A biostimulant that bolsters yields by amplifying root biomass may just be the lifeline for crops struggling to overcome the repercussions of one of the wettest winters in memory, posits a seasoned technical agronomist.

Agrii’s trials featuring stabilised amine nitrogen (SAN) — which, despite its categorisation alongside biostimulants, is technically a fertiliser — have delivered promising yield enhancements of up to 0.55t/ha in winter wheat, asserts the company’s northern technical manager, Jim Carswell.

“Strip trials in Inverness in the 2022/23 season examined the effect of SAN when used on top of a standard nutrition programme, determined by leaf analysis,” he explains.

“In the treated plots, where SAN was applied at T0/T1, the average yield increase of more than half a tonne per hectare was mainly attributed to the SAN’s effect on ear numbers at this site. They rose from an average of 585/m^2 in the control, to 666/m^2 where the SAN product was applied.”

Jim highlights that amine nitrogen serves a unique function in crops, divergent from the conventional nitrogen forms like nitrate or urea. “Its main effect is to stimulate production of the plant hormone cytokinin.”

“Cytokinins’ effect on root growth is well-documented in previous amine studies, and it’s this which increases the number of shoots and tillers, and hence ear numbers.”

Further scrutiny at the same Inverness farm in 2023 shed light on SAN’s influence on spring barley.

“We had the opportunity to assess what effects SAN might have on a late-drilled crop,” Jim continues. “After the crop was drilled on 6 April, applications of 1.5l/ha made at T1/T2 delivered a yield increase over the control of 0.32t/ha.”

Armed with these results, Jim has introduced SAN — known commercially as Levity Crop Science’s Lono — into the current season’s crops to explore another of SAN’s purported features.

“The science around how the plant absorbs amine nitrogen is very interesting,” he observes. “Previous studies have shown that it can help the plant ‘draw in’ certain nutrients that it wouldn’t otherwise so readily absorb.”

At Agrii’s Bishop Burton site in Yorkshire, an application of Lono to winter barley at 2l/ha on 17 November, in conjunction with 2.5l/ha of manganese sulphate, led to an observed increase in root length of 6.5% over the control after 27 days, while NDVI analysis indicated increased biomass and green cover.

“By 12 February, 87 days after application, tissue analysis showed Mn levels to be 45% higher in Lono-treated plants.”

Jim predicts, “We won’t know whether these metrics have any effect on yield until later in the year, but given the previous year’s results, we expect that longer, more robust rooting and increased tiller numbers will again deliver an observable yield increase.”

He adds, “This season’s winter crops need all the help they can get, and Lono’s ability to enhance rooting certainly makes it a prime candidate for consideration.”

“Good roots are going to be very important for spring crops, too,” he suggests. “Who knows when the ground is going to be good for travel? For many crops, that will mean late drilling and a shortened growing season. But crops that can get a head start on establishing a strong root system will be ahead of the curve.”

Jim advises, “Bear in mind, too, that rainfall tends to average out in most years. I would not be surprised to see a dry period later in the year; investing in roots now will stand crops in good stead for what might lie ahead.”

“We’ll continue to run trials with Lono through this year, but what we’ve seen so far suggests it’s doing everything we expect of it, which is exciting.”

“It’s one of those rare biostimulants that comes with a lot of science behind it.”