For Lee Anderson of Anderson Farms, Burnettsville, Ind., residue represents a big opportunity wrapped in a bigger challenge.

“I play on the beach here,” he says. “I have lots of fields with sandy soils. My organic matter on some of these fields is only 1-3%. In my operation, I’m incorporating practices of no-till and cover crops, and with high-yielding corn and soybeans, there’s a lot of residue to contend with.”

Anderson farms all dryland and all no-till and is very keen on keeping his light soil right where it is with better management.

“Last year we had severe winds," Anderson says. "I could see it affecting some neighboring fields, but my land was staying put.” H

He’s also banking on his residue for nutrients, and that’s what led him to try a new biological, EXCAVATOR from Meristem Crop Performance, for the first time last year.

“I’m involved with the Dowdy and Hula group, Total Acre, and they gave me the opportunity to do a test of EXCAVATOR," Anderson says. "I applied it with my burndown on a cover crop."

The cover crop — a blend of ryegrass, rape seed, clover and hairy vetch — was about 16-18 inches tall on May 11, 2022, when he made the EXCAVATOR application. EXCAVATOR, powered by MICROBILIZE, is designed to break down crop residue quickly to improve planter performance, reduce tillage and release nutrients to feed the next crop. MICROBILIZE is a patented surfactant system developed to keep microbes healthy and optimize their impact when they hit the residue.

“With MICROBILIZE, the surfactant base penetrates the cuticle for faster breakdown of the residue,” says Joe Gednalske, product development lead for Meristem. “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in microbe survivability and productivity.”

Anderson says he took special care to determine the results in his field. He pulled samples from EXCAVATOR treated ground and untreated ground at 40 days and again at 80 days.

“I pulled the samples myself to be sure they were good ones,” he says, “and I was a little surprised EXCAVATOR worked so well.”

Soil test results at 40 days showed potassium (K) at 170 ppm (parts per million) in the treated vs. 115 in the untreated, a 48% increase. By the 80-day test, K had increased to 402 ppm, compared to 145 ppm in the untreated. Phosphorus (P) was level at the first pull with 150 ppm in the treated and 148 in the untreated. At 80 days, the treated still held at 144 ppm, but the untreated was at 69. There was also more zinc, magnesium and calcium as well as twice the organic matter in the EXCAVATOR field at both tests.

Anderson says more good news came at harvest. His yield showed a 5.2 bushel per acre advantage on the treated ground compared with the untreated.

“Even if I didn’t get the yield bump, I really liked what I was seeing mid-season," he says. Fertility levels were increasing or at least staying the same. EXCAVATOR was an easy product to use. And with the results I saw, I’m going to put it on 400 more acres this year.”  

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