Of the essential nutrients plants must have to grow, eight are referred to as micronutrients. While plants use micronutrients in very small amounts, they are just as essential for plant growth as primary (N, P, and K) and secondary (S, Ca, and Mg) nutrients. Any one of them can limit growth and even cause plant death when deficient.
Micronutrient deficiencies can be difficult to recognize because they resemble other problems. For instance in corn, manganese deficiency produces yellowing, which can look like a sulfur deficiency or even be confused with nitrogen deficiency. Often tissue testing can determine the cause, but it is best to have a good soil test so any problems can be addressed ahead of seeing nutrient deficiency symptoms.
Why are micronutrient deficiencies increasingly being seen in the soil:
Increased yields due to various technologies means higher removal of micronutrients from the soil.
Some micronutrients are no longer contained in high analysis fertilizers and fertilizer materials.
Any type of land preparation which results in the removal of several inches of topsoil can result in a deficiency of certain micronutrients on the cut areas.
High phosphorus levels can induce micronutrient deficiencies.
(Midwest Laboratories Agronomy Handbook)
Micro 500™ is a precision balanced combination of five essential micronutrients: zinc, manganese, iron, copper and boron. Utilizing Flavonol Polymer Technology, Micro 500™ provides the benefit of a synergistic combination of micronutrients, and should be considered when a specific micronutrient deficiency has not been established. Each crop grown has minimum requirements of certain micronutrients in specific proportion to each other. The formulation of Micro 500™ is designed to fill those requirements and should be used in most cropping programs. These nutrients are synergistic. Growers get better uptake and response from a micronutrient in Micro 500 than if they apply an equal volume of a nutrient alone. In addition, having this combination available is helpful in pockets of a field where a grower might be unaware that a particular nutrient is lacking. Trials show that AgroLiquid micronutrients perform better than dry micros because applicators can place them in a root zone band (in furrow or near the seed). Micro 500 also offer better results compared with other conventional EDTA-chelated micronutrients.
In the week 4 Research Supports Future Growth, Field Agronomy Research Manager, Stephanie Zelinko discusses long term fertility programs in corn and soybeans.
In this week’s Research Supports Future Growth, Dr. Jerry Wilhm discusses how a complete cotton crop nutrition program that enables extended nutrient feeding and will help realize better boll set and yield.
Field Agronomy Research Manager Tim Duckert discusses foliar applications on sugarbeets.
Field Agronomy Research Manager, Stephanie Zelinko, discusses C-TECH, an easy-to-use, precision solution designed to supply season-long nutrition while creating a biologically-active soil.
C-TECH is specially-formulated with specific microbes and BioActivites, combined with plant nutrients to help better hold nutrients in poor soil types, release nutrients within soil solution, promote biological activity and help increase overall plant health.
AgroLiquid’s goal is to prosper the farmer while safeguarding the environment. Learn how they are different from any other fertilizer company in the industry today as experts discuss details about their line of high-performance fertilizers formulated with scientifically based recommendations to help growers achieve the best possible production yields while employing sustainable agricultural practices.
If salt index isn’t a good predictor of fertilizer injury to many crops — what should be considered when selecting a fertilizer?
There has been a lot of discussion about the term “salt index” and what it means with regard to crop safety for fertilizers. When synthetic fertilizers were first becoming prominent in the marketplace one of the concerns was the crop safety that each product provided and how that related to where a product should or shouldn’t be placed. The term “salt index” was used to help describe the relative safety of fertilizer products – both liquid and dry. Over the years, the term salt index has been used for a variety of things, some that make sense, and some that were, perhaps, not technically accurate.
In order to understand salt index it is important to understand what is meant by the term “salt.” A salt is any chemical compound that is composed of a positively charged ion and a negatively charged ion. When most of us hear the word salt we tend to think of sodium chloride, or table salt. Sodium chloride is a salt, but it is not a common component of fertilizers.
The question is often asked about how much salt fertilizers have. In strict chemical terms fertilizers ARE salts. One of the more recognizable fertilizer formulas is K-Cl, or potassium chloride. That compound is 0-0-60 potash. The potassium component is a positive ion and the chloride component is a negative ion. That fertilizer, along with all others, are salts.
Why was the concept of salt index developed? The original intent was to develop a scale, or index, of the potential for a fertilizer to cause crop injury. The actual numbers reported can be measured values using electrical conductance tests, or can be calculated values based on product components. It is easy to see how different analysis methods can give different index values, so comparing the salt index of various products is problematic unless the products were all measured (not calculated) using the exact same methods.
Is the salt index number of any value when describing the potential for fertilizer injury? Not as much as it used to. Some literature suggests that fertilizers with salt indexes above 20 should not be applied near the seed of sensitive crops. Commodity fertilizer products such as potash or DAP are well known to cause crop injury when placed too close to a sensitive seed. Some liquid fertilizers, such as 10-34-0 or 6-18-6, can be applied in-furrow to certain crops but with significant rate restrictions. Newer technology products – including many AgroLiquid products – are safe for in-furrow application to many crops, including some products that have salt index values higher than 20.
If salt index is not a good predictor of fertilizer injury to many crops what should be considered when selecting a fertilizer? First and foremost, crop safety and performance of AgroLiquid products should be the focus of any discussion. AgroLiquid product crop safety and performance claims are backed up by over 20 years of research and field experiences, and don’t need to be justified by a laboratory value.
When selecting fertilizer products and application placement it is important to use the best agronomic practices for the product, crop, and row spacing. Corn and soybeans, for example, have different limitations on what rates certain AgroLiquid products can be applied in-furrow or as a foliar spray. Some of the vegetable crops, on the other hand, should not have in-furrow applications of AgroLiquid products at planting. In addition to the product itself there are several environmental conditions that need to be taken into account when determining crop safety risks. Soil environmental conditions play a large role in crop response to fertilizer products, with colder, dryer soil conditions having a higher potential for adverse crop response compared to a warmer, moist soil. Foliar applications have additional issues to consider with regard to crop safety and performance. Crop growth stage is a very important factor in the safety and performance of foliar fertilizer applications. Tank mix partners and surfactants may also play a role in safety and performance. When tank mixing with crop protection products it is important to READ AND FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS of the pesticides. Pay special attention to tank mix restrictions and compatibility testing instructions on the pesticide label.
Reminders about salt index
How it relates to AgroLiquid products:
Don’t worry about absolute numbers. Methodology, test conditions, and the products tested all influence the index value that is reported. Also, don’t get caught up in salt index comparisons with other products.
Do consider the safety, flexibility and performance of AgroLiquid products, and the research plus field experiences that prove performance.
Do select and apply fertilizers based on sound agronomic practices. Consider what crops, application methods, tank mix partners, and environmental conditions are present when making fertilizer decisions.
Calcium is the third most important element in a plant. And, calcium is the fifth most abundant element on the planet. It makes sense that traditionally, growers don’t apply much calcium, because they assume the plant will get what they need from the soil. But, calcium is usually found in a form that is not easily taken up by plants.
In an apple tree, the leaves, new shoots, and fruit all take calcium and the nutrient will be found in the tissues and the root, but, the fruit cannot compete with the other parts of the plant hence why the fruit often doesn’t get enough calcium. That is why calcium deficiencies are evidenced on the fruit, rather than the rest of the tree. In apples, a calcium deficiency causes a disorder known as bitter pit. Bitter pit is a physiological breakdown of the cell walls in the fruit that occur below the skin of the fruit. For that reason, when scouting for calcium deficiencies, it is important to test the fruit, rather than relying solely on leaf or soil tests.
In this particular trial, Horticulturists were testing for fruit firmness, how many apples produced on each tree, and how much the fruit weighs. At the North Central Research Station High-Density Apple Orchard, researchers test approximately 10 apples per experimental plot for firmness. They use a pentameter, which measures the pressure needed to break the cell part inside the apple. They test four spots on each apple, as research has shown there is a difference in firmness between the side of the apple exposed to sun, versus the shade-side. The average fruit firmness is reported.
A trial of the effects of LiberateCa™ in 2015 at the NCRS High-density Apple Orchard in Michigan showed that the apples treated with LiberateCa™ fall close to the preferred range of 14.5 lb – 17.5 lb for fruit firmness, while the untreated trees’ fruit firmness was significantly higher than desired. In addition, the treated trees had more apples per tree, and overall yield per tree increased as well. These trees were planted at 3 ½ feet between trees, 11 feet between rows, with a planting density of 1,100 trees per acre.
“If you can hang two more apples per tree, with 1,100 trees, you have 2,200 more apples – and that means more money in your pocket.” Horticulturist Jacob Emling
Senior Research Manager, Dr. Jerry Wilhm discusses how and why the lower applied rates of AgroLiquid nutrients are sustainable and more efficient in feeding the plant the nutrients it needs to thrive. In this short video, Dr. Wilhm further demonstrates this through a four-year sustainability study from the North Central Research Station (NCRS).
In grapes, a combination of variety, management, and training system dictates how much quality fruit the plant can produce. One of the best options is using fertilizer applied in the spring that can be easily taken up by the vine. Over the last four years, we have been looking at what AgroLiquid products can do on grapes. All fertilizer is soil applied in the spring underneath the vines.
Conventional Program: 12 gallons of 28%UAN + 12.9 gallons of 10-34-0 + 100 lbs. of sulfate of potash.
Four generations of Wenger farmers have operated Wenger Ranch over the last 100 years, successfully managing diversity through the progression of agriculture. What started as a 100 acre dairy farm is now a 450 acre farm, with the majority dedicated to almond and walnut orchards.
Today, Wenger Ranch is run by third generation farmer Paul Wenger, President of the California Farm Bureau, and his wife Deborah. Their operation has included the involvement of his three sons, Jeff, Jake, and Luke. Jake shared that the Wenger family passion for farming, coupled with their drive for sustainability, has allowed them to continue farming, and will be critical for them to continue for the next 100 years.
Jake took the opportunity to meet us on the Wenger Ranch to talk with us about how the next 100 years will be filled with challenges. Throughout California and many other states, there is a growing concern with regulations. He emphasized that dealing with these regulations consumes valuable time they could be spending in the field or with their family. Regulations on issues of pesticide reporting and now nitrate issues for ground water take their toll. The Wengers have to continue to dedicate their time to filing reports, and keeping up on Continuing Education credits, all time that could be spent in the field. The top challenge looking into the future is water. Throughout the water shortage in California, Jake has become well aware of California’s lack of adequate water storage. Jake believes the agricultural community does not get the credit it deserves when it comes to water issues and the increased productivity utilizing the same basic water resources over the last four decades.
With challenge comes change. Being a fourth generation farmer, Jake has seen many changes on the farm throughout his lifetime. Jake noted that most changes have been positive, resulting in more sustainable practices over the years. For the Wenger family it is important to leave behind a healthy soil and environment for their fifth generation to tend their farm. Creating sustainability, the Wengers have moved to reduced and no-till farming practices. Where they once used to disc between the rows of trees, they now incorporate safe chemical control on these weeds. This provides a cover crop that creates more aeration and microbial activity in the soil. The soil is alive with night crawlers that continuously cultivate and leave behind rich organic matter. Another way they have worked towards sustainability is through the reduction of excess fertilizer.
“Using the product eNhance, with our nitrogen program, has allowed us to significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen applied to our crop each year,” said Jake. “Responsible Nutrient Management is a critical element of our goal for sustainable farming.”
Not only have the Wengers reduced their amount of tillage and fertilizer applied, but they have also implemented drip irrigation to help conserve water.
As we walked the northern California orchard, Jake noted that it has been technology that has allowed his family to keep up with the changing times and farming practices. He also reflected on how previous generations used to harvest walnuts. It was a long process with mallets and shaker poles. The field we stood in used to take about one week to harvest with five to six people. Now the same field can be harvested in about two full days with two people.
“Just being able to get out here in God’s green earth [is what brings me the most satisfaction]. That “ah” moment you have when you’re in the field and the sun is just right, while you stand there in your short sleeve shirt and ball cap. It’s that moment when a cool breeze blows in your face and you look around and tell yourself I get to do this for a living. Even more satisfying is being able to do it with my family.”
As Jake reflected about the past, his focus is on the future, and striving toward sustainability will be the foundation for their strategy. Sustainability does not mean giving up on yield potential. In fact, it can mean the opposite if you understand your soil health and how to feed it. Let’s not forget Jake’s comments earlier about the water conditions. The best laid plans have to look at the limiting factor. In the Wengers’ case it is water. Water has clearly become short for many California growers as well as several other states across the US.
Knowing that the water is a limiting factor, Jake shared with us the importance of having his family involved in the industry to try and make changes. Jake currently serves on the local irrigation water board.
He said, “Farmers need to get more involved in their industry. They must get involved beyond their local community activities. Even being a member of a growers association and/or Farm Bureau is not enough. It is the only way to combat the continued cascading effects of regulation that is financed and supported by special interest and environmental groups. These groups usually reside in the high population areas and have no real grasp on the issues affecting the farmer today.”
Jake also discussed how money from some of these environmental groups has prevented important progress such as adequate water holding reservoirs. He believes the multibillion-dollar industry represented by farming is the most underfunded lobbying group in the state. The farming industry needs to continue to be the best stewards of the land. Using the changing technology to improve efficiency will continue to feed the world. He was kind enough to say he felt companies like AgroLiquid were leaders in these technologies. Jake pointed out that even though the farm seemed quiet and isolated, just over the tree tops was a city of over 200,000 people. We all stood for a moment enjoying the peaceful farm setting only minutes from a thriving city.
Reflecting above, Jake told us the most rewarding part of this multigenerational farm. When he asks his five-year-old son what he wants to be, the answer is a farmer. He also tells of how tears come to his son’s eyes when he finds out he can’t ride in the tractor with dad that day. The disappointment of his son is both sad and yet satisfying that it means so much to him. Often times they will set up the operation for that day and then include the kids in a trip to town for a farm family breakfast. If his son finds out his sister actually got tractor time and he did not, it presents a small challenge of jealousy.
As potential fifth generation farmers, Jake’s son and daughter will continue to see challenges, such as water shortages, and will find growth through technological advances. Now more than ever it is important to have a sustainable farm based on responsible nutrient management, and to educate those around us on the issues farmers are facing for our future generations.
Potatoes use more potassium than any other nutrient – including nitrogen. Potassium (K) is required for nutrient movement in the potato plant. It is essential for the makeup of over 40 different enzymes and is involved in more than 60 different enzyme systems in plants. Potassium is also important in the formation of sugars and starches in plants. All crops that produce a large amount of carbohydrates (sugars) such as cotton, almonds, alfalfa, grapes, cherries, peaches, and especially potatoes, require large amounts of potassium. Specifically in potatoes, potassium influences tuber size, specific gravity, susceptibility to blackspot bruise, after-cooking darkening, reducing sugar content, fry color, and storage quality.
Potassium is crucial in quality potato formation as it promotes synthesis of photosynthates and their transport to the tubers. This enhances their conversion into starch, protein and vitamins. A deficiency of potassium affects many metabolic processes, like the rate of photosynthesis, the rate of translocation and enzyme systems. At the same time, the rate of dark respiration is increased. The result is a reduction in plant growth and in crop quality. K influences on quality can also be indirect as a result of its positive interaction with other nutrients (especially with N). Potassium is also used by plants to regulate the process of opening and closing the stomatal openings of their leaves. That process influences water use efficiency and carbon dioxide use in the plant. Potassium’s influence on cell turgor pressure and water relations in the plant helps the plants resist the effects of drought and temperature extremes, and aids resistance to many plant diseases
Depending on soil type, 90-98% of total soil potassium is unavailable. Feldspars and micas are clays that contain large amounts of potassium, but plants cannot use the nutrient if it is trapped between the layers of those clays. In persistently dry soils, potassium remains unavailable, as there is no water film surrounding the soil particles. Over time, these minerals break down, and the potassium is released. However, this process is too slow to provide crops the amount of potassium needed for optimal yield.
Typically only 1-2% conventional potassium fertilizers applied to the soil is available at one time.
Plants lacking in potassium often display various signs of deficiencies, the most common being discoloration of the older leaves on the plant as compared to the younger leaves on the plant. The stem on affected tissue usually appears weak and is slender in size compared to healthy tissue. Other deficiency signs include inward curling of leaves, discolored leaf tips and marginal scorching. Another common sign of potassium stress is abnormally short internode length. A crop deficient in potassium may also display signs of various crop diseases.
As an essential major nutrient for crop production, potassium needs to be available to the plant at all stages of growth. Most potassium found in soils is unavailable to the plant, therefore the nutrient may need to be supplied to the crop via fertilizer.
The need for potassium can and should be determined from soil and plant tissue analysis. Management recommendations for potassium in potato crops vary by region and specific soil conditions. It is often beneficial to split applications of potassium to match the optimal times of plant uptake in order to increase yield potential and quality. Proper potassium management can increase disease and pest resistance. In addition, this management practice can improve soil quality for sustainability, resulting in an overall increase in productivity.
You can provide the potassium your potato crop needs, when it needs it, by using the most efficient potassium nutrient products on the market: Kalibrate and Sure-K. These products provide available potassium to the plant at the right times in the growth cycle.
Kalibrate applied at planting time or side-dress is taken up from the soil along the length of young roots, particularly by root hairs. Potassium is transported in all directions between plant organs in response to metabolic demand. Kalibrate also contains 6% sulfur – also an essential nutrient for potatoes.
Sure-K as a foliar application or fertigation enables the flexibility to provide available potassium, which is actively taken up by plant tissues. Sure-K enters the plant more effectively than conventional potassium fertilizers and has excellent crop safety. Once in the plant, Sure-K is rapidly transported and redistributed to areas of greatest metabolic demand. Sure-K can also be mixed with crop protection products, reducing the number of passes on the field.