Renewable Farming

Sometimes it takes a lot of plot replications to confirm a yield benefit

One of our 2016 yield trials on soybeans showed that adding WakeUP Spring to an in-furrow mix of two biological yield boosters added another 2.63 bushels, a 6.2% yield benefit.

That doesn’t sound like much of a yield gain — but even at the $9.13 per bushel we got for the beans at our local co-op, it added $24 per acre to gross income. WakeUP Spring’s retail cost is $2.25 per acre with a 3-ounce per acre rate in-furrow.

With tight production budgets, it takes about a 10 to 1 prospective rate of return to convince most farmers that a yield boosting product is a reasonable risk worth taking. At only a $5 likely rate of return per $1 spent, the resistance curve starts to go parabolic.

This little trial makes several points you may find useful for your next season’s planning.

1. In-furrow placement with the planter offers a low-cost, potentially high-return method of applying nutrients and biologicals to stimulate newly germinating crops. It’s our highest priority use of input dollars. We’ve found that a little high-quality in-furrow fertility, teamed with biological boosters and mobilized with WakeUP Spring, show a consistent yield response. Those new roots find immediate nourishment, and the “biologicals” accelerate colonization of roots with beneficial mycorrhiza. That stronger foundation compounds into season-long crop health.

2. We’ve seen similar yield boots consistently when WakeUP is added to a good biological or PGR. The 6% yield gain by adding WakeUP Spring is “for real” and not just chance. In this trial, we weighed 15 strips of soybeans “With” WakeUP Spring and 15 strips “Without” to make sure we had an abundance of replications. Many trials have only four or five reps — and a couple of controls. Our strips were 350 feet long and 15 feet wide, across a quite uniform acreage. We had no strips without any in-furrow treatment because we’ve tested the two biological products extensively in the past; we know how they’ll perform. All we needed to know here was, “How much difference will WakeUP Spring make when added to a good in-furrow blend?  The two products:  Symbiosis AGx, derived from whole freshwater fish and processed with a unique digestion method, and the PGR we’ve been testing now for three seasons, Lignition.

Generally when we add a WakeUP formulation to a nutrient or PGR, whether in-furrow or foliar, the WakeUP amplifies the product’s benefit by 50% to 80%. The evidence indicates that WakeUP creates that benefit by increasing the crop’s absorption and internal mobilization of the nutrients or growth booster.

3. If you were to apply such a test in an 80-acre field, and flag just two or three 10-acre treated strips across that field, a benefit of only 2.63 bu. per acre probably wouldn’t show up clearly on your yield monitor. Soil and drainage variations would likely overwhelm the actual yield influence of the product.

Several years ago a well-known Southwestern crop consultant wanted to test WakeUP on wheat. In late July he called and said: “One four-acre strip with foliar-sprayed WakeUP was 5 bu. over the average of the entire 80-acre field. The other four-acre treated strip was 2 bu. below the whole-field average. What did I do wrong?

We wanted to say, “Where is the yield data on the other four treated strips? You need at least six reps for a reasonable degree of confidence.”  But we knew they didn’t exist.

We favor the Practical Farmers of Iowa protocol for field research. But we’ve learned, the hard way, since 2008 that getting field trials actually completed under farm conditions has about a 20% batting average, at best. It’s not easy under high-pressure farming conditions, which include tight schedules, erratic weather and reluctance to carefully record data.