a couple of extra bushels of corn would cover $9.90 per acre.

The in-furrow prescription can easily include other biologicals and nutrients such as:

— 12 ounces Vitazyme of Vitazyme per acre at $59 per gallon: $5.50

— 2 gallon of AgriEnergy Solutions MVP at tote price of $5.50 per gallon: $11

— Your own starter fertilizer blend such as 2 gallons of 3-18-18: $12 

— Solution mobilized with 3 ounces per acre of WakeUP Spring: $2.10

The BioEnsure/BioTango plus these other four components total about $40 per acre. Even if corn settles back to $5 this fall, just 8 bu. per acre gained will cover the cost of this in-furrow recipe. BioEnsure alone showed an average yield increase of 6.4 bu. per acre in 236 trials in 64 locations worldwide from 2013 through 2017. Download the AST product brochure at this link.  

Seed application: AST has constantly improved application techniques for inoculating seed with BioEnsure and BioTango organisms. They’ve demonstrated compatibility with most common commercial seed treatments pre-applied by seed companies. 

This season, AST is offering a new formulation of the seed treatment, BioIQ, with their own pure talc. It’s pre-treated in-house with powdered forms of their microbes. Thus you get a seed lubricant plus both endophytes. The dormant endophytes begin colonizing roots and migrating into growing crop tissue as seeds germinate. Seed treatment also avoids the chance of encountering some form of toxicity in your farm’s water used for in-furrow or foliar application.

On-farm seed treatment is practical if you have access to seed treatment equipment or other ways to assure uniform coating of each seed with the talc and microbial mix. 

Cost of BioIQ for corn is $26 per 80,000-seed unit. At 32,000 seeds per acre, that’s $10.40 per acre.

Cost of BioIQ for soybeans is $13 per unit of 140,000 seeds, which would make the cost per acre about $13 unless you lighten the planting population.

Foliar application:  You can use the liquid solution of BioEnsure with postmerge nutrient solutions. We recommend 5 ounces of WakeUP Spring per 2 gallons of water to achieve uniform leaf coverage and quick absorption into crop metabolism. Our recommendation is to avoid using a strong antibiotic such as glyphosate with foliar applications of any beneficial biological organism. 

See the price sheets below for more details on prices and rates. Contact us at Renewable Farming for further info.