Increase nutrition, minimize plant stress and make a difference

By Luke Schulte, CCA, Field Agronomist, Beck’s Hybrids

For most of you, late May and June have been well below normal regarding rain accumulation. As soils become abnormally dry, nutrients become more difficult to pull from the soil profile. This is due to several reasons. Nutrients like nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S) are primarily taken in the plant with water. Potassium (K) becomes less exchangeable in dry soils. Nutrient conversion from organic forms slows as microbial activity is lessened in hot, dry soils.

As nutrient deficiencies are observed in the coming weeks, it’s important to remember that visual nutrient shortages do not necessarily mean your dry fertilizer and/or starter program were lacking. As dry as many of our soils have become, soil nutrition may be present, just not available for root uptake. Our plants have the ability to take up significantly higher nutrient volumes via the roots than they do through the leaf tissue. However, foliar feeding can be beneficial, especially when signs of malnutrition are observed.  

The success and profitability of a foliar feed product or program are all about absorption and product selection. The inclusion of the following components into a foliar program will lead to a greater likelihood of plant uptake and increased ROI.

Components to maximize uptake include:

Fulvic acid  
Fulvic acids are incredibly strong chelators and are very small molecules. The combination of size and ability to form strong complexes with nutrients helps to significantly impact nutritional intake.

Fulvic acids also serve as antioxidants. Simply put, they help plants combat stresses like drought by minimizing the compromising of neighboring cell components. By minimizing cell destruction, the plant doesn’t expend energy on cell repair, thus more energy towards growth and dry matter accumulation. The Versa Max line of products from Rosen’s Incorporated each contain a fulvic acid.

Potassium acetate  
Potassium is a large molecule and is difficult to get into the plant through the leaf tissue. However, the source of the potassium can significantly impact absorption by the plant. Foliar feeds derived from potassium acetate are much more likely (> 500%) to be absorbed by plant tissue. Potassium plays a pivotal role in soybean flower initiation, as well as in regulating water vapor exchange (keeping the plant hydrated). Potassium acetate is also an antioxidant.

Water conditioners  
Water represents the largest component within any spray solution that touches the plant. Water sources vary considerably from area to area. However, much of the water sourced from wells is considered “hard.” Hard water is caused by high levels of cations (primarily Ca, Mg, and Na) and often possesses an alkaline pH. These hard water minerals can be antagonistic, inhibiting the absorption of the spray solution.

BRANDT Indicate 5 works as a water conditioner to counter the effect of hard water and an acidifier. This conditioner has a built-in pH indicator that turns the spray water pink when a pH level of 4.5 to 5.5 is reached. 

Choice Trio works as a water conditioner by sequestering, chelating, and complexing hard water cations.

Adjuvant technology  
Adjuvants are designed to help get more of a pesticide, fungicide, or foliar nutrient into the plant. How they do so will vary. However, those that successfully increase the speed of absorption and moisture retention typically perform more consistently. The MAX-IN products by Winfield United contain CornSorb technology, which is a crop-based adjuvant designed to do just that — increase humectancy and uptake.

Time of day  
As you read this, many corn and soybean acres are entering crucial yield-determining stages, flowering, and ear initiation (approx. V5/V6). Plant health, vigor, and nutrition all play a pivotal role in maximizing the volume and size of these reproductive plant structures.

Applying foliar nutrients in the morning or during cooler hours is more effective and profitable than those made in the heat of the day. This occurs for several reasons.  

  • Dew and respired water is more abundant on the leaves in the morning. This added moisture can serve as an additional carrier to get more nutrition in the plant.
  • Cooler temperatures allow plants to retain moisture longer, slowing evaporation rates.
  • The stomata (small pores or openings on the underside of the leaves) are open in the morning, allowing for increased uptake.

The key to turning these concepts into profits is to not rely on just one component. Incorporate several of these practices into your foliar program if you want to truly increase nutrition, minimize plant stress and make a difference.

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One comment

  1. It is a fact that many people wonder why plants can grow well in arid lands or in harsh weather. This article probably answers part of this question.

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