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The effect of borax on the growth and yield of crops

01 Jan 1923-

AboutThe article was published on 1923-01-01 and is currently open access. It has received 6 citation(s) till now. The article focuses on the topic(s): Borax & Yield (engineering).

Topics: Borax (61%), Yield (engineering) (57%)

Summary (3 min read)


  • In experiments 1 Serial numbers in parentheses refer to "Literature cited" at the end of this bulletin.
  • That the injury caused by the Searles Lake potash was due to the borax it contained has been further demonstrated by experiments made in 1920.


  • The injurious effects of borax in corn fertilizers were noted in Indiana in 1917 by Conner, which seem to be the first recorded field observations on the effect of borax and its occurrence in fertilizer practice.
  • When the fertilizer was sown broadcast at the rate of 50 pounds of borax per acre there was a marked decrease in yield.
  • The use of 10 fiounds of borax per acre delayed and seriously affected germination, n some cases the plant outgrew its early shock where the smaller quantities were used.
  • In addition to the experiments made on this general plan at these four locations, other experiments were made at Arlington, Va., with corn and cotton and at Muscle Shoals, Ala,, with cotton, using a noborax fertilizer, one which supplied 5 pounds, another 10 pounds, and a third 20 pounds of borax per acre.
  • Other experiments with potatoes were made in order to compare the effectiveness of commercial Searles Lake potash, designated 1920 grade, which contained no borax with Searles Lake potash containing borax as it occurred in the trade prior to that year.


  • The soil on which the experiments at Arlington were conducted is a silty clay loam, well suited to the growing of vegetables and general farm crops.
  • In section 1 the fertilizer was put in the drill, covered and mixed with soil to a depth of about 2 inches and the planting of seed delayed for 7 days.
  • The remaining plats receiving 50 pounds or less germinated fewer seeds than the no-borax plats, but the effect was not so marked as in section 2.
  • In section 1, 20 pounds of borax decreased the growth of vines, but the production of beans was not influenced by quantities under 100 pounds per acre.


  • The experiment with snap beans was similar in all details to that of the Lima beans.
  • The seeds were planted on May 26, somewhat thick in the row and thinned to 125 per plat on June 15.
  • During the first month the plants where 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 pounds of borax were applied in section 2 showed a slightly lighter color of foliage than the no-borax plat, although there was no distinct bleaching.
  • There was a distinct and marked bleaching of leaves with 10 pounds and upward.
  • In Plate II, Figures 1, 2, and 3 show the Lima and snap beans grown on the no-borax, 5-pound, and 10- pound borax plats, respectively.


  • The figures shown in connection 'with the plants indicate the number of pounds of borax applied per acre in the fertilizer used.
  • The records showing its effect on germination and on the plant in the early stages of growth, together with the final yields of stover and corn, are given in Table 4.
  • In the section sown broadcast 20 pounds per acre caused some decrease in yield; the 50-pound application was very harmful; and there was no growth at all where 200 and 400 pounds were used.
  • There were light showers for the 4 days following the planting, amounting in all to 0.48 of an inch rainfall, and on the sixth day, July 20, there was 0.89 inch precipitation.
  • In section 2, where the fertilizer was applied in the drill and the seed planted immediately, the harmfulness of borax with 10 and 20 pounds per acre was quite marked, especially in series D, E, and F, and the fruiting in series A was adversely affected.


  • In connection with certain studies in commercial fields to determine the ,comparative effectiveness of different potash carriers on the potato, a test of two grades of muriate of potash from Searles Lake was included.
  • At Norfolk, Va., in cooperation with the Virginia Truck Experiment Station; on Norfolk sandy loam; fertilizer application, 1,800 pounds per acre; average control, 7-7-0; variety grown, Irish Cobbler; yield, 221.3 bushels per acre.
  • In the experiment at Holmdel, N. J., it will be observed that the fertilizer-borax mixtures gave better results than the no-borax mixtures when applied with the distributer.
  • It is well to state in this connection that the results obtained during the same season at New Brunswick, N. J. (2), tend to support the foregoing explanation.


  • Results obtained with potatoes and corn at New Brunswick, N. J. (2), and with potatoes at Presque Isle, Me., 5 are again referred to here, with certain tabular presentations of yields and rainfall data, in order that the results may be assembled in their entirety, the details having been presented elsewhere.
  • [Yields stated in pounds, air-dry basis; fertilizer application, 400 pounds per acre.].
  • It will be noted (Table 11), as previously brought out, that the rainfall at New Brunswick during the growing season of 1920 was unusually heavy, which probably reduced the concentration of borax through solution and diffusion into the soil mass.


  • An experiment with cotton similar in plan to that at Arlington and at other locations with potatoes and corn was made on Colbert silt loam at Muscle Shoals, Ala.
  • It included the application of fertilizer in the row as well as broadcast and also the immediate and delayed planting of seed after applying fertilizer.
  • Only an occasional seed germinated: plants dying.
  • When the borax was sown broadcast the plants were stunted.


  • An experiment at Muscle Shoals, Ala., was also made on Clarksville silt loam located on a gentle slope and well drained.
  • Experiment, date started, and borax per acre.
  • The results are in harmony with those obtained at Arlington, Va., showing that » Skinner, J. J., and Allison, F.E. Theinfluence of fertiUzerscontainingboraxonthegrowthandfruiting of cotton.
  • If heavy rains followed periodically after planting the effect was less severe.


  • In order to determine whether there was any residual effect of borax on.
  • At harvest time in June, 1921 r the single drill rows immediately over the original fertilizer-borax drill row were cut separately and the weight of straw and grain is given in Table 17.
  • From this it is apparent that all effects of the borax applied in 1919 had disappeared.
  • This is prominent on the more severely injured and dwarfed plants.
  • —The toxic action of borax on corn may result in the prevention or delay of germination and in distorted and bleached plants.


  • Injurious quantities of borax cause tipburn; in still stronger concentrations wilting ensues, first of the older leaves and then of the entire plant.
  • Where injury is less, the plant shows a stunted growth and early maturity.
  • Where the borax application immediately preceded planting, 20 pounds of borax produced injury and a depression in yield.
  • Bureau of Plant Industry William A. Taylor, Chief.

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1 citations

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