CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Agriculture is changing, and it’s not just volatility of prices, input costs or new farm equipment. It’s also the basics of crop production.

U of I crop physiologist Fred Below and his researchers rolled out on Thursday their findings for farmers attending their Crop Physiology Field Day, but they gave a preview on Wednesday to crop input retailers. Below said the bottom line is a whole new way of applying crop nutrition.

“What we showed is that, to increase the density of plants, each plant has a smaller root system,” Below said. “This is a quantum change in how we have to think about fertilizing and managing the plants, so we clearly have to do a better job of fertilizer placement. Placing the fertilizer where the root is, whether that is before banding, in-season application, starter fertilizers, a whole host of things, so better placement of fertilizers.”

“But the thing we talked about today is can we pair those fertilizers with a biological? And there is a whole host of biologicals. We talked about ones that will fix N, take N out of the air, they supply a little bit of N,” Below continued. “We talked about phosphorus-solubilizing bacteria that help get those immobile nutrients to the root system. We talked about mycorrhizal fungi, and the biologicals play a role in his whole idea of soil health. So we need a healthy soil in order to make sure we can feed that plant as we have more plants that have smaller root systems.”

Where do farmers start, all again, learning how they fertilize? We learn from Dad; Dad didn’t do this.

“It’s not that we used to do it wrong in the past, it’s now, we have such high yield potential of the hybrids and we recognize that today’s corn hybrids tolerate high density a whole lot better than our fathers did,” Below responded. “And so its forcing us to think about what we are going to do. And I think that’s the reason we are partnering here today with Mosaic and some of the other biological companies. I think we’re going to see partnerships among these companies that mix things together in ways that we didn’t previously think about.”