Findings from a multi-year study at the University of Illinois have shown liquid carbon-based fertilizers (L-CBF) improve early season corn growth. Grain moisture at harvest was also significantly lower in corn treated with L-CBF, reducing the need for additional grain drying and allowing corn to be harvested earlier in the season.
Now in its second year, Midwestern BioAg’s liquid carbon-based fertilizer (L-CBF) study at the University of Illinois is once again showing positive results. In early June, Midwestern BioAg scientist Bill Petersen traveled to the University’s research farm and reported back visible improvements in plant height. “Early plant response to L-CBF treatment was consistently positive,” said Petersen. “Plants in treated plots were noticeably taller, validating for the second year that L-CBF application gives plants an early season advantage.”
Derived from cane molasses, L-CBF delivers quality plant nutrients in a carbon base to stimulate soil biology and increase nutrient availability. It can be applied to all major crops and can also be added to most other fertilizers and herbicides.
The L-CBF study, conducted in partnership with QLF Agronomy, analyzes the effects of multiple L-CBF treatments on early season corn growth. The study tracks plant development on three sites, DeKalb, Champaign, and Harrisburg, Illinois, and is overseen by Professor Fred Below and Research Specialist Tryston Beyrer of the University of Illinois Crop Physiology Laboratory.
First-year findings showed plants treated with L-CBF were taller on average than the untreated control and 10-34-0 treatments alone. Increasing early season growth in corn carries multiple benefits, including quicker canopy cover, less weed competition, reduced soil evaporation and lower moisture at harvest. A summary of each treatment and its resulting impact on plant height is summarized in Table 1.
Grain moisture at harvest was significantly lower in corn treated with L-CBF 10-14-1 and L-CBF BOOST™ added to 10-34-0. This indicates that corn treated with L-CBF can be harvested earlier in the season and will require less grain drying after harvest.
“L-CBF can help growers get out in the field early and improve nutrient availability in cool soils,” said Petersen. “L-CBF is also a great tool when planting operations are delayed. The addition of starter fertilizers can speed up development, assuring the crop is mature and dries in the field. This is especially helpful in northern climates with shorter growing seasons.” Final 2015 data on grain moisture is summarized in Table 2.
This year’s study continues to track L-CBF’s impact on corn performance, but includes two new formulations: monopotassium phosphate (MKP) 6-24-6 with L-CBF BOOST, and L-CBF 7-20-3. All plots, including the control, received additional nitrogen per Illinois Extension recommendations prior to planting. Treatments include:
Currently under development, L-CBF 7-20-3 combines the benefits of L-CBF’s molasses base with an additional high-quality phosphorus source. It has a higher ratio of ortho to poly phosphates, a feature often touted for improving season-long nutrient availability.
Figure 1 compares L-CBF 7-20-3 in-furrow at 5 gal/ac (left) to the control (right). “Plants in the treated study were taller and more robust,” said Petersen. “The added phosphorus in L-CBF 7-20-3 can be very beneficial to corn, especially in central-Illinois soil where we’ve seen bigger responses following phosphorus application.”
Final study findings will be shared once available later this year. Information on other Midwestern BioAg research projects can be found at: www.midwesternbioag.com/research-results/research.