Renewable Farming

An inexpensive way to protect your crops against dry weather this season

Profitable prices for corn, soybeans and wheat underscore the importance of high yields this season. But seasonal forecasts are raising the odds of a second year of dry-weather stress in the Upper Midwest. That stress could roll eastward into the eastern Corn Belt this summer. (See NOAH map below.) 

April 7, 2021  The rising chance of June-August dry spells energized us last winter to grow several greenhouse tests with corn, confirming a symbiotic technology that helps crops endure drought and other stress. The unique fungi and bacteria which help crops endure stress are endophytes: They live inside your crop, between living cells. This principle works across many crop species.

The Seattle-based company which selected these endophytes and tested them a dozen years is Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies. The AST research team has refined and added to its stable of endophytes, and made them adaptable for virtually any agronomic program. Renewable Farming is among a few distributors in the Midwest offering these organisms to farmers this season. New this year: A planter-box inoculant carried on a special soy-based powdered lubricant. The powder replaces graphite seed lubricants.

The scientific principle: Certain fungi and bacteria discovered and nurtured by AST create a symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship with host plants. The organisms help the plant endure stress such as drought and high temperatures.

Our simple greenhouse tests consistently showed that young corn, deprived of water to simulate drought, survived while untreated corn wilted beyond recovery. We saw this symbiotic effect whether the endophyte organisms were seed-applied or foliar sprayed. 

AST has run hundreds of lab and field trials over the past decade. We conducted simple greenhouse experiments just for our own hands-on confirmation.

We encourage you to watch a fascinating 12-minute TED talk by microbiologist Rusty Rodriguez at this link. Rusty reveals the dramatic saga of how his research team discovered certain fungal and bacterial organisms that enable crops to better endure drought stress. Their first discovery site: soils around geothermal pools in Yellowstone National Park. Rusty found that plants without certain endophytes died when soils reached 100 F. But when the same plant species hosted specific fungi, the plant endured soil temperatures of 160 F.

The AST microbiology researchers found they could culture these natural endophytes and prepare them so farmers can easily inoculate corn, beans, wheat, pastures or other crops.

The appearance of Rusty on a TED stage with its huge live audience and global internet availability on YouTube underscores the scientific validity of the principle he discusses: Symbiosis between beneficial bacteria and fungal microbes and the plants they live within.

Other microbiologists in the scientific community are increasingly interested in the potential of symbiotic fungi and bacteria. As an example, scan this paper in the journal Nature. This paper discusses symbiosis of fungal organisms which are “arbuscular” — they have filaments which live partially inside plant roots and extend out into the soil. These filaments are smaller than root hairs, and have ten times the power of root hairs for dissolving essential nutrient minerals. En effect, these fungi are extensions of plant roots. Plants must bring nutrients into roots as dissolved solutions. 

Contact us for pricing and availability of AST’s main cultures, BioEnsure and BioTango. You can seed-apply, foliar spray or use a planter-box treatment which has both BioEnsure (the fungal species) and BioTango (a blend of endophyte bacteria species).

Update April 8: We. just confirmed an order for AST’s planter-box treatment which bonds BioEnsure and BioTango on pure talc which is asbestos-free and registered as organic by OMRI. AST managers said they were sold out, but are manufacturing more. 

For an update on dry Upper Midwest planting conditions, check this link to AgWeb.

Also, visit our previous reports on greenhouse trials posted earlier:

March 11  Root-building biologicals are your best friend if drought hits this summer

February 17 — Concerned about a dry summer? These “endophytes” help crops tolerate stress