RESIDUE BREAKDOWN. High levels of corn stalk residue can affect planting when tough stalks end up pinning seeds and preventing good germination and a consistent stand. Treating the residue with microbes can reduce stalk weight by 50% between harvest and planting, compared to only 6% when untreated. The top sample is untreated; the black material in the bottom sample are the microbes at work.

Harvesting Residue Nutrients with New Biologicals

Using a biological product to break down crop residue can speed nutrient cycling, boost soil organic matter and save wear-and-tear on tires.

We only know about 10% of soil’s bacillus-like species, beneficial microbes widely used in industry and agriculture. Yet our knowledge of their diversity and distribution patterns in the soil is still rudimentary, says Larry Fiene of Planet Earth Agronomy.

“We have a long way to go to unravel what’s in soil and how we can use it,” says the veteran Wisconsin agronomist.

Yet better understanding of soil’s bacteria, phylum and fungi is creating microbial solutions, bringing new biologicals and biostimulants to the farm marketplace faster. Fiene has been at it for 30 years. Now his company has partnered with Meristem to help build products to aid in the breakdown of crop residue and enhance nutrient release. 

Breaking Down Residue

With farmers currently grappling with fertilizer prices at record highs, many are giving biological products a second look, especially for their ability to enhance or speed nutrient cycling in the soil. 

“Results show significant residue reduction inside two weeks, and up to 100 pounds more nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K) and micronutrients for the next crop,” says Mitch Eviston, Meristem founder and CEO, in announcing the new formulation of Excavator. Along with Meristem’s other new biologicals, he says the package is an antidote for high fertilizer prices and can help farmers boost yields and beat inflation.

So farmer Justin Ogle put it to the test.

On 320 of his 4,500 acres straddling the Missouri-Kansas border, Ogle applied 12.8 ounces to corn stalks last fall. Pre- and post-harvest soil tests are…

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Pamela Karg

Contributing Writer

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