Biological products are the latest line of tools to emerge from the soil health and sustainability movements in agriculture, which seek to improve yield and conserve the quality of our nation’s farmland through naturally-occurring biochemical, biological and bacterial solutions. The ultimate goal of these products is usually one of three things: 1) stimulate the biology already existing in the soil to make nutrients and water more available to the crop 2) supplement the nutritional content of the soil itself or 3) enhance the natural vigor and health of the crop. The use of biological products, when used in conjunction with other synthetic fertilizer or chemical solutions, can help to holistically optimize the use of farm inputs and help to generate short term yield gains and long term soil quality and conservation benefits.  But how do you know what to use? Unlike their herbicide, insecticide or fungicide peers, biological products and their uses are less intuitive. We can tell when a weed emerges, a disease breaks out, or when pest populations exceed thresholds. But who among us can, at the drop of a hat, observe a plant and tell that it lacks nitrogen?  Understanding, and in some cases, anticipating the below-ground needs of our fields can be complex. Moreover, if I had a dollar for every biological product that promised nutrient efficiency and drought tolerance, I’d at least have enough for the bone-in ribeye next time I go out to eat.   So to help simplify the process, and ensure you are applying the biological products that are truly the most beneficial for your fields, we’ve developed this simple list of signs that a biological product may be right for you.  If any of these common signs and symptoms sound familiar, your field could probably benefit from the use of a biological product.  Soil sampling and tissue testing are always the tried and true ways to confirm this, and FBN recently launched Gradable Plan to provide these services to you.   But this list is a good starting point to make this assessment, or flag issues to discuss with your agronomy team.  When used effectively, biological products are a solution that can help farmers maximize their profit potential, from the ground, up. Now let’s get to the list: Top 8 Signs You Should Be Using a Biological Product On Your Farm 1. Poor Growth or Yellowing of Leaves Potential Cause: If you notice stunted vegetative growth or yellowing leaves on your crop, chances are your crop is experiencing a nutrient deficiency or stress from environmental or chemical factors.  A soil tissue analysis, combined with a tissue sampling test can ultimately determine which nutrients are present in the soil, but not making their way into the plant.   Biological Solutions: There are a few ways to tackle this problem.  One, you can utilize a soil prebiotic, such as GCS Catalyst ™, to help activate native microbes that free up existing nutrients in the soil and make them available to the plant.  Our native soils are often teeming with microbes that are ready to go to work, but they just need a source of food and energy to stimulate them.   Second, you can utilize soil probiotics or advanced micronutrients to add bioavailable nutrition to your soil.  Soil probiotics such as GCS Inject ™ -N fix atmospheric nitrogen and GCS Inject™ - PK makes phosphorus or potassium more available in the plant to help improve uptake and satisfy early nutrition needs. GCS Inject ™ - N products allow you to supplement your standard nitrogen program with microbes that will help put nature to work for you and fix a portion of your nitrogen needs.  Advanced micronutrients, such as GCS Nourish™ products, act as a highly effective chelating, or bonding, agent to help more efficiently deliver micronutrients into the plant, resulting in  efficacy at lower rates than standard products. Potential Cause: If the problem is stress related, Satellite imagery can indicate if there is poor chlorophyll content in your crop, which is often a result of stress.   Biological Solution: Atarrus ™ enhances photosynthesis in the plant, helping to stimulate the production of chlorophyll and help plants to bounce back more quickly from weather or chemical-related stress. 2. Compact Soils Potential Cause: If one or more of your fields is experiencing soil compaction, you should consider biological products to help improve soil quality.  Soil compaction could be a symptom of an imbalance in soil pH, CEC or the carbon:nitrogen ratio in the soil.  Soil quality tests can ultimately provide leading indicators for soil function. It's important to have a healthy, stable soil habitat to stabilize your available nutrients as well as create efficient pathways in the soil for efficient use by the crop.  Biological Solutions: GCS Inhabit™ products are an excellent source of stable carbon to supplement your soil and keep a healthy balance to help improve soil quality and maximize nutrient storage and transport. For low pH issues, biologicals are a great complement, but not a replacement, for lime or calcium. 3. Water Accumulation Potential Cause: Fields that tend to accumulate and pool surface water or are slow to absorb water following a rain event are typically compacted and have poor water infiltration and holding capacity. Modern farming practices and heavy equipment leave behind compaction which, in turn, leads to decreased water holding capacity.  Biological Solutions: Soils with sufficient stable carbon help to improve soil quality and provide aeration and increased pore space. Prebiotic products, such as GCS Catalyst™ help to stimulate the native microbes to help proliferate fungal growth and expand soil habitat to break up compaction and absorb more water. 4. Soil That Turns White from High Salinity Potential Cause: Soil that physically turns white is the most obvious and apparent sign that there is high salt content in your soil. Soil quality tests can confirm your suspicion. Most soils in modern agriculture have pH or salinity issues to varying degrees. Synthetic agricultural inputs are highly effective, but have a fairly high salt index that can throw your soils out of balance and can result in negative long term effects on soil quality and performance.  Biological Solutions: GCS Catalyst™ works well to help activate the native microbes that can metabolize and balance the soil naturally. GCS Inhabit™ products will also help bring your soil back into balance. These products also work well when paired with lime and calcium treatments for low pH situations. 5. Sandy Soils with Clear Erosion Marks Potential Cause: Sandy soils that have clear erosion marks and that are quick to dry following a rain event typically have high nutrient and water loss.  Biological Solutions: Carbon sources, such as GCS Inhabit™ , are a good solution to help mitigate some of these issues.  They help to capture and stabilize nutrients and water and slow their movements through the soil. 6. Slow Seedling Emergence Potential Cause: Getting roots established early and getting the plant up, and out of the ground, is always the goal. But nutrients tied up in the soil can inhibit this from happening effectively.  Biological Solutions: Prebiotics, such as GCS Catalyst™ , not only free up nutrients to make them more available earlier, but they also provide a great source of early nutrition to help with early germination and emergence. 7. Poor Root Development Potential Cause: Nutrients tied up in the soil can impact early stage root development, as the plant is unable to access the nutrition it needs to get an early start.  Biological Solution: Stimulating plant health to promote early vegetative growth, as well as in-season root development can help push your yield to the next level and help the crop more efficiently mine the soil to capture nutrition. GCS Catalyst™ provides an early source of nutrition to help stimulate root development. For later stage root development try pairing it with Atarrus ™ , which contains peptides that can help stimulate lateral root growth and multiple other plant health reactions that can help to achieve these results. 8. You Just Want to Go for the Gold on Yield If you're looking to push your yields to the next level, then a healthy balance of macro and micronutrients, such as GCS Nourish™ Vitals , at the right time, in-season, can help optimize plant performance and provide that extra boost and improved grain fill.  Post-season yield map analysis is always the best way to validate if an input pushed your yields to the next level, post-season. Utilizing biological products to maximize ROI is a process and it is unique to every farm.  That’s why FBN is launching a Biological On-Farm Research Network to enable farmers like you to trial up-and-coming solutions in this space.  But in the meantime, these tried and true solutions can help address the most common challenges with soil and plant health.  The return on investment (ROI) of biologicals can come from increased yield or reduction in fertilizer costs. Gradable Plan offers soil sampling and custom nutritional recommendations to help farmers maximize the ROI of these new products.  ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW LABEL INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE USING.  Copyright © 2014 - 2022 Farmer's Business Network, Inc. All rights Reserved. The sprout logo, "Farmers Business Network," "FBN," "FBN Direct," "Atarrus,” “Catalyst," “Inhabit,” “Inject” and “Nourish” are trademarks or registered trademarks of Farmer's Business Network, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. FBN Direct products are offered by FBN Inputs, LLC and are available only in states where FBN Inputs, LLC is licensed. Terms and conditions apply. 

Zinc may be a micronutrient , but a lack of it can have a significant impact on your corn crop. Zinc plays a key role in chlorophyll production, carbohydrate metabolism and cell elongation, which impacts leaf size and early ear development. In many cases, the soil test recommendations for nutrients are dated and haven’t been revised since the 1960s. But so much has changed in row crop production over the last 50 years. If your soil test says 2 ppm of zinc is sufficient for your corn crop, you should read that with skepticism. I've seen a corn crop respond positively to a zinc application even when the soil test said the 2 ppm zinc supply was adequate.  Spotting a Zinc Shortfall in Your Corn Crop Zinc deficiencies in corn will normally appear as yellow, white or beige streaks between the veins of the uppermost leaves. Zinc deficiency is common to see in corn prior to V8, and by tassel, many deficiencies are no longer apparent because soil microbes have mineralized more zinc in the root zone. On soils with high phosphorus levels, the deficiency can become even more apparent.  When a deficiency results in symptoms we can see, some yield has probably already been lost. However, it’s not too late to make some corrections to this year’s crop by adding a zinc source to a broadcast herbicide or fungicide application. Leaves from the upper portion of the plant can be sampled and sent to the lab to determine if zinc deficiency is present. Collect a leaf from each of 15-20 plants, air dry in the shade, and wrap in paper prior to sending to lab. The youngest collared leaf is the best choice, since zinc isn’t mobile in plants and the uppermost leaves will have the lowest zinc levels. Going Foliar with Zinc In corn, there can be short-term benefits to correcting for deficiencies when a micronutrient is applied to crop foliage. Foliar-applied sources of zinc need to be water soluble. They should be applied to leaf surfaces in such a way as to minimize runoff; once runoff occurs, you’ll have soil-applied zinc - which won’t help this year’s crop.  Zinc should create a greening effect within 5-10 days after application. This effect will only be on tissue that received the zinc application, so foliar coverage without runoff is best.  A 20 gpa spray volume is a good goal. Foliar sources of zinc generally come as a sulfate, lignosulfonate or a chelate form. All three of these forms are water soluble and readily release zinc to the plant.  Zinc sulfate or zinc lignosulfonate forms will work best in a foliar application . The chelated forms will generally cost more and are more suitable for a soil application. Avoid zinc oxides and zinc sucrates. They are not water soluble, and the zinc won’t be available to this year’s crop. A foliar application should apply 0.5 to 1 lb zinc per acre in the late vegetative or early reproductive growth stages.  For future crops, a good strategy is to map deficiencies in this year’s crop and take corrective action with soil applied zinc at much greater application rates this fall or early next spring. Since zinc isn’t mobile in soils, a banded application is also a good practice. Read this next: Micronutrients are Actually No Small Thing Join FBN's hosts along with unbiased experts and independent FBN farmers across the U.S. and Canada to learn about the most recent data-backed network trends and insights to help you level the playing field and keep your farm profitable. Listen & Subscribe On Your Favorite Podcast Manager Alandmanson ,  Zinc-deficient maize plants ,  CC BY-SA 4.0

Jan. 28, 2019

by Tracy Pell

Many farmers in the Corn Belt a pply a starter fertilizer—they   know that  early corn often gets planted into cool, wet soils. While these conditions can compromise germination and stand establishment, they also set the stage for starters to do their best work. Benefits of starter fertilizer Starter fertilizers help maximize crop yield potential, and the benefits will be easy to spot—a more uniform plant stand, early seedling vigor, reduced weed competition and possible yield increases. While no one can guarantee a yield increase, starter is an excellent step in achieving your yield goals year after year. Here’s how starter fertilizer works for plants: Cool soil temperatures are known to slow down root growth. Starter fertilizers aid in supplying nutrients to seedling plants, even though fertile soils exist outside the young plant’s root zone. Low soil temperatures also affect the rate of nitrogen that is released from the organic matter by slowing down microbial activity. Starter fertilizer can lessen the characteristics of compaction by contributing additional vigor to seedling root growth that may allow root penetration through the compaction zones. Certain soil types and lower levels of soil fertility can benefit from starter fertilizers. These would include, but are not limited to, sandy soils with irrigation, sandy soils with low organic matter, high pH soils, soils with low fertility levels, even good heavy soils that have nutrient tie-up potential. With the popularity of no-till, strip-till or simply reduced tillage, starter fertilizer may have its biggest impact. This may be due to the increased water retention and crop residues remaining on the soil surface creating cooler soil temperatures where these farming practices are implemented. Placement matters How the starter fertilizer gets to the young plants is important. In-furrow: In-furrow fertilizer application means to place the fertilizer in the seed furrow directly on and with the seed at planting. But this comes with some risk. Most commonly used fertilizer contains salt. Too much salt in furrow can cause reduced germination and reduced root growth. This can cause poor plant populations and stunted growth in plants. Two-by-Two Band: Another popular placement is called a 2-by-2 band, which places the fertilizer 2 inches to the side and 2 inches deeper than the seed placement at planting. This placement will alleviate the salt risk factor mentioned above. However, there can be substantial cost involved to set up a planter for 2 by 2 placement and slower planter speeds are required as well. The set-up cost can be less for in-furrow applications, because many planters are already mounted with the necessary equipment for this application. How much starter fertilizer does it take?  Rates used for in-furrow fertilizer depend on the soil type, carbon exchange capacity (CEC), and pH of the soil to be planted. In many cases, only nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are applied as starter fertilizer. The most common liquid starter fertilizer used is 10-34-0. Some of the most significant benefits come from the added P. Often, a newly formed plant is unable to take advantage of P in the soil under cool, wet conditions, due to the plants slowed root growth. A starter with P places the essential nutrient directly by the root, making it readily accessible. A soil test may indicate the need for other nutrients, which can normally be added to the mix and applied as starter. Remember that nutrients applied as starter should be deducted from total fertilizer required from the soil test recommendation . ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS. It is a violation of federal and state/provincial law to use any pesticide product other than in accordance with its label. The distribution, sale and use of an unregistered pesticide is a violation of federal and/or state law and is strictly prohibited. We do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided on this page or which is provided by us in any form. It is your responsibility to confirm prior to purchase and use that a product is labeled for your specific purposes, including, but not limited to, your target crop or pest and its compatibility with other products in a tank mix. 

Jan. 11, 2019

by FBN Network

Seed is foundational. The genetics in the bag you purchase contain all the yield potential you can hope to have for the year. But good genetics alone can’t make up for every challenge your crop might face. Severe environmental and pest pressures can devastate young plants before they even make it out of the ground.  There are several practices you can adopt to ensure that your crop gets the early protection it needs—one used by many farmers is adding a seed treatment for added protection against those pressures. Let’s take a look at how seed treatments work and what kind of protection they can help to provide. What are seed treatments? A seed treatment is a biological organism, nutrient, colorant or chemical applied directly to the seed that helps control any of a number of pests that attack seeds, seedlings and plants, helping improve overall crop performance. Most seed treatments are made up of a few ingredients—typically, they include one or several types of active ingredients along with additives: Fungicides: Defend seeds from fungal diseases and pathogens. Insecticides: Protect seeds from below ground insects and insect larvae, and provide seedlings with early protection from above ground insects and insect larvae. Additives: Provide early season benefits for plant health in certain environmental conditions. Includes products such as nematicides, inoculants, flow additives, biostimulants, nutrients and inoculants. Seed Enhancements: These products have unique attributes that help make seed more useable or are in some cases required by law. They include dyes or colorants, flowability agents, polishing agents and coatings. What seed treatments actually do Seed treatments provide seeds and seedlings with the extra defense they need to get a healthy, uniform start. They are particularly helpful in scenarios where cold or wet conditions might hinder early growth and vigor. The application directly on the seed is significant for a few reasons: First, direct placement on the seed is an efficient method. The fungicide and insecticide are exactly where they need to be to protect the seed and seedling, and no product is lost due to an indirect application. Secondly, the use of insecticide directly on the seed allows the product to curb insects that cause the greatest amount of early damage and would otherwise be missed. Some seed treatment products create a zone of protection around the seed and young plant. Other seed treatments are systemic and travel within the plant to provide protection. What Should Be in Your Seed Treatment Program? It’s possible that you can have too much or too little of a good thing. There are many different formulations of seed treatments on the market. Rates and active ingredients vary, so it’s important to know exactly what goes on your seed to make sure you have the best fit for your operation. Here are some common active ingredients offered in various seed treatment formulations for corn and soybeans, as well as some of the pathogens they protect against: Fungicides: Fludioxonil : Can be used to protect against fusarium and rhizoctonia Tebuconazole : Can be used to protect against fusarium Metalaxyl : Can help to combat phytophthora and pythium Thiabendazole : Can be used to help manage Sudden Death Syndrome in soybeans Azoxystrobin : Can be used as a defense against pythium and rhizoctonia Pyraclostrobin : Can be used as a broad-spectrum fungicide on many crops Ipconazole : Can be used as a broad-spectrum fungicide to protect plants from soil-borne and seed-borne disease Insecticides: Imidacloprid – A broad spectrum insecticide that minimizes damage from soil-borne insects Clothianidin — Can be used to control a number of insects, often on late-planted corn. Thiamethoxam — Can be used to help control chinch bugs, flea beetles and black cutworms, among others.  How much of an active ingredient do you need? Much of the industry uses what is commonly called a “250 rate” of insecticide. You might also see a common standard rate of 500. Occasionally, you might see a company offering a 1250 rate for an extreme situation with corn rootworm or billbugs, but if you don’t have this pest pressure, consider the extra active you might be paying for—it pays to read labels and understand rates thoroughly! Seed treatment on corn from the F2F Genetics Network TM ( Imidacloprid, Fludioxonil, Metalaxyl, Pryaclostrobin), typically offers a 500 rate as the standard, providing 10 percent more insecticide, extending the length of control over competitors’ offerings. Every bag of seed corn purchased through the F2F Genetics Network includes a seed treatment program utilizing Imidacloprid, as well as Fludioxonil, Metalaxyl and Pyraclostrobin. Soybean seed purchased through the F2F Genetics Network can also be treated for an additional $5 per bag — this unique combination of fungicides and high rate of insecticide ( Metalaxyl, Ipconizole, and Imidacloprid) has shown in 2018 testing to increase germination by up to 15 percent. Seed treatments can help you to mitigate risk and ensure that your crop gets off to the best start possible, but they can often be an added cost to your operation. Keep in mind the additional cost, balanced with the right protection you actually need for your farm. Sources: https://www.agro.crs/grow/detail/when-do-you-need-a-seed-treatment http://www.worldseed.org/our-work/seed-treatment/ https://www.grainews.ca/2016/05/02/are-seed-treatments-worth-the-cost https://www.southeastfarmpress.com/soybeans/are-seed-treatments-worth-investment https://www.cornandsoybeandigest.com/seed/seed-treatments-reduce-early-planting-risks “F2F Genetics Network” branded seed products and other seed products are offered by FBN Inputs, LLC and are available only in states where FBN Inputs, LLC is licensed.

Sep. 06, 2015

by FBN Network

Whether you are applying your own fertilizer and chemicals or having it custom applied, collecting your as-applied files for your records is vital practice for optimizing your inputs. Application files include valuable information on equipment performance, actual application rates, products applied, date and time of applications, and can be used to prove or disprove possible errors in application. Most equipment has the ability to track the applications, even if it is applying a flat rate. If you are applying with your own equipment make sure it is recording the data from the applicator. If you are not sure how to set up the monitor, contact your dealer and they can help you set the monitors to capture this data. When you contract your custom application of any product, ask the provider to send you the as-applied files for your application. What should you ask for? When requesting files from the custom applicator, the most common file format used is the Shapefile which includes at least 3 files for each application. The files you should receive have the same name but the extensions are .shp, .shx and .dbf: fieldname.shp fieldname.shx fieldname.dbf The custom applicator may not have the option of producing a shapefile, but you can request the raw data that the applicator creates and use a desktop software such as SMS, APEX, and Farmworks etc. to view the data. Application files are an excellent way for you to keep track of what is being applied to your fields and to keep accurate records of input efficiency on your operation.