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CropTalk: Seed Treatments & Biologically Available Phosphorus

January 2019

Published on Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Phosphorus readily binds to soil particles, making most phosphorus in the soil unavailable for plant utilization. There are two mechanisms to convert phosphorus into plant-available forms: mineralization (by microbes) and weathering. Cool temperatures, like what we often deal with at early planting dates, cause the release of phosphorus from both mineralization and weathering to slow down. However, supporting specific microbial communities early in the growing season is one way to increase plant-available nutrients for recently-germinated plants. Microbial seed treatments can be an effective supporting agent, which can increase available phosphorus, even in cool conditions.

Fast, Efficient Phosphorus Uptake

The microbes used in seed treatments are selected based on their ability to release nutrients in a more efficient manner than native soil organisms. Specifically, many Bacillus strains can help promote phosphorus availability within the soil. Different strains operate through various mechanisms. Some will release enzymes into the soil to help free up organically bound phosphorus, others will utilize enzymes to break down phosphorus held within clays and minerals, and still others will act to acidify the rhizosphere.

Regardless of how each strain operates, using these products as seed treatments enables faster and more efficient phosphorus uptake. The microbes can quickly colonize the radical as it emerges, then continue to reproduce and grow along the plant root structure. This faster microbial activity helps to access and release bound phosphorus and replenish the phosphorus depletion zones that surround the roots.

Multiple Bacillus Strains

Beck's Escalate® contains an industryleading portfolio of biologicals. Specifically, it contains four different Bacillus strains. Two Bacillus strains are combined in a formulation that promotes root elongation and nutrient uptake and makes it easier for the plant to solubilize phosphorus from the soil. One of these strains occurs at a high density within and around root tissues in a symbiotic relationship with plant roots. This strain produces auxins that promote root elongation, and the enzyme phytase to free phosphate from phytic acid within the seed. It also works to solubilize phosphate by reducing soil pH in the root zone. The second Bacillus strain converts atmospheric nitrogen into a plantusable form. Accessing atmospheric nitrogen (like what legumes do through nodulation) retains nutrients in the soil for use later in the season.

Poncho®/VOTiVO® 2.0

Poncho/VOTiVO 2.0 provides protection against insects and nematodes, while also introducing a nutrient-enhancing bacteria to the root zone. VOTiVO is a biological that lives and grows along the roots to help create a protective barrier against nematodes. The “2.0” is a stabilizing enzyme that increases the microbial activity in the soil and leads to more nutrient uptake by the plant. The stabilized enzyme surrounds the roots and acts on the cellulose found in plant debris below ground, releasing sugars into the soil. These sugars feed the microbes in the soil, which increases nutrient availability. More nutrient availability leads to greater nutrient uptake via the healthier, protected root system. Poncho/ VOTiVO 2.0 is a key component of Escalate, and comes standard in each bag of Beck's seed corn.

Testing the Best

The industry has a lot to learn about biologicals, and Beck's Escalate trials (performed on corn, soybeans, and wheat) go a long way in helping us figure out the benefits of various biological seed treatments. We continue to test the newest and best products on the market each year. In fact, in 2018 we had nearly 6,000 plots dedicated to seed treatment research.

While it is impossible to know which specific strain(s) will work best on any given farm this spring, we do know that your best odds of having a positive yield response is by deploying a diverse lineup of biologicals. This is why Beck’s continues to invest in the study of microbial products and provides multiple strains within Escalate.

Escalate® powered by Nemasect™ comes standard on all Beck's corn and soybean seed at no additional cost. Beck's wheat and elite alfalfa is treated with our standard Escalate at no additional cost. For more information, visit

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Author: Corey Beck

Categories: CropTalk, 2019


Corey Beck

Corey Beck

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