An Iowa producer said results from his 2018 field trial indicated that a sustainable nitrogen-producing microbe could offer significant cost savings while being environmentally friendly.

Kevin Gerlach was one of the nearly 11,000 on-farm and research trials for Pivot Bio’s Proven. Pivot Bio, a Berkeley, California-based company revealed results from its 2018 national trial that was conducted in 13 states with 45 different soil types. Proven delivers nitrogen via microbes that attach firmly to the corn roots, according to Pivot Bio.

The company touted its microbe technology as a way to increase production by more than 7 bushels per acre in normal soil and 17 bushels an acre in sandy soil when tested against fields with traditional nitrogen fertilizer.

Gerlach farms about 8 miles east of Ames, Iowa, and he was one of the farmers who tested the Proven microbe in a 20-acre test trial. Gerlach applied the product with starter fertilizer with his planter so it went right into the furrow in spring 2018.

What Gerlach liked the potential for improving his bottom line with lower nitrogen application costs plus being a good steward of his farmland. He planted a DeKalb hybrid that was a full-stacked corn.

“We may be able to get away from denitrification and leaching,” he said. Iowa farmers are aware of excess nitrogen that can reach urban water suppliers and river basins.

Doing his part to cut back on excessive nitrates infiltrating drinking supplies in Des Moines, Iowa, is a plus for him, as he quickly noted that excessive nitrate is not solely the responsibility of corn farmers.

Gerlach was informed about potential test sites from a consulting company and was willing to try the Proven product.

“For me, it’s about a three- to four-year trial. If I can sustain a difference of 7 to 10 bushels and I can look to cut outside dressing that is the biggest cost,” he said.

Learning new ways to produce a high yielding corn crop is important in the current economic climate, too.

“All of us can get complacent with doing the same thing over and over,” Gerlach said.

The grower plans to continue with a test plot in the 2019 growing season. The Proven microbe potential is something producers should keep an eye on. 

“I’m hoping it works. With microbial technology it is exciting to see what they can do now. It can change the landscape of how we farm over the next 10 years. You still have to make it economically feasible or we will still be putting ammonia on,” Gerlach said.

“If we can have a microbe attach itself to a corn root and then be able to take nitrogen from the air anytime you want that is interesting to say the least,” he said.

Pivot Bio says through its trials it shows the nitrogen producing microbes can reduce or replace chemical nitrogen, maximize yield potential and provide a strong return on investment for growers. This is the sixth year Pivot Bio has worked with farmers, researchers and third-party collaborators.

For more information is available at www.pivotbio.com.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or dbergmeier@hpj.com.

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