Saturday, May 18, 2013

Kentucky Roots Tell The Story

So my fertilizer mission was delayed a day, and I drove down to Bowling Green, KY on Wednesday.  I got there in the late afternoon in time to see Patrick from Security Seed and Chemical (SSC) setting up for some test plots for no-till corn at the Western Kentucky University research farm.  WKU has a great ag program in agronomy, and this is the first year that Patrick, who is a WKU alum, and Security Seed has participated in plots there.  They were looking at several things in this corn plot: dry fertilizer, AgroLiquid fertilizer and combinations of both with a biosolid organic fertilizer.  Biosolids is a polite term for waste treatment  byproduct.  You know....  But it is thoroughly digested, treated and heated and does have organic matter and some nutrition.  It is a way to get rid of the stuff and is said to have a beneficial effect.  So we will see.  I have never worked on the back end of this type of product.  The biosolids are dry, and will be dropped off after planting. So the AgroLiquid is number one, and the biosolids are number 2. Here we see Patrick and Jameson, his summer WKU intern, prepare a Liquid mix.
Now it is pumped over into the planter tank.  SAM Jourdan and Jameson keep watch in case Patrick splits his pants.  Looks more like a Blue Moon of Kentucky.  (Sorry Patrick, I am slapping my wrist as I type.)
And off on another round of treatments.  With the late start, it was getting dark when we finally applied the last load. 
The next morning we went over to the SSC resarch farm in Hopkinsville.  This is where I brought down the fertilizer as featured in the April 19 blog.  Well the corn was planted on April 23 and is now in the 2 leaf stage.  Time for some early evaluations of fertilizer effects.  Below Jourdan monitors SSC research assistant Dustin as he digs up some corn.  Jourdan used to work here and wants to make sure it is done right. 
In these samples below, there is quite a difference.  A lot of growers down there still haven't seen the light and are reluctant to rely on a total AgroLiquid program.  But there are also many who have.  This is shows why they all should.  The corn on the left received planter fertilizer based on soil test, and included Pro-Germinator, micronutrients and sulfur from eNhance.  The soil is pretty high in P and K, but low in micros and sulfur.  A typical progam is to broadcast dry 6-24-24 (enen though this is no-till) and use some 10-34-0 as a starter.  There has been ample rain since planting, and the sidedress N hasn't yet been applied (but will be soon).  Above the ground, the corn looked about the same, maybe even a little taller with the conventional, probably because of the extra N in the treatment.  But looking at the roots tells a different story.  The AgroLiquid treatment had a much larger root system, and did appear a darker green, perhaps from the nutrient balance.  Now think of the advantages of a larger root system, especially if it turns dry later in the summer.  And in spite of the high soil P and K, the no fertilizer corn is small and wimpy.  Although it does have a better root system than the 10-34-0 corn at this time.  (And regarding the extra N at planting, years of testing at the NCRS found no advantage to extra N at planting in terms of yield, provided the sidedress is timely.)
We also looked at some wheat plots where Caramba fungicide was applied 2 days ago along with either ferti-Rain or NResponse.  There was no burning of the wheat leaves.  We have done this before at the NCRS, also without burn.  After wheat harvest there will be double-crop soybean fertilizer plots established.
Then we drove up to the town of Morganfield, about 75 miles to the North and a little West.  There is a relatively new Security Seed and Chemical store there, and also a first year research farm where Patrick, Dustin and Jameson have additional plots with fertilizer.  These are long plots.  This corn was planted more recently and was smaller.  Out came the shovel for more digging.
Comparisons below show the differences of 10-34-0, 6-24-6 and AgroLiquid.  Not sure why the 10-34-0 looks so poor here, but who cares?  Admittedly, in fairness the 6-24-6 looks pretty good.  But not as good as the AgroLiquid which has longer roots, is slightly taller and is darker green.  I say we could stop the experiment now, but I guess we will see it through to harvest.  But these early differences help explain the differences in yield and grain moisture come harvest.  When people are just fixated on yield, they are skeptical of results since they don't understand the growth process.  But looking early and following it through the season makes the yields understandable.  Or more so anyway.  So I was encouraged, and really congratulate Patick and his crew for such a great job of testing fertilizer programs.
And that wasn't all.  In another part of the field were comparisons of some typical programs used by growers.  These were in multiple alternating strips for a complete evaluation.  On the left is a preplant broadcast appliction of 200 lb/A of the dry fertilizer 6-24-24.  And on the right is an in-furrow application of 5 gal/A each of Pro-Germinator and Sure-K with Micro 500 and eNhance (for sulfur).  The advantages of the in-furrow placement was obvious at this time.  Put the fertilizer where it will be used: in the furrow for full root access.  Not spread out so much that the roots can't get it.  Anyway, we will follow this as well.
Do you want to see these with your own eyes?  Well SSC is having field days at both of these places the last week of July.  Actually July 30 in Hopkinsville and August 1 in Morganfield, the way it stands now.  In addition to the fertilizer plots, there are variety trials, chemical trials and probably other stuff as well.  You know I wouldn't miss it.