Your Crops are Talking. Will You Listen?

By: Stephanie Zelinko, Field agronomist

As hard as we try to get everything right at planting, many things can occur that may cause a crop to lose yield potential. Too much or too little moisture, insects or weed pressure, so many things can cause crop stress. Signs of stress, such as leaf yellowing or stunted growth, are how your crop talks to you. Learn to recognize what these signs mean and what you can do to support your crop yields.

The Tools

From boots-on-the-ground field scouting to aerial imagery, there are many tools at our disposal to help identify and recognize these signs. One of the most economical is a tissue test analysis. This in-season snapshot provides a quick overview on the health of your crop. After soil testing, the nutritional tissue test analysis is the most important tool to understand what is happening in the plant regarding the nutritional effects on its physiology. Plant tissue analysis is the best way to identify the actual nutrient status of a plant.

Tissue tests can be used to help determine the next steps of a nutritional program to more accurately apply in-season fertility. It’s also a great tool to help diagnose visual symptoms being seen in the plant or provide early detection of hidden deficiencies in the crop. It isn’t always easy to identify the real cause of a problem in a crop. This is especially true when trying to decipher if it’s a disease or a nutritional deficiency – or both.

It is important to keep in mind that the plant analysis is just a snapshot, a certain point in time, of the nutritional status of the plant. Because plant physiology is dynamic, it is necessary to compare plant analysis results with what we expect to see in a plant at that growth stage. The tissue test analysis is almost like a mid-year report card. How does your crop nutrition plan look, graded against the best in the class?

Addressing the Problem

Once a nutrient deficiency is identified, you have to decide the next best step. There are many options. First, look for patterns in the field. Is the deficiency related to a drainage issue? Were there  inconsistencies with  the planter fertilizer application? It’s important to consider all factors to make an informed decision.

Depending on the deficiency, foliar applications with liquid fertilizer is an effective method for quickly solving nutrient problems appearing in many plants. Since it is applied directly to plant leaves and absorbed through the plant’s stoma, foliar applications can move quickly through the plant’s leaves into the plant, improving health of the crop and yield.

If a rescue treatment is not feasible or economically sound, perhaps it is time to adjust yield expectations and management plans for 2021.

Invest Your Time

It’s important to invest the time to listen to your crops. Recognizing these nutrient deficiencies not only benefit your crop nutrition plan, it helps ensure the return on investment of all inputs, including seed, fuel, crop protection, as well as fertilizer.

As always, if your crop is not reaching its full potential, or the same problems keep appearing, contact your crop nutrition expert to help investigate potential nutrient deficiencies. We’re here to help you develop a crop nutrition plan to meet your yield goals.

Product Spotlight: Micro 500

Plants require 17 essential elements for maximum growth and production. Eight of these elements are micronutrients, while they are required in smaller amounts than macro and secondary nutrients they are still essential for plant growth. Five of the eight essential micronutrients can be found in Micro 500 – boron, copper, iron, manganese and zinc.

Micro 500 is a precision balanced combination of five essential micronutrients: boron, copper, iron, manganese and zinc. Micro 500 utilizes AgroLiquid’s Flavonol Polymer Technology and provides the benefit of synergized nutrients. Micro 500 should be considered when a specific micronutrient deficiency has not been established.

Micronutrient deficiencies are being seen in soil increasingly. Why is that?

  • 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.

 

The chart below shows research from the North Central Research Station. They did a comparison of micronutrients and the additional one and two quarts of Micro 500 gave an additional net return and yielded higher than the baseline and no micronutrients.

 

Tissue Testing- Staying Ahead of Changing Conditions

By: Reid Abbott, Regional Agronomist

The 2019 crop is thankfully in the rearview mirror. When looking back at last year’s growing
season as a whole, many of the variables growers dealt with were simply out of their control. Poor
or delayed planting conditions, flooded fields, untimely fertilizer and pesticide applications, and
late harvests were just some of the challenges that growers faced. While it is tempting to throw
up your hands and move on to 2020, there are some lessons to be learned to be better prepared
when Mother Nature throws a wrench in our plans. One effective way to stay ahead of changing
conditions throughout a growing season is to enroll in a tissue sampling program.

agroliquid staff member taking a tissue sample

Evaluate a Crop In-Season

While tissue sampling should never replace a sound soil sampling program, routine sampling throughout a growing season can very successfully indicate trends in plant health and nutrient efficiency as a crop is dealing with its environment.

Nutrient deficiencies can dramatically limit a grower’s yield potential in many cases. But “hidden hunger” (a term we use for nutrient deficiencies that show little to no outward symptoms) can be yield limiting as well. Tissue sampling can catch those deficiencies early in a plant’s life cycle while there is still time to take corrective action. Even though tissue testing generally looks strictly at nutrient levels, when paired with proper field scouting and an understanding of nutrient relationships, a grower can radically improve their ability to recognize all kinds of variables that are limiting their crop. Growers, in general, do not intentionally under-fertilize their crops. So, in many cases, deficiencies in one or more nutrients on a tissue test can be indicative of a larger problem. Using 2019 as an example, you could bet there were many tissue tests that came back low in nitrogen when adequate nitrogen was applied to start the season. In many areas, farmers were scrambling to figure out how to rescue-apply nitrogen to crops that had endured heavy leaching. But, what about other leachable nutrients like boron, sulfur, and in some cases potassium. To the untrained eye, some of these deficiencies could have even been mistaken for nitrogen deficiency or maybe they did not drop below the threshold of hidden hunger. A tissue test can provide that answer and allow a grower to better stay ahead of those needs amid challenging environmental hurdles. Compaction, drought, disease, insect and weed pressure, to name a few, can all contribute heavily to a crop’s efficient (or inefficient) use of applied nutrients. Tissue testing can be another tool in your toolbox to successfully navigate all of the trials your crop must undergo to reach physiological maturity.

The Proper Steps

For all of the benefits tissue sampling can bring to an operation, careful planning and execution must be taken to be able to rely on the results. Unfortunately, despite popular theory, there is more to tissue sampling than throwing some leaves in a bag and waiting for 3-5 days for the results. One of the most common mistakes is taking the wrong plant part for the designated growth stage or misreporting the crop’s growth stage altogether to the lab. Labs report nutrient levels by what is sufficient for that crop at a particular point in that plant’s growth cycle. For example, you can imagine the sufficiency range for many nutrients in vegetative growth stages differs from that of reproductive growth stages. Reporting the proper growth stage and collecting the correct plant part for that respective growth stage is imperative to getting accurate results. Of course, as with any sample work, collecting a representative sample of a given area is many times overlooked or lackadaisically done. Questionable or unexplainable results are often the result of statistical outliers that played too big of a role in the average. In addition, care should be exercised when
considering the condition of the samples received at the lab. A few basic hints:
• Use paper bags to hold the plant tissue instead of sealed plastic to avoid mildew
• Avoid keeping samples on the dashboard of a pickup or even in the toolbox where they risk drying out
• Do not take samples too soon after a foliar application has occurred to avoid skewing the results. Instead give the plant time to absorb and metabolize the supplied nutrients before measuring the effect they had on the tissue levels.

A Part of the Plan

After a proper soil test and solid fertility recommendation, tissue testing is the next step a grower can take to improve nutrient management and efficiency on their operation. While tissue samples only represent a single point in time during a growing season, when taken at multiple intervals, trends can be recorded and multiple angles of crop health diagnostics can be investigated. When planning your nutrient management strategy for 2020’s cropping season, investigate the possibility of deploying tissue testing on your operation with your local retailer or crop advisor.

 

Product Spotlight: Pro-Germinator

Pro Germinator

Pro-Germinator is our premier phosphorus fertilizer. Partnered with nitrogen, potassium, and micronutrients for maximum performance.

 

Pro-Germinator uses a combination of phosphate, nitrogen, potash and iron along with quick-release and slow-release phosphates that are protected by our Flavonol Polymer Technology. This combination allows for exceptional growth early on and helps plants during critical growth periods.

 

Product Benefits

  • Stimulates early growth
  • Provides steady source of essential nutrients
  • Reduced risk of leaf burn
  • Reduced risk of soil salinization and nutrient toxicity
  • Flexible application methods to reduce manpower required
  • Can be applied with other nutrients, pesticides, or fungicides

Pro-Germinator Use Guide

Get More With Less

Almond trial shows using less fertilizer compared to conventional treatments achieves equal to better results

Understanding Soil Quality

Almond acres have been steadily growing in California since the 1980s, and the crop is now California’s number one exported agricultural commodity. With over 2.4 million acres of trees planted, California grows over 85% of the world’s almonds. Virtually all commercially harvested almonds produced in the U.S. come from California. Most of that is due to the climate: warm, dry summers and cool, rainy winters are key to setting the tree up for success. But we know it takes more than a temperate climate to maximize a crop’s potential. AgroLiquid crop nutrition can be a
valuable tool in producing an abundant and quality almond crop. In an effort to determine the best sources, rates, timings and methods of application for this important crop, for the past two years, AgroLiquid has invested in
and run a full-scale research trial in almonds in California.

AgroLiquid has long believed in proving our technology through rigorous research and field testing. In western soils, we are looking at our technology performance compared to conventional fertilizer sources. Almonds are the perfect crop to test our Flavonol Polymer Technology, given how much potassium is needed to produce a crop. AgroLiquid’s
proprietary technology allows us to chelate/encapsulate nutrients within the sweet spot – not too loose, but not too tight. Our two year almond research trial has been conducted by Barat Basabri of Basabri Ag Research in
Newman, CA.

Trial details:
Each plot consists of five trees and was replicated six times across the orchard. Throughout the growing season, 50 gallons per acre (ga/A) of UAN-32 is applied as a constant in every plot.

Plot 1 (Conventional grower standard):
• 10-34-0 applied at 37.5 ga/A
• KTS applied at 40 ga/A
• EDTA Zinc (Zn) applied four times during the season for a total of 2 ga/A

Plot 2:
• Actagro’s Structure® applied at a rate of 25 ga/A
• KTS applied at 40 ga/A
• EDTA Zinc (Zn) applied four times during the season for a total of 2 ga/A

Plot 3:
• AgroLiquid’s PrG™ applied at 15 ga/A
• KTS applied at 40 ga/A
• EDTA Zinc (Zn) applied four times during the season for a total of 2 ga/A

Plot 4:
• AgroLiquid’s PrG applied at 15 ga/A
• AgroLiquid’s Kalibrate™ at a rate of 13.2 ga/A
• EDTA Zinc (Zn) applied four times during the season for a total of 2 ga/A

The results of the two-year averages are as follows. Plot 1: The “Grower Standard” of 10-34-0 + KTS yielded an average of 2,616 lbs. per acre. The second plot where Structure® was used in place of 10-34-0 + KTS, yielded a two-year average of 2,825 lbs./acre. The third plot was AgroLiquid’s PrG + KTS which yielded an average of 2,840 lbs./acre. The final plot was a full AgroLiquid program using both PrG + Kalibrate which yielded a two-year average of 2,829 lbs./acre. Yield results in the last three plots were comparable. For complete details on the almond trial please refer to the AgroLiquid website: research.agroliquid.com where all of our research data can be found dating back to 1983.

Potassium and Forage Quality

Potassium and Forage Quality

Dan Peterson, Field Agronomy Manager

 

The subject of forage quality and its relationship to cow health and milk yield is a fascinating, yet highly complex subject. In the Midwest, Northeast, and West, dairy forages are primarily alfalfa and corn silage; Other crops, such as pea and oat mixtures, also play a role. Grass forages, including the various sorghums, play a larger role in more southern areas where it is difficult to grow alfalfa. What are the factors involved in producing high quality forage? One factor that should not be overlooked is fertilizer and soil fertility.

 

AgroLiquid is actively researching how fertilization practices influence forage digestibility and quality. Why digestibility? Think of a cow as a milk “factory”. The primary factor that limits production is how much “raw material” the factory can process each day. So, for example, if our “milk factory” can consume a maximum of 85 pounds of feed per day, the amount of energy and nutrients contained within that 85 pounds that the cow is able to extract and utilize is what determines how much milk that cow can produce. Differences in the amount of energy extracted (how digestible the feed is) directly correlates to the amount of milk that factory will produce. Why not just feed the very highest energy feeds possible – grain and fats? The answer is that cows are ruminants, having multiple “stomachs”. Their digestive system uses bacteria and enzymes to digest fibrous plant material. For their digestive system to work properly it must have large amounts of digestible and indigestible fiber. Fats (like vegetable oils) largely pass through this system undigested. This system is also limited to how much non-fibrous concentrate (grains) it can handle. Why is alfalfa so important as a dairy cow forage? The reasons include its overall yield, higher digestible energy content compared with grasses, its high levels of usable protein, and its mineral nutrient content including the critically important calcium (why milk is a great source of dietary calcium).

 

Of the three macronutrients, nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K), potassium may the least understood in how it influences forage digestibility. Potassium plays a large role in the yield and quality of forage crops. Potassium plays a key role in the photosynthesis, respiration, translocation and many enzyme systems in plants, and also increases disease resistance. For alfalfa, potassium is a dichotomy of sorts. It strongly influences yield, but only to a point – I will discuss that in greater length later in this article. Other ways it is important include improving the level of carbohydrates stored in alfalfa roots. Greater stand persistence is a result.

 

Maximum alfalfa yields are usually reached with potassium concentrations in midstem samples of 1.25 to 1.75% and in the top six inches of the plant of 2.0 to 2.5%. Higher concentrations are undesirable in alfalfa because it reduces calcium and other element concentrations, thereby adversely affecting the cow’s utilization of the forage and increasing the occurrence of “milk fever” after calving (an acute deficiency of blood calcium). The way it happens is this: As dairy cows enter the lactation stage “freshening” prior to calving, large amounts of calcium leave the cow’s blood and enters the milk she is now producing faster than it can be replaced. This decreased calcium concentration in the blood lowers the blood pH, causing nerve disorders, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, paralysis, and subsequent death if not treated immediately. The rations for freshening cows should therefore be relatively anionic (lower in potassium) in the month prior to calving to raise blood calcium levels. But, having a steadily available supply of lower potassium alfalfa is difficult because producers often fertilize for high forage yields with potassium chloride fertilizer without regard to actual soil test levels, and in trying to maximize alfalfa yields. Through soil testing, lower potassium concentrations in forages are possible by avoiding building soil potassium to higher levels than necessary and using careful fertilization practices.

 

The most common source of potassium fertilizer is potassium chloride, a pure salt. It’s well known that high rates of potassium chloride often create a chloride toxicity, particularly where significant soil chloride levels are already present, which is often the case where manure is spread. Excess chloride can also reduce plants’ uptake of other vital nutrients like nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, boron and others, which often takes a heavy toll on yields and forage quality. The very high salt of potassium chloride can also lead to reduced soil microbiological activity and poor germination of new seeding.

 

According to David Weber writing in the Progressive Dairyman, “Particularly in fresh cows, research shows how alarming forages high in chloride can be for performance and health. In fact increasing levels of chloride in lactating diets has a negative effect on feed intake and milk production. To avoid these pitfalls, diets must be formulated to account for the variability in forage chloride levels to optimize milk production. Chloride is continually recycled on the dairy. Potassium exits the farm in many avenues, including in the milk. Chloride, though, is left behind in manure and applied back onto the fields. The rising chloride levels and the continuous potassium chloride fertilization have resulted in extreme forage variability in macromineral levels”. Weber found that some forages had chloride levels over 1 percent of ration dry matter, which negatively affects lactating cow performance and health. To account for the chloride being regularly applied through potassium chloride fertilizer, routine chlorine testing in all forages is advised. This information will allow ration formulation to meet cows’ needs.