It is apparent that these are challenging times for America’s farmers. It is also true that it is from challenging times that innovation often springs.
Dawn Refsell, manager, field development for the Midwest for Valent, says most farmers are looking for whatever route they can find to profitability and offered a suggestion for an innovative approach.
“Traditionally, we look for ways to maximize productivity and often focus attention on the fields that are the most productive,” Refsell says. “I’m suggesting that it might be better to focus on the marginal areas, where there is a greater potential to make significant gains.”
Valent’s MycoApply EndoPrime is a mycorrhizae soil enhancement product to help improve nutrient efficiency, drought tolerance and yield potential. This product has been seen to provide a more pronounced yield boost in marginal areas than in more productive areas. It is labeled for corn, cotton and peanuts.
Refsell says planting season this spring is going to be particularly challenging because of the delayed fall harvest and extremely wet conditions into winter, with hundreds of acres of corn and soybeans still in the field at the end of January. In many areas, the wet fall and winter came after a summer of extreme drought, adding to the challenge.
“It’s going to be difficult for farmers to know what their soil fertility profile may be,” Refsell says. “These conditions often result in a leaching of nitrogen from the soil, as well as loss of other nutrients. And certainly, under the circumstances, most farmers did not apply nitrogen in the fall.”
She says MycoApply EndoPrime is an in-furrow treatment that is injected directly in to the soil. The mycorrhizae work in the spaces around the roots of plants, carrying nutrients from the soil as well as moisture to the roots and making those available to the plant.
“This is an extension of the root system, she says. “The fungi can get into spaces that the plant roots cannot and can utilize the nutrients that are there but unreachable.”
Valent is convinced that the system will improve yield on marginal fields or areas of fields. The company has offered a guarantee that provides a $9 per acre payment to farmers if they fail to achieve yield improvement that pays for the treatment — which costs about $9 per acre.
Refsell says that the MycoApply EndoPrime is ideally suited to no-till and cover crop practices that help soils build organic matter and improve the health and microbial life of the soil.
“It works well with those systems in addition to transition years to organic certification,” she says. While all cropping systems can benefit from the usage of MycoApply EndoPrime, partnering products such as EndoPrime with a cover crop is a natural bridge that may potentially enable us to be more efficient with existing fertilizers.
While most farmers routinely do soil sampling of fields to determine nutrient content on a regular interval, Refsell says Valent samples all research fields annually to determine a baseline against which test samples in wet or dry weather can be compared.
Refsell, who obtained her PhD at Kansas State University and makes her home near Kansas City, covers the entire Midwest for Valent.
She says she considers the Valent research especially important because there is inherent uncertainty in agriculture, soil fertility and sustainability that are essential to farming success.
“We don’t know when we may run into nutrient application restrictions due to environmental regulations or short supplies and rising costs of inputs,” she said.