Sugar applications to corn and soybeans
In soybeans we have had producers apply 3 lb of sugar in 10 gallons of water at R3 (beginning pod). In all years, there have been no significant differences in yield. Lodging ratings were not taken as that can be variety and water dependent.
Other research has shown that applying sugar to crops increases the numbers of beneficial insects in those fields. South Dakota research entomologists showed that lady beetles benefited from a combination of prey and non-prey foods. In a follow-up study, these entomologists applied sugar sprays to soybeans and quantified the frequency of sugar feeding by analyzing the gut contents of common lady beetles in three states. They found all the tested lady beetles regularly consumed sugar-like nectar in soybean fields, even when it wasn't applied as a supplement. They also found more lady beetles in the sugar treated plots compared to the untreated plots.
At this time we can't explain the standability effect we're seeing from our sugar applications to corn. Our hypothesis is that early application of sugar to corn is increasing beneficial microbes that may be keeping the exposed brace roots and stalks healthier. We hope to conduct more research in the future to answer this question.
The application of sugar to corn and soybeans has not always shown increased yield; however, in nearly all of the corn studies, sugar treated plots have shown increased stalk strength at harvest. Research has also shown an increase in the number of beneficial insects in fields where sugar was applied. Further research is needed to understand the interactions aiding stalk strength in corn.
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