Winter experiment indicates that BioEnsure helps corn tolerate soggy spring soil

The experiment reveals more extensive rooting
in both seed-treated plants, compared with the
untreated plant at right. The grow-out time
was five months under two LED lights,
in a cool farm shop.

A research-minded farmer sent us these photos of a winter corn-growing test with BioEnsure, a beneficial fungus organism which helps crops endure stress. He’s cautious about big conclusions from a small experiment, but two observations indicate that the BioEnsure endophyte, which lives inside the crop, does help against late, wet spring soil stress.

March 16, 2021 By Jerry Carlson — The grower wanted to remain anonymous: “I don’t want phone calls.” But he’s familiar with using microbial organisms for restoring soil health. He considers cover crops as his “third crop” to multiply good fungus and bacteria.

Thus I see this grow-out trial as a useful clue. It’s another “torture test” of BioEnsure, produced by Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies of Spokane, Washington. 

Our own overwinter grow-out trials focused on drought tolerance. We found that corn seedlings treated with a blend of BioEnsure and its related bacterial product, BioTango, endured dry-down tests far better than untreated corn.  

One big visual difference: Our corn treated with these microbes had massive roots laced with mycorrhizal fungi.  We repeated the test several times with seed treatment and foliar treatment, with near-identical results. 

The same kind of thick roots showed up in our farmer friend’s test of corn’s endurance in saturated soil. His region often has soggy spring soil, which inhibits root growth for lack of gas exchange — oxygen and carbon dioxide. 

His objective was to grow the three stalks for five months under LED lights, continuing the test until he could see the response in ear size and kernel development. Conclusion: Both stalks seed-treated with BioEnsure fungus had a much larger nubbin than the untreated stalk. LED lights and a cool shop aren’t going to produce a half-pound ear of corn over winter. But the important difference is ear size between the presence of the Trichoderma harzianum fungal endophyte, versus no treatment. Both of the treated stalks had nubbins about the same size. The untreated stalk generated a much smaller ear.

The grower raised the corn in three rectangular soil columns about three feet high. All four sides have transparent walls, which are covered except for occasional observation of roots.  The treated stalk with normal moisture developed thick, deep and prolific roots. The treated stalk in spring-saturated soil had finer roots and fewer roots, although they penetrated to the bottom of the column.

In our separate seedling trials this winter, we saw huge corn roots with BioEnsure/BioTango blend, whether seed-treated or foliar applied at V2.

After seeing the ear size, the experimenting grower says: “All I know is that the two treated stalks had a larger ear than the untreated stalk. Under my microscope, the fungal organism showed up in the sap of both treated plants, but not in the untreated plant.”  

Both treated plants set a larger ear than the untreated plant,
which was given normal moisture. The stalk stressed with
saturated soil produced an ear size the same as the treated plant
grown with normal moisture for the full five months. 
Tassels developed abundant silks, but a lack of air movement
in the building probably led to low movement of pollen from tassels
to the silks.