CORN Yield


to maximize


Let’s face it, it’s hard to look at roots. It takes a shovel, some exercise, a lot of time, and not to mention it kills plants to look at root systems. Plus, you can’t do it at 60 MPH from the comfort of your air-conditioned pickup.


Since the presentation at the National No-Till Conference (NNTC) in 2016, we have learned more about root growth and development that you would likely be interested in. Also, there is a limited amount of time to develop and present during a 45-minute session. Here I will be able to fill in the blanks and expand upon what was presented during the NNTC.

Roots are critically important to plant growth and development.

We all know that they acquire water, nutrients, and anchor the plant, but roots also do many more amazing things.

  • Roots create compounds that signal the top to grow.

  • Roots feed microbes which make nutrients plant available.

  • Roots send signals and “talk” to other plants.

  • Roots store carbohydrates for future use acting as a “battery” for those rough days.


Selecting a root system that matches your tillage regime, water management, and nutrient program can give you an extra edge in producing a few more critical bushels needed for success. Most importantly, it can help you avoid a dreaded failure.


Some old school agronomists like to say extra roots are just wasted energy. Yield is all that matters. That might have been true in the days of less than 200 BPA corn, however, today’s high yields need a better focus on doing things exactly right. So, I encourage you to take a closer look at your root types, growth, and development.


What’s the best way to know how hybrids perform on your own farm? Load up the planter with every hybrid you plant. All you need to do is to fill the small boxes on the rows and shut off the central fill system. Use a different hybrid in every row. (If you plant more hybrids than the rows of your planter, I would suggest more time digging roots and less time picking hybrids! HA!)  


Now when the field hits tassel, get out the backhoe and go to work. There is nothing better than being in a hole in the ground on a hot day surrounded by tasseled out corn. Just think of it this way, some people have to pay for trips to the sauna.


Here’s what you are looking for:
  1. Where are the majority of the roots? Depth and width from the stalk

  2. Are there any compaction layers, diseases, root feeding, or herbicide injuries?

  3. How deep do they go? (always important for bragging rights, but our research indicates the top 6 inches need to be nearly bone dry before they will take from the next 6 inches.)

  4. Note the general structure of the root. It will be very handy for future nutrient placement decisions.

  5. Now the hard part. How many roots per node?  Carefully split the stalk in half and count the roots from each node. Make a map.


Congratulations, you now know more about roots than most seed agronomists let alone breeders!

FIGURE 1. IDENTIFY THE ROOTS. Recognizing the four different types of corn roots determined by ANP agronomist Mike Petersen can help growers determine if they have the right hybrid growing under their conditions. No-tillers with narrow-row systems would want ‘type 1’ for its narrow shoulder width, while a no-tiller with poorly drained soils would want ‘type 3’ for its shallow roots.

Since you can only manage what you measure, now you need to consider different management techniques that will influence next year’s measurements. (Yes, this root digging process is like washing your hair. Plant, dig, repeat).


Management techniques to match your hybrids. Let’s look at the three areas one by one:
  1. Tillage management.
    Of course, since this article appeared in No-Till Farmer, I know you are an avid 100% no-tiller. So I write this for your neighbor, of course. Broadcast tillage, including vertical tillage, can limit root penetration depth and favors type 2 & 3 roots. Strip tillage favors type 1 & 2 by you good no-tillers with great drainage management are already picking types 1, 2 & 4

  2. Water Management.
    East of Dallas-Wichita-Grand Island-Aberdeen, you are normally dealing with excessive moisture. Especially in the spring. Select hybrids like type 2 & 3 that can handle wetter feet. Generally, these are coarser roots with less branching. To the West on dryland, go for the deep-rooted ones to access all of the available moisture in the profile. In irrigation, consider your depth of irrigation, inches per application, and irrigation type and how that could impact your root selection. This is a case-by-case basis which I or one of our ANP Partners can assist you with.

  3. Nutrient management.
    I talked a lot about N placement at the conference. One area I did not dive into too much due to time constraints is the importance of an on seed starter at planting. Our industry-leading POWER2GRO products IGNITION (9-20-3), ACCELERATE (micronutrient package), and REVUP (bio-stimulant) greatly aid in lateral branching AND maximum nodal root expression. This is another management consideration for maximizing root expression.


{FULL DISCLOSURE. I am the founder and CEO of Ag Solutions Network, Inc. who provides the POWER2GRO Production Program. I farm in Northwest Illinois and lead a team of highly experienced consultants in CA, MT, CO, KS, AZ, and IL.}

Over the years we have monitored how all three, especially the nutrient management program, can affect corn root expression. This is at the heart of our leadership and support that we provide to our growers. I’ve dug thousands upon thousands of plants. I have yet to find any products that have a more positive impact than the POWER2GRO products.


With commodity prices today, you might like to stick your head in the ground like an ostrich cartoon. While it may not help your marketing, sticking your head in the ground could greatly help your production. Get to it!  


Let me know if you have a root evaluation you would like to do. Tell me the different hybrids and treatments that you have in the field with a little background on tillage, water, and soils. If it sounds interesting enough, I’d be willing to come and sweat it out with you and see what we discover together.

Wishing you a successful growing season!

Monte Bottens

YES! I want to learn more.

Please contact me to schedule an on-site visit.

What is the POWER2GRO Program?

It is a step-by-step process that a POWER2GRO Authorized Partner leads you through every step of the way:

  • Step 1 Evaluation of your current farming practices (operations, equipment, suppliers, crops & livestock, inputs, rotations, cover crops, irrigation) and goals.

    • We get to know everything you are currently doing looking for ways to improve efficiency and knowing what it will take to adapt to our recommended practices while exceeding your goals. (Don’t have goals, we will help you with that, too.)

  • Step 2 Comprehensive Soil Audit. We will soil sample by management zones for soil chemistry, biology, and salinity as necessary. We will look at history crop rotations on each piece of land, weed problems, and manure applications. In irrigation understand type, performance, and capacity. Everything that gives us insight into how that particular field or zone performs.

    • The soil is the basis of everything we do as farmers. Understanding it the best we possibly can is critical to success.

  • Step 3 Recommendations. We recommend baseline commodity nutrients such as N, P, K that you get from local suppliers along with POWER2GRO Products applied in the most efficient way possible. We will also make operation, equipment, rotation, and irrigation recommendations that allow you to maximize the performance of the POWER2GRO Products on your farm.

    • Often times, fewer commodity nutrients are needed when using the POWER2GRO program offsetting costs for POWER2GRO products, equipment investments, and evaluation/audit costs. We do provide a comparative cost analysis so you can know your investment up front.

  • Step 4 Implementation. We are with you throughout the growing season watching your crop to determine application timing, delivering product pre-mixed in top quality equipment, and assuring that it is performing as expected.

    • Many in the industry sell and deliver. We help you to make sure it is applied timely and correctly so you see the maximum benefit.

  • Step 5 Evaluation. We make season-long observations that allow us to modify recommendations of both POWER2GRO products and commodity products. Plus we are making recommendations for all other aspects of your operations including rotation, equipment, cover crops, and irrigation.

    • This step is very important for you to know that you are doing the right thing. Not doing the same thing everyone else is doing can be a little scary. We are here to help you know you are doing the right thing.


How do I become a dealer?

When I’m asked, “What do you do?”, it can be hard to answer. We provide the leadership and support to help farmers adopt the best management practices utilizing proven POWER2GRO Products.

Are you ready to make a difference in agriculture? Opportunities are available. We are seeking both innovative farmers paired with a full-time dedicated POWER2GRO Partner in 24 strategic locations across the United States. 


As a farmer, you benefit from being plugged directly into the latest information, experimental trials, possible custom farming work, and you get to help someone start a successful local business that will offer jobs in the community while improving your soil and water.  


As a full-time POWER2GRO Partner, you have the opportunity to start a business in an industry dominated by giants, offer great solutions to improve your customer’s livelihood, create a business where you can lead others, and have something to pass along to your family.


We are very discerning about who can join our team. It is a several step evaluation process for you to get to know us and vice versa. As a farmer myself, I’m in this for decades to come, not just the next monthly profit report. We want to make sure you are of the same mindset.


If you’re tired of the hundreds of options on a menu to choose from, lack of leadership on how to integrate nutrition, tillage, seed, and water management, a frustrating lack of support throughout the season, then it’s time to make a change. We are more than willing to visit with you about how a POWER2GRO Partnership opportunity can improve your plants, your soils, and your life!

Ag Solutions Network

1515 5th Ave, Suite 428  •  Moline, IL 61265

309-757-0372  •  888-859-7418 toll-free

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