AgroLiquid on Rural America LIVE

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.

Salt Index


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 on Apples

Why is calcium important?

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.BMSB.-Bitter-Pit-1h84hub

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.Ca on apples

“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

Fertilizer Program Sustainability in Corn 2011-2015

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).

Download a pdf version of Fertilizer Sustainability in Corn

Research Field Days 2015

LIVE FROM THE NCRS: Melon & Pumpkin Contest Here in St. Johns

So the weekend before last was the big giant pumpkin and watermelon contest at Andy T’s Farm Market here in St. Johns.  It’s an annual event featured annually here in the blog.  Why?  Because Liquid’s own specialty crop researchers Brian and Tim have entries each year.  Sadly I was away and missed it, but Tim’s wife Pauline provided this photo-account.  Below are some of the giant pumpkin entrants awaiting the call to the scales.  Not sure about the genetics, but I like a bright orange pumpkin compared to the pale ones.  But beauty is sacrificed for size it appears.

 Here is Brian’s pumpkin from Farm 12 of the NCRS.  It was a whopping 779 pounds.  That was an improvement over the previous years and a good sized gourd.  However, first place was 1656 pounds!  And second was 1655 pounds!  That was a neck and neck finish, or maybe stem and stem. Brian finished in the top half of the 29 the entries which is pretty good.  But he has so many other responsibilities at the NCRS that sometimes he missed story hour and morning snack with his pumpkin.  I told him to go out next year and shoot for a thousand pounder.  But he will be back.

But Tim was once again the Watermelon King.  He successfully defended his title with a gushing 224 pound melon.  Tim grew his with AgroLiquid, but is a little tight lipped with all of his secrets for success.  It doesn’t matter, just keep winning Tim.  Congratulations!

So I’m sure that they already have next year’s contest date circled on the calendar.  And you know results will be reported here.  So see you next year.

NOAA: Warmer Winter in 2014-15

off03_tempOn the heels of a cool, wet spring and summer in the midwest the Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a warmer, drier winter for the region, with the driest area sitting over the Great Lakes and extending south through Kentucky and Tennessee. While the deep south, southwest and at least the southern half of the west coast are expected to experience above average precipitation January through March, it’s unlikely to relieve the historical drought griping California’s agricultural bread basket. Meanwhile, the entire west coast is also expected to continue experiencing above average temperatures.

The warmer winter temperatures will no doubt be welcomed by midwesterners and could help avoid a repeat of the propane shortages and railway backups seen last year, but if the predictions come true they could also catch producers who continue to grapple with input purchasing decisions in a tight spot as planting time approaches quicker than expected and the market is flooded with last minute seed, fertilizer and chemical shoppers. “There is a lot of trepidation in the market right now,” said Galynn Beer, Senior Sales Manager for AgroLiquid, “Growers are waiting for inputs to sync with outputs. The risk is if that waiting game goes on too long and a rush on the market later has the exact opposite effect they’re looking for.”

Most ag companies run promotions through autumn and early winter to reward producers who plan ahead and help alleviate the inevitable glut of last minute orders. This year, Beer says, is a perfect example of why those promotions are so important for both agribusinesses and their grower-customers. “Input purchases are not unlike futures contracts,” Beer added. “Pre-buying inputs during or directly following harvest for next year is one way to lock in a fair price when there is a lot of uncertainty still ahead.”

LIVE FROM THE NCRS: Research in Oklahoma

So I was back in Oklahoma last week.  By chance, there was a farmer tour that I was able to attend at a place that helped to steer me down the road of crop research.  It was at the Caddo Research Station near Ft. Cobb in SW OK.  As an undergraduate college student at Oklahoma State University, I got a job at the OSU Agronomy Farm in the Weed Science department helping with field plots.  One of the farms where we established replicated plots for herbicide evaluations in peanuts was this one right here.  It’s a couple of hours drive here from OSU in Stillwater, but I was down here frequently back in the day. So it was fun to be back on the farm for the first time in….well, many years.


One memory I have of the place is the time I was driving here and turned on the radio and they were playing all of these Elvis Presley songs.  I remember thinking “did Elvis die or something?”  And sure enough as I drove down this lane to the station, the announcer said that Elvis had in fact, died that day.  It was August 16, 1977.  So I remember that moment 37 years ago, but admittedly this morning is a little fuzzy.


Actually, AgroLiquid was one of the sponsors of this tour, being the farming community boosters that we are.  I was accompanied by Area Sales Manager Ed Granger who lives nearby, and field agronomist Reid.  Here we see Ed and Reid pulling each other’s leg, although don’t pull Reid’s too hard right now.  (You know, that’s another one of those odd sayings.  I like to joke around, but really have no desire to actually pull someone’s leg. Who knows where it’s been?  There’s probably some strange origin of that. I’ll let you know if there is.)



One stop was to see some of the new genetics in cotton for dicamba tolerance, which is the XtendFlex trait.  Dicamba is the active ingredient in the herbicide Banvel, or Clarity as it is now.  Well dicamba can drift and even small amounts are pretty harsh on cotton.  But they have incorporated dicamba tolerance now to go along with glyphosate (Roundup) and glufosinate (Liberty) tolerance.  So this gives other options for weed control where resistance could be an issue.  These were from Deltapine and Americot seeds, and it will be several years till wide-spread sales.  But I wonder how smooth the transition will be.  Everyone probably has a dicamba story, but I remember spraying Banvel on corn at the NCRS years ago.  We had poly (polyethylene) tanks on the sprayer then.  We then cleaned the tank, thoroughly we thought, to spray something else. Well we sprayed two tanks of something else on corn, and then loaded up a tank of Roundup to spray some soybeans, and later saw some dicamba injury on those beans! After that we converted to stainless steel sprayer tanks.  So we will see how the transition goes. I forgot to say that since this is still under development, they had it all roped off and you had to sign your name in order to view the plots. It was similar to the Enlist trait in soybeans for 2,4-D tolerance that I reported on from the Ag Ph.D field day in July.


Another stop was to look at different peanut varieties being tested, both established and experimental. They also had some stops for cotton and peanut weed control.  But sadly nothing being researched on fertility.  Hmmm.


We also stopped to see our replicated plot research  at a facility in Hinton.  That’s Area Sales Manager Parker Christian on the right with Reid.  (He proudly wears his Aggie hat everywhere. Nice to see that in Oklahoma.  Not.)  It looks like something has caught Reid’s eye.

IMG_3065Yikes. On the underside of a milo leaf there is an explosion of what looks like aphids.  Well Parker and Reid informed me that they are Sugarcane Aphids.  Well I had never heard of these and they are new this year to Oklahoma.  I did a little reading and it seems that they blew up from Texas this year, having moved over from Sugarcane in Louisiana over a decade ago.  But they haven’t really been much of a problem in Texas sorghum until last year.  And now here they are in OK.  Although you can’t see it from here, they are all female, and produce asexually (what?).  They actually give live birth to 8 to 20 baby aphids.  That’s why you see different sizes in the pic.  And so many.  Well they aren’t babies for long as they reproduce again in only 2 to 7 days after they are born themselves.  So no boys, no prom….no fun.  See those black things?  Those are Ladybug larvae eating them.  But they are definitely not keeping up.  If you see 40% of plants infested, then it suggested to spray. Dimethoate is effective.  But infested plants decline in growth and grain production, especially with early infestation.  These were likely recently attacked.


Here is another problem.  The leaves underneath the infested leaves become all wet with aphid Honeydew.(Can’t believe in ancient times they drank this stuff.)  Well this can clog up a combine at harvest if there are too many infested plants.



Fortunately our plants were below threshold and harvest isn’t that far off anyway.  But if they are able to overwinter up here, then look out next year.  (Note: the lighter leaves on the right half are that way in the pic due to the sun angle, not from aphids or treatment differences.  Now some underhanded researchers may say it’s a treatment difference, but we’re too honest.  No, really.)

Well I learned some things on this trip, although I could have done without the aphid education. Farming is tough enough already.  Tomorrow I will show some more Oklahoma adventures in real farmer fields.  Tune in again.  You’ll be glad you did, and no pests will be mentioned.  Well besides Reid that is.



Key Stages For Fertilization In Fruit Production

Four of the critical stages of high nutrient demand for fruit trees are pollination, early development, mid to late season, and late season/postharvest. During these times, growers should be sure to maintain healthy fertilization levels.

Some tips for nutrient management during each stage of fruit production:

Stage 1: Pollination

Fertilizing for fruit set actually starts the season before during bud development. This year, you’ll feed the buds from the prior season for good fruit set for this season. Fertilization during bud development is important because you can always thin fruit off, but you can’t create blossoms and fruit set if you don’t have it at the beginning. Boron is critical during pollination and early fruit set. Many growers apply a foliar boron spray, particularly during early bloom. Foliar applications are the most efficient method of uptake, and a foliar spray applies nutrient right where it needs to be – on the buds themselves. The buds are a small target, so growers don’t need to apply much. In most cases, only a pound or two of boron per acre per season would be needed.

Fase2 growth nutrients during this phase will stimulate growth in perennial crops such as orchards and vineyards. Fase2 promotes fruit set and bud retention and is intended for foliar applications.

Stage 2: Early Development

Early development is largely about nitrogen and phosphorus, applied to produce a good canopy and for the energy to get and hold fruit set. Overall, fertilizer rates will be based on what’s appropriate for the age of the tree and the results of a soil test.

Stage 3: Mid To Late Season

Calcium and potassium are the nutrients to monitor mid- to late-season. While every variety will need more potassium during this time, calcium is especially important for Honeycrisp apples.

Foliar applications are the way to fine tune a crop, fill in certain growth stages, or deal with a dry period of little water uptake – but start with the soil to get the right balance. As trees will also be setting buds for next season during this phase, micronutrients can be important to apply at this time.

Stage 4: Late Season/Post Harvest

Some of the very early season apple varieties and all types of cherries will have a fair bit of growing to do, even into the late season. For these, maintaining insecticide and fungicide applications, even after harvest, will maintain leaves as long as possible and give trees more energy going into winter. Some growers have also been looking into late-season nitrogen as a way to improve spring flush and vigor.

Throughout the entire growing season, Pro-Germinator and Sure-K are two main nutrition products that support a balanced fertilizer program. Pro-Germinator is primarily used as a soil application, but it can also be applied as a foliar nutrient. It provides season-long phosphorus availability. Sure-K provides potassium for foliar or fertigation applications, which allows flexible use depending on crop or variety. For those varieties that need additional calcium, Liberate Ca from AgroLiquid can be tank mixed with many other products for efficient source of calcium applications.

Industry & Community Leaders Kick Off Agriculture Education Center

ST. JOHNS, MICH. — The Grand Opening of the IQhub, a 9500-square foot center for agriculture history, innovation and exploration inside Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers’ World Headquarters in St. Johns, Michigan, saw some of the most prominent industry and community leaders in one place Friday, September, 12. Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, Michigan House Representative Tom Leonard, Michigan Farm Bureau President Wayne Wood, Michigan Corn Growers Association Executive Director Jim Zook and AgroLiquid’s own CEO Troy Bancroft joined AgroLiquid Education & Outreach Manager Burt Henry in opening comments before moving to the entrance of the IQhub for a formal ribbon-cutting.


Both the Michigan Corn Growers Association and Michigan Farm Bureau, along with Greenstone Farm Credit Services and Spartan Insurance Agency made generous donations to the IQhub transportation grant fund in the weeks and months leading up to the grand opening. The grant fund will help cover the costs schools incur in transporting students to and from the IQhub for field trips.

The event was attended by the local mid-Michigan community, Michigan educators, members of the press and community leaders such as Congressman Gary Peters (D) of Michigan’s 14th district. The facility features 23 museum-quality exhibits chronicling the changes in agriculture over roughly four-hundred years. Beginning with Squanto’s interactions with the pilgrims and progressing through modern day production and the challenges we face feeding a growing world population.


Visitors to the IQhub can immerse themselves in the history — and related innovation — of tillage practices over the years, explore the way water moves through soil, imagine what the world will look like with a population of more than 9 billion people in 2050 and even get hands-on in a cutting-edge tractor simulator.

Meanwhile, younger attendees can make the connection between farm and fork in the adjacent Kids’ Korner. There, many of the same concepts are introduced in an age appropriate manner, engaging children ages 4-9 in games, books and hands-on demonstrations to help them understand how agriculture affects their daily life.


“An affordable, abundant food supply is essential and we know America’s farmers and America’s consumers have to work together as partners to ensure that supply is available for future generations,” said Henry. “The IQhub is a center where consumers can come to learn more about agriculture and how it feeds the world.”

The IQhub opens for regular business hours beginning Monday, September 15. The center will be open 9:00 – 4:30 pm Monday through Friday and 10:00 – 2:00 on Saturday. Admission is free and transportation grants are available for schools to help cover the cost of field trips to the IQhub. For more information visit the IQhub page, contact Burt Henry at or call 989-227-3850.