Renewable Farming

How to accelerate root growth in late-planted or replanted corn

The original purpose of early versions of WakeUP was to enhance early root growth by spraying corn at the two-leaf stage. This accelerates movement of sugars into roots, amplifying root exudates and triggering a bloom of beneficial mycorrhiza around the roots. The mycorrhiza act as an extension of the roots, and are 10 times as effective for dissolving soil nutrients compared with roots alone.

June 14, 2017 — This season’s massive acreage of replanted corn creates a “catching up” challenge for corn rooting. Much of the corn planted now is emerging in saturated soils, but with the added stress of high daily temperatures. 

Fortunately we’ve long known that corn sprayed with WakeUP Spring at V2 to V3, the two to three collar stage, responds by pumping more sugars to the root zone. Illinois research agronomist Jim Porterfield verified this by measuring the brix levels of roots two days after spraying with WakeUP Spring, and finding a 70% gain in brix levels of corn roots. Here’s a one-page PDF summary of his research. Many farmers have verified it by digging roots of treated versus untreated corn.

As early as 2012, we repeatedly tested this corn response by growing corn in a vertical wall of soil: A one-foot wide, three foot deep and 16 foot long “terrarium”. At season’s end, one side of this form was peeled off and the corn roots were washed out with a hose and gentle pressure, to preserve all the roots.  The results are a WakeUP classic result, as shown in the photo below:

Within 48 hours of spraying V2 corn with WakeUP Spring, root sugar readings have risen by about three-fourths, and this amplifies the volume of nutrients “fed” to soil organisms. It’s a symbiotic relationship: Roots naturally exude a third to half of the sugars transmitted to them through the phloem circulation. The boost means a surge of nutrition to helpful soil microorganisms.

That primarily benefits the good mycorrhizae, which are filament-like fungi clinging to root hairs and reaching out for surrounding nutrients to dissolve. 

Despite this clear-cut benefit of a larger, earlier root system that feeds more nutrients and moisture to corn through the season, most farmers tell us that spraying corn at the two-leaf stage “just doesn’t fit in” with their spraying schedules. Many tell us they simply can’t get to fields during that narrow window of time between early V2 and late V3. They’re planting beans, or doing other rush-season jobs.

The rooting benefit fades after spraying much later than full emergence of the fourth collar.  Healthy stimulus at V2 is critical because immediately following the V2 phase of corn growth, V4 to about V6, corn is “deciding” how many kernel rows to set.

Other farmers object to “just spraying most of the product on the ground” when corn is only in two-leaf stage, about “pop-can high.” A few growers who have spray booms with tips every 15 inches block every other tip, in effect banding spray directly over the corn in 30-inch rows. 

Usually, farmers wait until well after V2 for any postmerge herbicide spray, or any foliar nutrient application. We often wish there would be a premerge herbicide label that prescribes hitting cornfields when weeds are just emerging and corn is at the two-leaf stage. It would be easy then to piggyback WakeUP Spring with that herbicide — not only mobilizing the herbicide and giving it improved leaf coverage, but pumping sugars into corn roots.

Call us with any questions about using WakeUP Spring on corn:

 Erik — 319-610-2506  

Jerry — 319-240-4547