Cornstarch Amendment for Marginal Soils

Project Overview

FNC96-133
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 1996: $1,297.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1997
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Agronomic: corn

Practices

  • Animal Production: manure management
  • Crop Production: no-till, organic fertilizers, application rate management
  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer
  • Pest Management: physical control
  • Soil Management: organic matter

    Summary:

    PROJECT BACKGROUND
    I operate a 550 acre corn/soybean farm. I no till except for a one time cultivation every other year on the corn only. I use reduced rates of herbicide and try to select herbicides that are friendly to soil life. I have used manure from local poultry houses to build soil organic matter and quality.

    I have not used insecticides for at least two years. Before that I used them sparingly.

    PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
    I wanted to see if granulated starch would increase fertilizer efficiency. I expected a stimulated root growth and added moisture holding capacity to increase yields. I though this would prevent phosphorus from being tied up because of a high pH in my soils.

    I also hoped the use of starch would increase the market demand for corn and raise the price I get for the corn I grow.

    Process:
    I mixed 20 lbs. per acre of granulated starch with starter fertilizer and banded it two inches below and two inches beside the corn row as recommended by Dr. Walker. I hoped that added starch would feed the microbes, absorb moisture, and stimulate microbial activity. I banded the starch and fertilizer mixture to create a beneficial environment for the microbes in the seed zone of the soil. The logic here is to get a response from small amount of granulated starch.

    I planted 12 replications of 12 rows each (36 inches between rows) selected randomly. All harvest information was taken from the center of these strips to avoid border differences.

    People:
    – Dr. John Walker, Ricks College
    – Victoria Mundy, Extension Educator
    – Charles Shapiro, Agronomist
    – Gerald Bidy, Industrial Ag Products Lab
    – Martin Kleinschmit, Center for Rural Affairs
    – Roquette America Inc.

    Results:
    I am a little disappointed in the results. After two growing seasons, I could not show any conclusive evidence of a crop yield increase. I did notice what seemed to be an increase in root hairs, as predicted, but it was impossible to actually measure the root hair increases.

    The starch blended well, was easy to work with, but did not work well in a grain drill delivery system. It did work well in a dry fertilizer application.

    I have not given up on the starch idea. It has many properties that could affect soil life and plant growth and can affect changes in molecules in the soil. I am questioning if the starch I used had the right polymers to react in the soil as intended. I think it is possible the electrical properties of starch could affect nutrient abilities of soils too.

    Learned:
    I learned that crop response is closely tied to organic matter levels and I had a lot more organic variability than previously expected. My yield monitor shows this more than anything.

    I learned marginal soil doesn’t seem to develop structure or respond to salt based fertilizers very well.

    OUTREACH
    My outreach was discussing my project on a one-on-one basis at conferences seminars with agri. Consultants, agronomists, fertilizer dealers, gardeners, and other farmers and on the internet.

    I will make copies of my report and share them with Roquette America Inc., Dr. Walker, NE corn board, Extension, and at no till conferences.

    My outreach was not more extensive because I am uncertain of my results. I felt I could not truthfully say it did or did not work. I can only say what I found out, which was just more questions and no real answers. I need something to tell before I want to really push new ideas.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.