South East Farm Press Logo

We don’t see the microbes, the fungi, the earthworms that are building the soil, building the relationship with that plant root that help corn function.

John Hart, Associate Editor

August 27, 2020

2 Min Read
John Hart

In corn production, it’s what you don’t see that most impacts yield.

“What is it we don’t see? We don’t see below the ground. We don’t see the microbes, the fungi, the earthworms, all these little creatures underneath the ground that are actually building the soil, building the relationship with that plant root that really help this corn function at a whole different level,” said North Carolina State University Extension Corn Specialist Ron Heiniger in a YouTube video from this year’s virtual Blackland Farm Managers Tour.

In the video, Heiniger outlined research in its second year in North Carolina examining the impact of bacteria and carbon on corn root development and yield. The goal is to enhance and feed the microbes in the soil to improve corn yield.

“How do these microbes function? They are just like you and me or many biological organisms such as corn, they function on temperature and water. As temperatures rise, as they get more moisture in the soil, they get  more active. As temperatures cool down in the winter, they basically go dormant. As soil dries out their activity ceases,” Heiniger said.

The food source for these microbes is soil carbon. In one test, Heiniger and his team are feeding the microorganisms with liquid carbon. In the study, they applied one gallon of liquid carbon to the acre.

“The ears are ok. It doesn’t indicate to me that we made a huge difference here. We could compare with last year. Last year the liquid MST treatment was above the check or at least performed better than the check, but the carbon did not,” Heiniger noted.

Heiniger emphasized that early growth is vital for achieving improved root system and higher yields. He said early growth trumps all bacterial treatments and carbon applied to the corn crop.

In another YouTube video posted on the Corn Growers Association of North Carolina website, Heiniger emphasized the importance of starter fertilizer for healthier roots and better corn yields.

For starter fertilizer, Heiniger said “it’s all the P. It’s phosphorous. Phosphorous is a unique molecule because the plant has to expend energy to move it from the soil through the root membrane and into the plant.”

Phosphorous is vital for giving corn an early growth boost. “The key is concentration. Litter helps, but it doesn’t’ release enough phosphorous,” Heiniger said. Don’t skimp: $20 to $30 spent at planting time on a little phosphorous can be huge at harvest.”


Read more about:


About the Author(s)

John Hart

Associate Editor, Southeast Farm Press

John Hart is associate editor of Southeast Farm Press, responsible for coverage in the Carolinas and Virginia. He is based in Raleigh, N.C.

Prior to joining Southeast Farm Press, John was director of news services for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C. He also has experience as an energy journalist. For nine years, John was the owner, editor and publisher of The Rice World, a monthly publication serving the U.S. rice industry.  John also worked in public relations for the USA Rice Council in Houston, Texas and the Cotton Board in Memphis, Tenn. He also has experience as a farm and general assignments reporter for the Monroe, La. News-Star.

John is a native of Lake Charles, La. and is a  graduate of the LSU School of Journalism in Baton Rouge.  At LSU, he served on the staff of The Daily Reveille.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like