While we are interested in improving crop yields in Ohio, we are reluctant to recommend practices that cost time and money and are not likely to be of assistance. From several on-farm trials conducted by Ohio State University Extension professionals over the years, we see no value in applying sugar to our Ohio row crops.

Two trials conducted in Clark County in 2013 found that two sugar sources at 4 pounds per acre — sucrose and dextrose — provided no yield difference from the check in corn. In soybeans, sucrose applied at 4 pounds per acre also resulted in no yield difference from the check.

In a 2014 soybean trial conducted at two locations — Clark Country and Wood County — there was no yield advantage of sugar applied to soybean (table 1).

Table 1. Soybean yield after a
4-pound-per-acre application of sugar.
  Clark County Wood County
Treatment Average Yield  Average Yield
Check 79.4 53.8
Sugar 81.2 53.9
Fungicide 80.6 55.2
Lsd 0.10 NSD NSD


These results are consistent with research conducted in other states. In 2010, researchers in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Indiana looked at soybean yield response to granulated cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, molasses and blackstrap molasses. They found the sugar applications did not result in a yield increase. 

We suggest focusing on the basics of crop production first. With funding from Ohio Soybean Council, we’ve investigated yield-limiting factors in Ohio soybean production. There are many factors that influence soybean yield (i.e., variety selection, planting date, soybean cyst nematode, weed control, etc.), however, one factor that has really risen to the top is soil fertility.

From over 550 soil samples collected throughout Ohio between 2013 and 2015:

  • 35% were below the critical level for soil phosphorus (P) (<15 ppm Bray P1), and;
  • 21% were below the critical level for potassium (K).

Additionally, we looked at soybean yield from these fields. On average, fields with low soil P yielded 7 bushels per acre less than fields with adequate soil P. Fields with low soil K yielded 4 bushels per acre less than fields with adequate soil K.  

Before considering untested or unproven inputs, consider inputs that are most likely to improve your bottom line.