What is in this article?:
Industry experts offer these tips for evaluating biologicals:
- They are used in conjunction with other products; don’t expect them to be a silver bullet.
- Work with science-based companies with good product data and information about mode of action. Watch out for unregistered microbial cocktail mixtures called growth enhancers.
- Using a biological successfully can require personal research.
- Remember, biologicals are living organisms and many environmental factors can impact them. The predictability of these products is increasing, but in some cases, more work is needed for good regional use recommendations.
Biologically based crop inputs are moving from the orchards and cabbage patch to corn and soybean fields. A combination of higher value commodity crops, synergies between biologicals and synthetic chemical controls, new research tools and major corporate investments are driving the trend.
Mike Hubbard, crop consultant, Kootenai Valley Farm & Research, Bonners Ferry, Idaho, has worked with biologicals in high-value crops, cereal grains and, increasingly, corn.
Ron Landis, Schoolcraft, Mich., is one of those looking for additional bushels. He’s used Torque, a biofertility product from Novozymes BioAg, with starter fertilizer for five years, and reports yield increases ranging from 2 to 10 bu./acre. The best results, he suggests, come when growing conditions are less than optimal.
Landis took first place for the state in the no-till/strip-till irrigated class in 2011 NCGA yield trials, with 248 bu./acre. He maintains high fertility levels, something he suspects limits his yield bumps from Torque, since it is the root system where he sees the difference. “We’ve sampled roots ourselves and have seen 10-20% greater root mass, even with the fine root hairs, with Torque,” says Landis. “That bigger root mass takes up nutrients more effectively.”