Renewable Farming

Why WakeUP is unique among surfactants for enhancing foliar and in-furrow nutrients

Every season for 14 years, we’ve been surprised by unexpected benefits generated by our WakeUP Spring and WakeUP Summer: Higher crop yields. Higher test weights. Better taste and quality in garden produce.

April 28, 2022: At first we saw this honey-colored liquid as a biostimulant. It lifted yields when sprayed alone on corn and soybeans.

Then, its surfactant power came clear. Southeastern farmers used it to dramatically intensify the power of postmerge herbicides.

But our main interest was nutritional quality of crops. In hundreds of tissue tests and field trials, we proved that WakeUP amplifies absorption of foliar nutrients, increasing mineral content of corn and soybeans. 

We also saw that — unlike other surfactants — WakeUP sprayed on a leaf softens the leaf’s waxy cuticle, allowing the entire surface to sponge up foliar nutrients. Experiments with various plant-based ingredients led us to two formulations: WakeUP Spring for gentle and long-lasting use for in-furrow applications, and WakeUP Summer for highly effective foliar sprays.

Then came a surprise in 2010: A Nebraska farmer sent us data showing that just 3 ounces per acre of WakeUP Spring included with 5 to 7 gallons of his in-furrow nutrient mix raised corn yields 8 bu. per acre. Nothing in our plant physiology books anticipated that!  

Visually, it was easy to see that foliar spray solutions with WakeUP instantly “clear-coat” leaves. Even fuzzy leaves like soybeans look glossy. Even waxy leaves like citrus shine, with no droplets. WakeUP water becomes dramatically “wetter.” When spraying on soybeans loaded with dew, leaves will appear dry in 10 or 15 minutes. Leaves soak up the dew and the foliar nutrients.

In 2018 we hired a lab to conduct a dynes test — a measure of water’s surface tension. Water’s surface tension causes dewdrops to form on leaves. The lab found that a 1:256 ratio of WakeUP in water reduced water’s surface tension from a “sticky” 71.6 dynes to only 28.9 dynes. Astoundingly, the lab tests showed that an even more diluted 1:512 ratio of WakeUP Spring or Summer also dropped water’s surface tension to 28.8. (This was with ordinary farm well water from a limestone formation, a pH of about 7.5.)

The lab manager was so intrigued with WakeUP’s performance that he suggested: “If WakeUp were used strictly as a surfactant, a solution of 1:1,024 would be worth investigating, as our data implies it may be as (or nearly as) effective as the 1:128 and 1:512 ratios.” 

Since then, farmers using the Pursanova water activation and reverse osmosis system have found that just 2 ounces of WakeUP in 20 gallons of water — a 1 to 1,280 ratio — gives them consistent performance of foliar nutrients, even when saving 25% on nutrient and herbicide rates per acre. The purity of water matters!

We’ve learned that WakeUP is quickly accepted by leaves because it’s totally plant-based — not a salt, oil “sticker” or acid. When absorbed into the crop’s phloem circulation system, WakeUP apparently reduces the surface tension of plant sap generated by photosynthesis. Sugars and other nutrients flow more easily from leaves to roots, seed and fruit. Thus it takes less energy to transport sugars and other nutrients from the leaf to growing points and seed. This is a bonus benefit of WakeUP!

WakeUP Spring stimulates more profuse rooting when applied on wheat, corn and beans around the two-leaf stage. If applied later, such as V4 or beyond, root development benefits are less pronounced. That early rooting stimulus is very important in less fertile soils and during seasons where deep, profuse roots help carry corn and soybeans through dry stretches.

That big-root benefit was very clear when we monitored crops in a “terrarium:” A 20-foot-long wooden structure holding soil soil three feet deep and a foot wide. Beans treated with WakeUP at the two trifoliate stage kept on growing through August and September dry-weather stress. When we looked at roots later by gently washing away the soil, the root mass on WakeUP treated soybeans and corn was much larger.  

An Illinois research agronomist discovered that an application of WakeUP on corn at the 4-leaf stage almost doubled the brix (sugar) content of roots two days later. That means a huge stimulus for healthy soil myc

Tank-mixed with foliar nutrients, WakeUP improves absorption into leaves and translocation through the crop’s phloem circulation. In the 2012 season, we encouraged soybean and corn growers to foliar-spray a tank mix of WakeUP and trace-element blend if they are growing GMO soybeans and corn. It takes only 5 ounces per acre of WakeUP to increase uptake and translocation of trace elements. We recommend 15 to 20 gallons of spray solution per acre. Medium droplet size is fine; WakeUP causes the solution to clear-coat leaves. You don’t need a highly evaporative fog.

WakeUP Summer as a surfactant/carrier amplifies the effectiveness of a micronutrient formulation by 50% to 80%. For example, if a micronutrient foliar boosts crop yield by 5 bu. when applied alone, including WakeUP Summer in the tank mix will usually add another 4 bu. per acre. 

To sum up, there are two primary opportunities to make WakeUP pay on corn and beans:

1. First is to use it in starter or pop-up fertilizer, to mobilize nutrient uptake through roots. If you have only one shot at it and have only $3 an acre this is where to spend three ounces of WakeUP Spring. This is effective either in-furrow, after the planter closing wheels, or (less so) injected 2×2. Some farmers make a complex “soup” of starter solutions, and we advise that adding WakeUP to a blend of nutrients right out of the jug, without water dilution, can cause reactions in the tank.  We encourage at least as much water in the starter tank as nutrients, to provide a buffer.  Sequence for starters:  Water, WakeUP, agitate and then add the nutrient blends. No more than 3 ounces per acre of WakeUP when used in-furrow or 2×2.

2. Second is to tank-mix WakeUP with foliar applied nutrients such as trace elements or NPK foliar fertilizer. The goal here is to improve absorption and translocation of those nutrients.  We recommend tissue testing to get clues of what’s needed by the plant.

Here’s why it’s important that WakeUP is a colloid. When you pour WakeUP in a sprayer tank with water, it creates “colloidal micelles.” These are clusters of roughly 100 or 200 water molecules structured around the WakeUP colloid with their negative ends out. Thus, water loses 60% or more of its “stickiness” or surface tension. You can envision each water micelle as a tiny “ball bearing” of water molecules, with all of its surfaces carrying a negative charge. Since these micelles repel each other, the measure of water’s surface tension falls from 71 Dynes to 28. 

Inside a plant, the nutrient solution is pumped by what plant physiologists call “proton pumps.”  The pumping requires energy. With WakeUP in the plant solution, less energy is required to move sugars and other nutrients from leaves to roots, from leaves to seed or new growth.  If we can save the plant some energy required to move plant sap, more total photosynthetic energy can be applied to growth and seed formation.  As Dr. Carey Reams observed decades ago, plants are built by ionic transfer. WakeUP also raises conductivity.  Pure WakeUP concentrate has a conductivity of about 1,700 microsiemens.

Rainwater or commercially distilled water has a few impurities in it, and typically has a conductivity of 5 to 10 microsiemens. Groundwater, which has many dissolved minerals such as calcium, will typically range from 200 to 500 microsiemens. Adding a normal amount of concentrated WakeUP to a spray solution will raise its conductivity to around 700 microsiemens.  This happens to be nearly the ideal level for favorable ion transfer in a fertile soil.  Anytime you test your soil with a conductivity probe and see a reading below 400, it’s a signal that growth will be slow because ion transfer will be slow. Bottom line is that WakeUP reduces surface tension of plant sap, making it more mobile, and also raises conductivity, which aids ion transfer.

Other discoveries from a dozen years of experience:

1. WakeUP in a spray solution allows fewer pounds of pressure in a spray system to deliver the same rate per acre. “WakeUP water” is slippery. It has low surface tension, so solutions flow easily through spray tips. 

2. A medium spray nozzle and moderate pressure is adequate, versus a foggy spray which drifts and evaporates. We like a double flat fan, one angled forward and the other angled back for complete coverage.

3. Our family uses WakeUP as a household cleanser. It’s great for greasy pans and tough stains. We’ve also used it for years to wash our fresh greens and other veggies, which we use for juicing every day. 

4. In the farm shop, WakeUP’s cleaning power is especially handy in our Hotsy power washer. 

5. We developed a protocol using WakeUP for cleaning sprayer tanks and systems, from hoses to filters to spray tips. It etches out residues hidden in crevices and filter mesh. 

6. Have trouble prying a new combine tire into place? Put a little WakeUP on the bead… the concentrate is slippery!