By John Garr and Jerry Green, GarrCo Products

Want to add acres at the end of your season? Try a pre-harvest application of concentrated living microorganisms naturally selected and bred to digest tough crop residues. Applying a specially designed biological is better than relying on native soil microbes, especially in no-till when soil microbes are not present on the aboveground residues. This approach is a cost-effective way for growers to manage today’s tougher crop residues while saving wear and tear on equipment, fuel and labor. The microbes can be sprayed in a low spray volume on a tall standing crop before harvest to let the harvesting process thoroughly mix the microbes on the residue. The pre-harvest timing is ideal for aerial application.

Crop residues are a big problem for many no-till farmers because today’s genetics and in-crop fungicide applications make them harder to break down. Corn stalks are often still present after two or more years in both no-till and conventional corn and soybean rotations. Too much residue interferes with planting, cultivation, can damage expensive tractor tires and reduces germination by preventing seeds from making contact with the soil. The residues also harbor damaging pests and tie up nutrients that could benefit the next crop.

Farmers traditionally managed residues with deep plowing and burning, but those practices are labor intensive and have environmental problems. Mechanical shredding helps, but the remaining residues still contain lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose that need specific microorganisms to break down. The most common management practice is to spray nutrients such as nitrogen fertilizer or humic/fulvic acid after harvest to feed the existing bacteria and fungi. If the native microbes are weak or not present on the aboveground residues then applying nutrients will not be effective, not nearly as effective as superior strains of microbes.

Unfortunately, some modern agricultural practices decrease the population of beneficial microorganisms. Ongoing research shows that crops benefit from the addition of beneficial microbes when their populations are low. Soils also need a healthy population of beneficials to decompose crop residues. Aerial application of the right microbes before harvest will ensure thorough aboveground coverage.

Now, a true biological product can further extend the aerial season by applying right before harvest. The product called Digest™ is a concentrated formulation of dozens of unique  microorganisms selected for their superior ability to break down crop residues. Most of the beneficial microbes digest residues, but the product also contains “cafeteria” microbes that produce food for the ones doing the digestion. Applying with a deposition agent such as Control™, will help retain the microbes on the plant. Cold temperatures will slow, but not kill the microbes. The microbes start working again when temperatures warm up.

The microbes digest corn stalks from the inside out, leaving shells to protect the soil from wind and water erosion. The remaining stalks may look unaffected but are brittle and often seem to explode during the planting operation. The microbes do not affect living green tissue.

Most crop residue technologies are nutrients applied by ground equipment post-harvest. In contrast, Digest™ is a genuine biological with a high concentration of diverse beneficial microorganisms that can be applied in a low spray volume before or after harvest. The mixing during the harvesting process will thoroughly distribute the microbes on the residues allowing for more efficient nutrient release. The pre-harvest timing is ideal for aerial application and a great way to provide a valuable service to your customers at the end of the season.