Kevin Kalb racked up an impressive win in his division of the National Corn Growers contest in 2013 with a yield of 374.61 bushels per acre. While he's not sure how much his "secret ingredient" helped, he thinks it's a logical thing to do.
Kalb, Dubois, Ind., won planting DeKalb hybrids. He applied sugar and liquid carbon as a foliar application while the crop was growing. He first heard of the idea of applying sugar from another long-time contestant in the National Corn Grower's contest.
"It makes sense to add energy to the crop when it's growing and maybe in need of a boost," he says.
To our knowledge this practice hasn't been examined at the university level. However, another seed company, also hearing reports from growers successful in the National Corn Grower's contest, did try foliar applications of sugar in plots this past year.
Mike Earley, an agronomist with Seed Consultants, Inc., tried applying sugar on both corn and soybeans. He didn't see a yield benefit in soybean plots. However, in his corn trials he saw an advantage. He applied dextrose sugar as a spray application at 3 pounds and 7 pounds per acre. He saw the biggest advantage, more than 6 bushels per acre, at 7 pounds of sugar per acre.
"That was a good return on investment for less than $4 per acre in sugar," he says. Like Kalb, he's not exactly sure of the science behind why sugar sprayed over corn plants would work. However, he also believes part of it is giving plants an extra boost of energy at a key time.
Earley sprayed the sugar over his plots himself. "You will probably find that custom applicators won't be very anxious to add sugar to a pesticide application for you," he says. "It is sugar, and it does tend to make things sticky. It requires some extra clean-up."
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