Corn School: Helping plants fix nitrogen

AGRIS Co-operative’s Hannah Brooksbank and Dale Cowan.

What if corn, like soybeans, could fix its own nitrogen?

It’s a question agronomist Dale Cowan and his team at AGRIS Co-operative are tackling this summer as they test a biological product that promises to help corn plants fix nitrogen, when applied directly on the seed, in pop-up fertilizer, and through foliar application between the V2 and V6 growth stage.

Cowan, with help from project manager intern Hannah Brooksbank, are testing Envita, a naturally occurring, food grade bacteria product from manufacturer Azotic North America, that enables plants to take atmospheric nitrogen and fix it in a form that the plant can use.

On this episode of RealAgriculture’s Corn School, Cowan notes that depending on the season and environmental conditions, growers are always playing a “guessing game” to estimate nitrogen rates and wondering whether they have applied enough to their corn crop. In the video, Cowan and Brooksbank outline the product trials they are conducting this summer and what results farmers need to see to consider when making biologicals part of their nitrogen management strategy. (Story continues after the video).

Cowan says if growers can work off a base rate of nitrogen, a product like Envita could help plants pick up the slack and buffer nitrogen supply, especially late in the season when plants need nitrogen to optimize grain fill.

From a production perspective, Cowan says these products could be game changers if they work. They could also help address environmental pressures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is directly related to nitrogen rate application.

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