Renewable Farming

Images direct from the cornfield reveal the power of healthy soil biology

Smartphone video and social media can bring you instant updates on the latest breakthroughs in yield improvements with healthy soil. Here are some examples from Mike Williams, sales agronomist with Gold Eagle Co-Op in Iowa. He’s reporting via his Facebook pages on corn response to Environoc 401 and 501, two microbial blends from Biodyne Midwest of Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

Sept. 6, 2017 — Today’s enthusiasm for “healthy soil” was seeded than 30 years ago when biological farming pioneers like Dave Larson, founder of AgriEnergy Resources, emphasized: “The most fertile soil is the one with the widest spectrum of beneficial bacteria and fungi.”

Public scientists and private agribusiness firms are pushing “real fertility” at an accelerating pace as farmers buy into biological technologies. As central Iowa crop consultant and Biodyne rep Bob Wagner puts it, “The power of healthy soil biology is amazing.”

Here are some current cornfield photos picked up from Mike Williams’ Facebook videos and snapshots. Mike farms, and also serves as an agronomist for Gold Eagle Co-op in a region of Iowa hit with widely varying degrees of drought this season. That stress is rapidly revealing itself in early September, as most cornfields fire or die prematurely. Mike presents a few exceptions: Corn inoculated with a biological bloom of microbes which rapidly convert raw cellulose and lignin into available nutrients and moisture-hugging humus.

Residue digesters are not new concepts. We’ve used products like Residuce and SP-1 from AgriEnergy Resources for many years. 

Now several firms are bringing new blends to market. We’ve never seen a side-by-side, scientific comparison of the various mixes. Their effectiveness undoubtedly varies depending on the “native” microbial populations they’re inoculated into. Thus, your most practical option is to test the “brands” in your own soils and production system. 

The examples here shown by Mike Williams’ camera come from use of Biodyne Midwest’s “Environoc 401,” primarily for seed inoculation, and “Environoc 501” for fall residue breakdown treatment. These are live organisms, which emerge from dormancy when applied. Results this season, under drought stress, are dramatic. In most cases shown, the cornfield follows corn in 2016. Last season’s stalks were sprayed with the residue digester, Environoc 501. And this spring, the seed treatment included Environoc 401. 

In the photo below, corn on the rows to the right was treated with these products. Corn on the left — same hybrid, planting date and other fertility — was not given a biological inoculant. By late August 2017, dry weather stress is showing up on the untreated corn, while corn with enhanced soil biology is enduring well. It’s continuing to fill and deepen kernels, soaking up sunshine and converting energy to bushels. Each pound of active humus converted from last year’s cornstalk residue has clung to 10 pounds of moisture from last spring’s excessive rainfall. That’s carrying the crop through to the finish line.
















Mike Williams treated a strip in one of his own cornfields with these biological products. Remote sensing images shot recently reveal the treated strip, in darker green, which indicates more lush vegetation.

Update: In the first week of September, Mike Williams shot several drone videos of fields where the 401 and 501 biologicals had been applied in strips. The aerial photos below are from the strips on his farm, and show the overview of the same response seen at ground level, looking down the rows.

Mike sent dozens of still photos without any descriptions. We saw several differences, and asked if the differences reflected the biologicals Mike had applied.  His confirmation: “You couldn’t have picked a better field to ask me questions on!  The images you were questioning are actually my own field.  The line that you see along the left edge of the field is indeed the treated vs the untreated, and you have it labeled exactly right.  In your second selection, the line you see in the middle of the field is again the treated vs the untreated, and you also have that labeled correctly.  There were no other differences [in treatment of the strips].”