Renewable Farming

University scientist confirms effectiveness of AgriEnergy’s SP-1

In the 2017 season, AgriEnergy Resources of Princeton, IL arranged for a field trials of the biological SP-1 conducted by one of America’s most experienced vegetable scientists, Dr. Michael Orzolek. Positive yield benefits included an 8-bu. yield gain on corn and a 50% increase in marketable yield of tomatoes.

March 26, 2018 — Dr. Orzolek presented the detailed results of his field tests at the recent AgriEnergy seminar in Des Moines March 8. We visited with him there, and suggested that he include WakeUP Spring with further SP-1 field trials this season. He told us that he’d incorporate that into his tests during 2018.

Dr. Michael Orzolek

Dr. Orzolek is Professor Emeritus of Vegetable Crops, Plant Science Department, Penn State University. Though semi-retired, he continues searching for new ways to help growers, and sees biological microbials as promising and beneficial for soils. Penn State allows him to conduct applied field research at their experimental farm in a mountain valley near Pennsylvania Furnace.  

As we visited with Dr. Orzolek after seeing his PowerPoint data, he told us he’s one of the few university-based agronomists eager to test beneficial microbes. “Most of them don’t even want to talk about microbial research or healthy soils,”  he said.

His random-replicated plot trial with SP-1 on corn in 2017 showed yield gains consistent with many other field results we’ve seen over the years with SP-1.

In a test of SP-1 broadcast-sprayed on 1,200-square-foot research plots four days before planting corn, yield gains over the check plots were significant in two trials out of three. One trial where 1.5 gal. of SP-1 was applied showed an 8-bu. yield benefit.  Special note here: Usually, we recommend using SP-1 in-furrow or foliar. In these plot trials, SP-1 was sprayed alone, on the surface. “A little rain moves it in,” Dr. Orzolek told us.

Renewable Farming markets SP-1, and our recommended in-furrow rate is only a half-gallon per acre. That holds your product cost to just $3.30 if you buy it in jugs, or $2.38 if you purchase a 250-gallon tote from us. Higher rates can add some “assurance” but as Orzolek notes, “Applied early, microbes begin multiplying, and the soil health response shows up well.”

AgriEnergy recommends in-furrow application of SP-1 as a means of mobilizing it consistently, with less variability imposed by weather. Dr. Orzolek wanted to measure benefits of SP-1 by a simple broadcast preplant application. It simulates what would happen if SP-1 is sprayed in a tank mix with preplant or premerge herbicides. Many growers don’t have in-furrow application capability on their planters, so a piggyback application would save a trip.

At Renewable Farming, we tested in-furrow SP-1 on corn in 2013. You can read our summary by downloading this two-page PDF.  Yields in treated test strips with SP-1 alone averaged 6.1 bu. over control strips. Strips where SP-1 was tank-mixed with WakeUP Spring averaged 14.6 bu. over control strips.

Dr. Orzolek saw definite darkening in the soil in SP-1 treated plots — after just one season. That benefit should compound over future seasons, he reasons. (See photo below.)

“When you achieve an abundant, early population of beneficial bacteria and fungi, these microorganisms enhance nutrient extraction and uptake from the soil,” says Dr. Orzolek. “This also improves soil porosity and humus, which in turn builds other benefits like rain infiltration and moisture holding capacity.”

Other researchers maintain that mychorriza connected with root hairs and reaching far out into the soil can dissolve elemental nutrients ten times more effectively than root hairs alone. The mycelium can also extract more water from thin films of moisture around soil particles. That helps maintain late-summer stress resistance.

“So there are lots of soil tilth and health benefits of SP-1 beyond yield,” Dr. Orzolek emphasizes. “SP-1 is a great investment, with longer-term returns much higher than most growers realize if they’re looking only at first-year yield response.”

His 1.5-gal. per acre rate of SP-1 also produced a “50% increase in the marketable yield of processing tomatoes.”

In 2018, he plans more processing tomato trials, including tissue sampling to detect the additional nutrient uptake he expects with SP-1.

“For someone trying SP-1 for the first time on crops like tomatoes or field corn, I suggest that 1.5-gal. rate, applied in-furrow at planting. I think a new SP-1 user will be very happy with that.”

“SP-1 has multiple uses, and multiple application techniques including foliar, seed treatment and in-furrow. But I keep coming back to the biggest benefit, which is soil health. Over my career in horticulture, there have been only a few products which actually enhance soil health. I also maintain that as you enhance beneficial organisms like those in SP-1, the abundance of ‘good microbes’ gives pathogens more competition.”

Dr. Ozolek adds: “Some no-till farmers who plant cover crops may think that’s all they need to build soil health. But I’m convinced that if they include SP-1 with cover crops, they can accelerate the benefits of no-till. I also see that many of our vegetable growers do a lot of tillage, which damages soil structure. Some of that damage could be remedied with SP-1.”

He concludes: “The main benefit of SP-1 is a buildup of soil health and tilth. That’s the foundation for yields. Early agronomists understood that too, and urged crop diversity and rotations to encourage a wide spectrum of soil organisms.”

Digging with a spade after the season shows darker soil
where SP-1 was sprayed on the surface before planting