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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.
So just like that and they’re gone. Research Field Days for 2014 are but a memory. Hope you had a chance to join us. There was certainly plenty of opportunity with 16 scheduled tours. And last Thursday (August 29) was the last one. The NCRS looked good and fresh the whole time thanks to the ample rainfall through the summer. We didn’t even have to add water to these sunflowers on the Demonstration Farm. The first RFD tour week was shown earlier in a blog post. This is to tie up loose ends and show more stuff.
Prior to the arrival of the first bus there is a difference of opinion over tour directions.
Well they got it figured out as the first bus rolled in and passengers debussed to start the demonstrations tour.
I didn’t get a close-up of Jeff last time, but here he is showing the root digs and something new. He has a fertilizer demonstration of corn growing in these new cylinders. Hard to see in the pic, but the Liquid corn is a little taller and darker green that that of the 10-34-0 or dry DAP.
There was a schedule to be followed, and Phil sounds the rotation horn to make sure we stick to it.
Here we see Kalvin showing a group the winter wheat demonstration. It was planted several weeks ago so that you could see fertilizer effects on this tour. You could. (And I missed Kalvin last time too.) School had started for the other interns, but Kalvin arranged his schedule so that he could be here for the last day. Unless all of his teachers are reading this. And why wouldn’t they be?
Here is something Brian sets up each year. Taste and see if you can tell differences in fertilizer sources for watermelon, cantaloupe and green pepper. Summer work crew members Josh and Nick mind the store.
When it was time to be trailered over to the replicated plot research on Farm 7, we were pulled by either Tim B or Ron. Well I guess I mean that they drove the tractors that pulled the trailers. That’s Tim below ready for business.
And there’s Ron with no time to pose. Thanks for the trips guys.
And here was something I thought was interesting. Well since I talked about it for two weeks. But it is a research plot on fertilizer sustainability. Like what happens to yield and soil test after years of different fertilizer usage? Well this is a long-term corn-soybean rotation of the same fertilizer programs in the same replicated plots each year under dryland conditions. This is the fourth year. For corn, a 180-30-60 plus micros program is followed for conventional liquid and dry fertilizers. And of course there is an AgroLiquid recommendation as well with those reduced rate nutrients. Two other treatments were nitrogen only (using reduced rate 28% with eNhance) and a treatment that applied the same actual rates of nutrients that were applied with AgroLiquid, but using conventional products. (Note: In the conventional treatments, two years of potash is applied after the previous soybean crop to feed the next corn and soybean crops.) Below we see ear (three consecutive) and root samples from the plot border rows of Rep 3, where we are.
The ears from the full rate conventional treatments and the AgroLiquid treatment are larger and darker yellow than the low rate conventional and especially the N only ears. Similar with the roots, although the AgroLiquid roots covered more area. Now this is a simple single sample, but it is telling. Certainly there is a P and K and micros response vs N only (trt 4). Treatments 1 and 5 have the same pounds per acre of applied nutrients, yet the AgroLiquid is much larger in ear and root size. But yield is what matters, and the AgroLiquid has the highest 3-year average yield by a good bit. This difference is more than was expected, but this is what it was. Also of note was the high average to date with the low rate conventional treatment (trt 1). It was high the first two years, but dropped off to be 10 bu/A less than the full rate conventionals last year. And based on appearance this year, it doesn’t look sustainable here in year four. But time will tell, and time is running out.
Day one of the I-75 Ohio crop tour wrapped with participants having seen fields in Williams, Defiance, Henry, Wood, HancocK, Seneca, Putnam, Paulding, Van Wert, Allen and Auglaize counties. The overall outlook for the state is positive, though nutrient deficiencies, disease, water issues and other problems did present in some fields. AgroLiquid VP of Organizational Planning and Operations Nick Bancroft was in attendance and shared his thoughts on camera throughout the tour.
1. Take advantage of wintertime promotions. As cold as it may be in some parts of the country, the clock is ticking on wintertime promotions. If you haven’t already, now is the time to contact a local agronomist to take advantage of money-saving sales on your 2014 plant nutrition program. Whether you’re a new client looking for rebates to help convert your planter or drill so you can apply liquid fertilizer, or an existing customer just looking to reduce your input costs; AgroLiquid has a program for you. But you know what they say about which bird gets the worm – take action early, to boost profits later.
2. Consult an agronomist for a complete plant nutrition program. You know your fields better than anyone. That’s why combining your familiarity and knowledge with the expertise of a good agronomist can be the difference between a good year and a great one. AgroLiquid agronomists can help you make sure you leave no nutrient unaddressed, and no yield potential in the field.
3. Don’t forget your micros. N, P and K are important, but we now know micronutrients are, too. Not only can micros boost yield, in some cases they’ve been shown to bolster crop health, increase quality and ward off disease. Learn more at our MicroLink page.
4. Brush up on the latest research. Between equipment tune-ups, taxes and pre-plant planning, there is little actual downtime for today’s producers, but don’t let continuing education slip through the cracks. Reading through some of the latest research in seeds, crop nutrition, and plant nutrition will help you make the best possible decisions for the coming year. The AgroLiquid 2013 Research Report is a great place to start. After that, don’t forget to dig through our research results archive, too.
5. Consider Nitrogen efficiency enhancers. Supporting your crop’s ability to utilize nitrogen is one way to make sure what you apply to your fields pays you back in yields. Nitrogen enhancing products such as AgroLiquid’s eNhance, can help you get more while applying less. Learn more about eNhance.