Biologicals may boost bushels in Canadian winter wheat

In third party winter wheat comparison plots seeded last fall and harvested last month, the biological agent known as XiteBio Yield-plus created a 4.1 bushel yield benefit over control plots.

At a cost ranging from $4 per acre up to $6.50 per acre, and using winter wheat at $5 a bu., that pencils out to a potential $13.50 per acre benefit.

Prairie farmers are familiar with XiteBio Yield-plus as a biological for corn, canola, wheat, barley and legumes. With the third party yield data from 2019-20 trials, the company is comfortable recommending the product for winter wheat, says XiteBio president Manas Banerjee.

“In addition to a five percent yield benefit, the XiteBio plots had a six percent plant count increase and an increased bushel weight of 1.5 pounds. There was no drop in protein content,” says Banerjee. The replicated plots were in Ontario.

“XiteBio Yield-plus is a phosphate-enhancing liquid with naturally occurring plant growth promoting rhizobacteria. This is a vigorous colonizer of plant roots with distinct phosphorus solubilizing characteristics working throughout the growing season to help maximize plant growth and cope with stress conditions,” he says.

Banerjee says the agent unlocks soil-bound phosphorus. He says that XiteBio Yield-plus is one component of a progressive phosphate nutrient management strategy. It employs a unique strain of Bacillus firmus to colonize plant roots and solubilize soil-bound phosphorus for increased plant uptake.

Phosphate is important for a healthy, high yield winter wheat crop. A typical 80-bu. winter wheat crop demands more than 50 lb. of P2O5.

Applied fertilizer phosphate has an average efficiency less than 50 percent for the year of application. More than half the applied phosphate is tied up in forms unavailable to plants. Cold soil decreases this efficiency even further.

“Say a farmer applies $100 worth of phosphate fertilizer. It gets fixed in the soil. Less than $50 worth of that fertilizer is available to the crop. The rest remains fixed in the soil. Most of our soil has calcium, aluminum and iron. They hang on to the phosphate. This bacteria in XiteBio Yield-plus solubilizes the phosphate and makes it available. Plants are very fussy about that. If you want to feed it phosphorus, you have to give it in phosphate form.

“I can’t give an exact number, but the plant will get more than $50 of phosphate fertilizer. It would be about $80 or $85 or $90. As a naturally occurring plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) it has multiple modes of action, so it helps the crop in many different ways. The better root system helps the roots access water, nutrients and air.”

Earth has a finite volume of phosphorus. When it’s gone, there will be no more

“The amount of the total global phosphorous resource is definite. There is an exact amount. We are using more every year, and we are not using it efficiently. For instance, instead of putting on $100 of phosphorus, if you can use it more efficiently, then you can only apply $80 instead.

“By using a lesser amount, you save money, you get a better yield and most importantly, you mine less of the global resource. It’s part of sustainable agriculture. It’s all part of saving the human race.”

Cold was the main factor the XiteBio team focused on as they pondered whether or not to recommend it for fall-seeded crops.

There was already strong evidence that the spring-applied biological worked as intended. But the biological is living matter. It would be a failure if winter killed it.

Their trials finally convinced them that it was safe for farmers to invest $6.50 per acre in the product in winter wheat.

It is commonly used as an in-furrow application. Each 10-litre jug will cover 40 acres if the crop is on seven-inch to 10-inch row spacing, at a cost of $6.50 per acre. The jug will cover 65 acres if the row spacing is 10 inches to 15 inches, at a cost of $4 per acre. A case costs $260. It’s available at all Winfield Feed & Farm Supply outlets across the Prairies.

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