By Blair Bruns, Account Executive, Rooster Strategic Solutions

According to Iowa State University research, fertilizer is the most expensive cost of corn production behind land and equipment, and nitrogen – known by its chemical symbol N – is particularly costly. So imagine how delighted row crop growers would be to find a system that cuts nitrogen use by up to 40 percent while improving yield and reducing the environmental impact compared to traditional nitrogen application techniques.

This is the premise behind BlueN, a new product developed by Symborg, a Spanish-based agricultural biotech firm. The product is both scientific and sustainable, as you’d expect from a company whose stated goal is to “help farmers maximize their crops with minimum resources and without risks to human, animal, and environmental health.” And if it works as advertised in Midwest corn, it could be a game-changer.

Symborg is currently seeking U.S. corn and soybean growers to participate in on-farm trials; if you have clients, partners, or customers who love being the first to try new ag technologies, this might be one to bring to them.

How it works. BlueN is a biofertilizer designed to stimulate a plant’s natural process for converting nitrogen from the air into ammonium and metabolizing it into amino acids throughout the growing season. It’s applied once, early in the growing season, mixed with a liquid solution. BlueN is compatible with most herbicides and fungicides, and the company states that one box of BlueN will provide 100 acres of corn with 40 percent of its nitrogen needs, equivalent to 8500 pounds of anhydrous or 22,000 pounds of UAN 32%.

BlueN is comprised of an exclusive and patented endophytic bacterium called Metylobacterium symbioticum. But don’t let the wonky name turn you off; in a nutshell, BlueN simply helps the plant do what it does naturally, only better. Bacteria in all corn and soybean plants use enzymes that break down nitrogen from the air and combine it with hydrogen to convert the nitrogen to ammonium. BlueN gives this process a boost, steadily assimilating nitrogen as an amino acid – a basic component of proteins – to feed the plant as it grows.  This reduces the need to add as much supplemental nitrogen in the form of liquid, dry, or gas to generate the growth and yields that farmers desire.

Add up the benefits. Obviously, cost savings could be a major benefit. With nitrogen costs ranging from $90 to $125 per acre (depending on application technique), using BlueN could save growers thousands of dollars on their nitrogen costs by reducing N by up to 40 percent.  But the benefits extend beyond the financial. Reduced supplemental nitrogen application means less nitrates in the soil, which improves long-term soil quality and general cultivation conditions. Plus, there’s less chance of nitrates leaching into aquifers or adjacent streams and rivers.