Some people who compete in the National Corn Growers Contest and produce very high yields claim they don't do anything different on the contest field. Others admit they do some special things, but won't divulge what they are. One farmer who consistently does well in the contest recently told Mike Earley that one of the things he does is apply sugar as a foliar application on his contest plot. He actually applies sugar twice during the season.
Earley is an agronomist for Seed Consultants, Inc. "We will take a look at anything that might make our customers more profit, so we decided to try adding sugar as a foliar application last year," he says. "We tried two rates – 4 pounds and 7 pounds of Dextrose sugar per acre."
The 7 pound rate produced about six and a half bushels more corn per acre, but Earley cautions that this was only one year. They intend to look at this again in the future. Earley applied the sugar in a foliar application himself when corn was at the V5 to V 6 stage. This means it had five to six leaves. That's about the time the growing point emerges from below ground.
The theory is that as plants develop, they pull sugar from the plant to make grain, Earley relates. If you feed the plant sugar, the stalk has more sugar content and still has more sugar after the ear pulls what it needs for kernel development. The result is a healthier stalk and, hopefully, higher yield.
Earley tried the same thing in soybeans and didn't see a yield response last year. Anecdotal evidence from one farmer claims that sugar on soybeans pays in stress years. The farmer says he applied sugar during 2012 when soybeans were under stress and captured a 12 bushel per acre yield increase. Anecdotal evidence is just what it says – it's unproven.
Earley says he applied the sugar himself last year. Some commercial applicators have already said they won't apply it because it is a sticky substance, obviously, and can gum up their system. If you want to try it, you may have to spray it yourself.