By Luke Schulte, CCA, Field Agronomist, Beck’s Hybrids
For most of you, rain accumulation was below normal in late May and June. When the soil is abnormally dry, nutrients become more difficult to absorb from the soil profile. This is due to several reasons. Elements such as nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S) are mainly taken up in water. Potassium (K) is reduced in dry soils. In warm and dry soil, the activity of microorganisms is reduced, so the conversion of nutrients from organic forms is reduced.
It’s important to remember that nutrient deficiencies will become apparent in the coming weeks, but a visible nutrient deficiency does not mean your dry compost and/or starter program is off. As much of our land dries out, soil nutrition may be available, just not available for root uptake. Our plants have the ability to take up much higher amounts of nutrients in their roots than they do in leaf tissue. However, foliar feeding can be beneficial, especially when signs of nutritional deficiency appear.
The success and profitability of a foliar feed product or program is all about absorption and product selection. Incorporating the following components into a foliar program will result in more plant uptake and increased ROI.
Factors that help maximize utilization include:
Fulvic acids are incredibly strong chelators and are very small molecules. The combination of size and the ability to form strong complexes with substances has a significant impact on nutrition.
Fulvic acids act as antioxidants. Simply put, plants can help cope with stresses such as drought by reducing damage to neighboring cell units. By reducing cell loss, the plant does not expend energy on cell maintenance, so more energy is available for growth and dry matter accumulation. The VersaMax line of products from Rosen’s Incorporated each contain fulvic acid.
Potassium is a large molecule and it is difficult to enter the plant through the leaf tissue. However, the source of potassium can have a significant effect on plant absorption. Foliar nutrients derived from potassium acetate (>500%) are more likely to be absorbed by plant tissue. Potassium plays an important role in soybean flower initiation as well as regulating water vapor exchange (keeping the plant moist). Potassium acetate is also an antioxidant.
Water represents the largest component in any spray solution that touches the plant. Water sources vary greatly from area to area. However, most well water is considered “hard”. Hard water is caused by high concentrations of cations (mainly Ca, Mg and Na) and often has an alkaline pH. These hard water minerals can be counterproductive, which prevents the absorption of the spray solution.
BRANDT Application 5 acts as a water conditioner to resist hard water and acidic effects. This conditioner has a built-in pH indicator that turns the spray water pink when it reaches a pH level of 4.5 to 5.5.
Choice Trio works as a water conditioner, softening and softening hard water stains.
Additives are designed to help a pesticide, fungicide or foliar nutrient penetrate the plant. How you do it varies. However, those that successfully increase the rate of absorption and moisture retention typically do more. MAX-IN products by Winfield United contain Cornsorb technology, which is a crop-based adjuvant designed to do just that – increase humability and uptake.
Time of day
As you read this, many corn and soybean acres are entering the critical yield-determining stages, flowering and ear initiation (approximately V5/V6). Plant health, vigor, and nutrition all play critical roles in maximizing the size and shape of these reproductive plant structures.
Applying foliar nutrients in the morning or cool hours is more effective and profitable than applying during the heat of the day. This happens for several reasons.
- Dew and dew are abundant on leaves in the morning. This extra moisture can be used as an additional carrier for more nutrients in plants.
- Cooler temperatures allow plants to retain moisture longer, which slows down the rate of evaporation.
- The stomata (the small holes or openings at the base of the leaves) are open in the morning, which allows more uptake.
The key to turning these concepts into profit is not relying on just one element. Include several of these in your foliar program if you want to really increase nutrition, reduce plant stress, and make a difference.