I have a great crop coming. How can I hang onto yield through a dry August?

In two previous articles, we've reported a couple of midseason methods farmers are trying to "insure" against severe dry-weather losses, especially in the western Corn Belt. In Iowa, rains faded west of Interstate 35 during July. One of our clients in Sioux County, extreme northwest Iowa, says: "Corn on sandy land is already gone. Soybean leaves have flipped upside down."

July 28, 2020 — This report is not about field results; it's just a heads-up on a microbial technology you may want to learn more about for 2021 and beyond.

One of our north central Iowa farmer clients sprayed test strips in a beautiful soybean field with a combination of two Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies products. One is BioEnsure, a fungal organism which has the surprising ability to live inside a crop and enable it to withstand stress from dry weather or extreme temperatures. The test field has several patches of sandy soil, so the area's dry weather make the field a good test site. This fall, the grower will pull several replicated samples based on GPS-based combine yield monitor data.

The second is BioTango, a dry soluble bacterial product which also confers stress resistance to the crop. Regina Redman, the firm's chief research scientist, tells us the two microbial organisms complement each other within crop physiology.

Ears pulled July 27, 2020 from a
central Iowa field foliar-treated
with Bioensure and Fulltec Cube

The company has abundant research on how BioEnsure performs when used as a seed treatment. There's also some data on in-furrow use. But there's limited data on how it helps when applied later in the season as a foliar.

Rusty Rodriguez, who developed BioEnsure and runs the company, tells us he was "skeptical about whether a foliar application would help if applied late in the season — when the crop is in reproductive phase and under dry weather stress. But our research team tried it. Just sprayed the base of crops in several plots, using a spray wand. The fungal organisms apparently entered the crop physiology and imparted some drought resistance, because we saw a statistically significant yield increase compared with untreated plots."

More than a year ago, Iowa crop consultant Bob Streit scented possibilities in this technology, and did his due diligence on Bioensure. He invited Rusty to present the background and field research at a Jan. 22 farmer seminar which we video recorded. The seminar video is available at Central Iowa Agronomics.  

Bob Streit and our central Iowa farmer client did one foliar spray with BioEnsure on corn June 8. We did a preliminary report on that field July 9. The photo of corn nearby shows ears typical of what's in that field as of July 27. The field treated with BioEnsure plus a second product, Fulltec Cube, remains in excellent condition and isn't rolling even on afternoons near 90 degrees.  Untreated endows remain shorter than the treated main part of the field.

Rusty Rodriguez told us of a South Dakota hay grower who often encounters weather stress, and foliar-treated his forage with BioEnsure. "He reports a substantial increase in tonnage," Rodriguez said. 

The grower, encouraged by what he saw in corn, now intends to see if a combination of BioEnsure and BioTango can help preserve blooms and pods on an excellent-looking soybean crop which has a substantial area of sandy soil.  We'll update this field trial on soybeans as the season progresses into harvest.