Renewable Farming

“This season it’s vital to keep corn healthy all the way to natural maturity”

Season-long nutrition is the main point which Illinois ag consultant Brad Forkner emphasized when we phoned him about the robust corn roots he dug yesterday. This stalk came from a client’s farm near Hamilton, Michigan.  Already at growth stage V3, it has punched down long roots loaded with a network of branch roots — after only 270 growing degree units. It usually takes corn at least 350 GDUs to reach V3.


Prolific roots, encouraged with in-furrow
and row-support products

June 11, 2019     By Jerry Carlson — These roots show rapid response to a rich array of in-furrow biological boosters and NPK row support. Brad encourages in-furrow application for live biological organisms and natural nutrient enhancers like fulvic, humic and SeaCrop which inoculate the first roots. NPK goes on the side, knifed in at planting or Y-dropped later.

Here’s the per-acre “recipe” his client applied with the planter:

4 gal. 6-24-6

1/2 gal. Boost (the farmer’s choice, not Brad’s)

1/2 gal. Nachurs Triple option 7-14-21-5 (the farmer’s choice, not Brad’s)

6.4 oz. Integrate supplied by Brad

12.8 oz. Launch (Includes biological organisms and supporting ingredients)

32 oz. zinc chelated with EDTA (Brad will recommend replacing this next season with 2 oz. 36% monosulfate diluted in a quart of water, as the EDTA chelator inhibits zinc availability)

8 oz. of 24% liquid humic pre-diluted in 8 oz. of water

0.5 oz. concentrated fulvic

2 oz. dry soluble sea kelp pre-dissolved

Seeder Heater (a blend of essential oils supplied by Brad for seed treatment)

Brad’s 39-year career in agriculture began in livestock nutrition products. He realized that healthy feed demanded nutrient-dense crops grown on living soils. So he expanded his services and products to nutrition, with emphasis on beneficial microbial life which amplifies uptake of soil fertility. There’s a lot more information at one of his websites, 

You can also see more of Brad’s background at Practical Ag Solutions, another website of his firm which focuses on the livestock side. (Brad’s career experience was similar to that of Dr. Dan Skow, co-founder of International Ag Labs in Minnesota.)

Not many corn growers are willing to expend the management effort to fine-tune a complex array of crop-supporting ingredients like the list shown above. This Michigan farmer clearly sees the value in doing so. Even if you usually don’t do in-furrow or 2×2 with the planter, you can use streaming nozzles, Y-drops or other means of applying nutrients during the season. With December corn futures nudging $4.50 on USDA’s largest-ever cut in corn yield estimates (to 166 bu. per acre), coaxing more performance from your crop could pay well.

Brad has spent almost 40 years refining what products add yields economically. We asked, “If a grower has an extremely tight budget, what would you recommend applying with the planting? NPK or helpers like fulvic acid, kelp and beneficial microbes?”

He said: “Always, priority goes to the natural aids which accelerate biological life as early as possible.  Fulvic acid first, and go from there.” If budgets are extremely tight, Brad recommends redirecting dollars from NPK starters to biologicals which energize natural microbials, which have 10 times the power to mobilize soil minerals compared to the root exudates alone. 

Renewable Farming can’t evaluate each of the items in the list above. We’ve had only 10 years in the crop biological business, researching how WakeUP enhances the performance of NPK, trace minerals, biostimulants and live microbials. But our experience meshes almost perfectly with Brad’s observations in 17 states.

We’re publishing this brief field report to encourage you and other growers to keep your crop happy and growing rapidly throughout the season. For many farmers, late planting and saturated soils have imposed a two-month handicap. We’ve reported many times that keeping a high level of nutrition spoon-fed to crops through the season via foliar spraying and streaming near the row can avoid the typical for die-down we see in late August. This season, keeping corn green and healthy all through August and September could add 40 bu. to your yield. Brad’s website has the contact information needed to get in touch with him.

Update June 12: Yesterday when I checked with Brad on accuracy of the story above, I asked him for some broader generalizations on his typical consulting advice to growers. Here’s what he e-mailed this morning. (I didn’t ask Brad for his final paragraph, but we’re pleased to include it.) 

Additional general agronomic recommendations, written by Brad Forkner:

“I use the concept of multiple modes of known nutrition movers to get nutrition inside of root and leaf structures. Renewable Farming’s WakeUP provides an excellent avenue in this system.  

 “Tissue tests during the season, taken a few days before our next planned spraying or feeding opportunity, allow us to pinpoint where to allocate our input dollars to make the greatest impact.  With our wet soils this spring, a foliar helps keep corn, beans, etc. “thinking optimum opportunity” when the crop determines its maximum potential. 
“We follow this with combining plant growth stage/growing degree days/ and current weather conditions to best target the spray day. If you can, spray the day when the wind isn’t blowing.  Spraying on a windy day may be necessary, but the best choice is a time when it’s quiet or the breeze is very light.
“When you tissue test, label your samples of older base leaves separate from new growth to determine late-season cannibalization that contributes to early death before you have packed in the potassium and micronutrients with foliars.  
“Know the benefits of mobile micronutrients like sulfur, boron, zinc, and the fruiting micros such as manganese, molybdenum, cobalt and nickel.
“Don’t give up on a crop that has a chance. But don’t don’t spend fertility dollars where field tile dollars are a more cost-effective answer.
“One to three applications of micros and potassium acetate late season can achieve 63+ pound test weight beans and field corn that doesn’t dent.
“A starter-only program, not supported all season, is like running a hundred-yard dash in a marathon. Do the whole race or sit on the sidelines. Better to support micros and later season nutrition.
“Rootworm gene protection in Bt corn is expressed as a protein. Therefore it takes some early nitrogen to form a strong enough protein to kill the rootworms with the Bt genes you paid for.
“I got to know Jerry in the last few years and have come to appreciate his straightforward, concise approach to nutrition delivery. When you stay involved in ag nutrition, consultation, and product endorsement for the amount of years Jerry and I have invested, you find the promoters, the greedy, the shady, and the genuine.  Let me assure you without any reservation, Jerry is genuine. He  cares as much about your success as you do.  I am proud to endorse Renewable Farming as a trusted associate.”