I’ll admit to having a sweet tooth when it comes to homemade desserts and sometimes a little sugar rush can go a long way.
This same philosophy can apply to corn plants, and one of the more creative additions to a strip-tiller’s fertility program is sugar. Adding small amounts of a sugar source to multiple fertilizer applications can inject valuable and timely energy during the growing season.
The science behind sugar application is pretty simple, says Persia, Iowa, farmer Bill Darrington. For example, applying roughly 1 pound per acre during a pre-emergence herbicide application can alter the carbon-nitrogen ratio in corn residue and help it break down faster.
“Corn stalk residue is about 30:1 for a carbon-nitrogen ratio so it breaks down, but not that fast,” Darrington says. “We can change that ratio by narrowing that gap and accelerating that decomposition. With a sugar source, we’re adding components that the soil biology likes to eat and that helps feed on the residue faster.”
A popular and economical sugar source for Darrington is molasses, which he says only costs about $0.18 to apply per acre an 8- or 16-ounce rate.
Cedar Bluffs, Neb., strip-tiller Ron Kadavy has also had success incorporating molasses into his fertility program. He conducted a side-by-side earthworm population test in a strip-tilled field, placing two wooden planks between rows.
Under one plank, Kadavy placed a small amount of molasses, and then put nothing under the other one.Two months later, he checked under each plank and found that both the population and size of earthworms under the molasses plank were larger than under the bare plank.
“This was a farm that had been pretty heavily tilled by the previous owner and I couldn’t hardly find an earthworm when I bought it,” Kadavy says. “Now, there’s quite a few. I attribute that to feeding the soil and also with strip-till, we’re not destroying that structure.”
Darrington acknowledges that initially, the idea of adding sugar to a fertility program may seem odd. But it’s a natural contribution to feed a growing crop what it craves.
“All we’re doing is adding energy,” he says. “If you don’t think sugar is a good energy source, hand an 8-year-old a can of Mountain Dew half an hour before church. Then you will see what kind of an energy source sugar is and that’s what we’re trying to do with the plants.”
How are you incorporating sugar into your fertility program? Share your insights with me at (262) 777-2441, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.