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PFR Report

Sugar - What We’ve Learned

Published on Monday, April 30, 2018

As commodity prices leave us looking for new ways to be leaner and leaner with our on-farm practices, one consideration that rises to the top as a cost effect practice is applications of sugar in-furrow. Why sugar in-furrow? You may have noticed that many in-furrow starters already have a small percentage of sugar within their fertilizers. The idea behind applying sugar in-furrow is to stimulate the microbial activity. If we can stimulate microbial activity in the soil, then more nutrients will be readily available to the plant, thus promoting yields.

During our first year of testing this theory, our Practical Farm Research (PFR)® team saw a yield increase of over 10 Bu./A. from the use of 4 lb. of granulated sugar in-furrow on corn. How did we decide to test 4 pounds? Well, there has been research done in plants outside of row crops that suggests that 4 lb. of sugar might be the “magic” number. Having only conducted one year of data at one location to date, we wanted to see if there really was something to this sugar concept.

In year two, we conducted this study at multiple locations. We again used granulated sugar at the same rate, but then also tested it on multiple hybrids. We also added a component of starter fertilizer as the carrier instead of using water as the carrier. During that year of testing, minimal differences were observed in final yields. However, a few interesting in-season observations were noted. In those areas where sugar was applied, regardless of the hybrid we saw greater stalk circumference.

The question we then asked ourselves is, “what does stalk circumference matter if it doesn’t lead to greater yield?” Greater stalk circumference can provide a greater area of tissue for both water and nutrient movement, thus increasing our potential for higher yield. Additionally, in the areas where sugar was applied, we observed better end-of-season stand ability (Figure 1) when compared to the control (Figure 2).

Figure 1

Figure 2

We also noticed some characteristic differences in the ears (figure 3). It’s important to note that the point of showing this photo is not to depict differences in kernel number or even in the differences in the circumference of these ears. Look closely at the cob, for there is a stark contrast between these ears. The ear on the right (sugar treated corn) shows a distinct line in the cob while the ear on the left (control) does not show this line. While we cannot say for sure without further testing, it appears that this mark could indicate sugar build up that could perhaps impact grain quality. At this point however this is only a hypothesis.

In 2017, we again changed how we looked at sugar when we decided to test multiple sugar products. We changed our sugar alone product from granulated sugar to feed grade dextrose. This decision was made largely because of the mixing capabilities of feed grade dextrose. We then added the products Carbose and eXceed™ Nano Brown Sugar to the lineup. In addition to four different types of sugar in Carbose, it also contains two strains of bacteria. Nano Brown Sugar contains a small percent of Molybdenum (Mo) and humic acid in addition to brown sugar. The results from this multi-location study are shown below.

With the challenging spring we had, we were happy to have noticed an overall average increase in yield with sugar in-furrow, even those some sites showed a minimal yield increase and others showed a strong yield increase. The trend then seemed to reveal itself as the sites which were planted later in the season (May planting date window) showed a greater yield increase than those with an April planting date.

These results led us to further develop our 2018 Sugar Rate and Timing In-Furrow Study in which we will also be evaluating the effects of different planting dates. The theory we hope to test is “if we are planting in May or into warmer soils, perhaps the microbial community is already active in the soil and we are then providing a food source and promoting the community.”

Stay tuned for observations and updates throughout the 2018 season!

Alex Knight


Practical Farm Research (PFR)® is a registered trademark of Beck’s Superior Hybrids, Inc. eXceed™ is a trademark of MAX Systems, LLC.

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Alex Knight

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1 comments on article "PFR Report"

John Hartman

5/3/2018 7:55 AM

Keep doing what your doing!

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