Unique packaging allows easy delivery of biologics.
Researchers have known for a long time that applying beneficial organisms to the soil can result in significantly improved plant health and yields. However, in many cases, keeping these living microbes alive during packaging and delivery to the field is problematic, and the issue has impeded the growth of this promising technology.
3Bar Biologics has developed an innovative packaging method that solves this problem and allows easy and efficient delivery of beneficial microbes to row crops such as corn and soybeans. Researchers at Ohio State University invested more than a decade of research into developing a combination of unique strains of beneficial soil microbes hardy enough to survive in eastern corn belt soils, but lacked an adequate delivery method. Bruce Caldwell, CEO of 3Bar Biologics, partnered with them to develop a way to package the microbes that allows them to survive and be easily applied to the field.
The result is Bio-Yield®, a product whose microbes increase phosphorus (P) uptake by the plant by unlocking P from calcium, magnesium, iron, and aluminum complexes in the soil. By making P available that was in the field already, but in an unavailable form, Bio-Yield reduces the need for additional P fertilizer. Bio-Yield is applied at planting time along with a low-salt starter fertilizer. The microbes colonize the roots of the emerging seedlings, allowing increased P uptake right away.
How It Works
Caldwell says the unique delivery system makes a big difference in performance.
“The problem has been that companies are trying to fit biologicals — living organisms — into a supply chain designed for synthetic chemicals,” he says. “As a result, 99% mortality is not uncommon, resulting in poor performance. Companies are also limited in the diversity of beneficial microbes they can deliver.”
Bio-Yield’s packaging consists of two parts: the storage chamber in the cap, and the growth chamber, which contains liquid nutrients for the microbes. The microbes are stored dry in the cap until the farmer, with a simple press of a finger, pops them down into the growth media. A quick shake and 24 hours later the microbes have multiplied into billions of colonies within the media and are ready for application.
“I’ve been using Bio-Yield for three years,” says Ken Friedman of Friedman Farms in Greenfield, Ohio. “I activate it and I’m the one growing the microbes on my farm. I think that’s why I’ve seen a better return on investment with this product than with other biologics out there.”
Increasing Yield at a Low Cost
Caldwell says field trials conducted with Bio-Yield on corn from 2014 to 2016 showed a 74% positive response rate with an average 8.6 bu/acre increased yield. At a cost of $6.00/acre for the product, that meant a return of $24.00/acre based on corn priced at $3.50/bushel.
Friedman likes those kinds of numbers.
“The problem is, fertilizer has gotten so expensive,” he says. “We’re trying to use less and find alternatives. We’re really interested in understanding the biological microbes and soil health and be able to sustain my farm. At the same time, I want to increase yields and grow more on the same acreage.”
“Our goal as a company is to help growers increase yield and reduce dependency on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides,” Caldwell says. “The market is demanding an increase in yield per acre and both the government and customers are demanding better stewardship of inputs. This demand is driving explosive growth of the biologics segment. This new delivery system helps to make it possible.”