Corn Trial Shows Microbes can provide 30% of N

Date:  01/13/2021

A series of trials conducted by QLF Agronomy in Wisconsin demonstrated that active, diverse soil biology can provide 30% of the crop’s nitrogen, when microbial inoculants are applied and fed with carbon-based inputs.

And it’s most effective to use at least 2 applications and more than one carbon-based fertilizer.  Soil works best with microbial diversity.

Generally a bushel of corn requires 1 lb. of nitrogen. Organic producers often rely on poultry litter or pellets as the primary input.

To improve soil health and crop performance, QLF Agronomy ran a large trial of 30 different treatments, with 4 participating products used in various combinations and rates.  A base input of 2 ton/acre poultry pellets was applied pre-plant—providing 200 lbs N. All the fertility inputs were organic, though the field was not certified and herbicides were applied.

QLF’s TerraFed was used in each trial with various combinations of four other inputs. The treatments including Pacific Gro Sea Phos performed among the best overall. 

The 4 treatments that had 2 applications of PG Sea Phos and QLF TerraFed all produced 260 to 267 bushels per acre.  So about 60 lbs N was produced by the soil microbes. This compares to the average of 247, and at least $50 more profit per acre than the average of the 30 treatments.

The average of the treatments that combined TerraFed and Sea Phos, applied 2 times (in-furrow and mid-season side-dress), produced a 12% higher yield and $113 net ROI per acre, higher than the treatment with TerraFed only, applied twice.

Across the range of treatments it was clear that the best results require two applications — in furrow and mid-season side dress — of microbial inoculants together with carbon-based microbial food like QLF TerraFed molasses and Pacific Gro Sea Phos.