Agronomy Update March 2019
Posted on March 12, 2019
By Jessica Stacy, Product Specialist
Current weather conditions have not been ideal for the ground to dry out and warm up for the upcoming growing season. It’s been cold and wet with no end in sight. According to the latest Crop Progress Report, 44 out of 48 states have a surplus of soil moisture (figure 1). As spring comes closer and you start itching to get into the fields, prepare your crops for success even in unfavorable conditions. In this month’s Agronomy Update, we will discuss the importance of an orthophosphate starter and some companions for the tank.
Figure 1: Chart using data from November 26th Crop Progress Report demonstrating percentage of soils with a surplus of soil moisture.
Phosphorus (P) is often found deficient in U.S. soils, with 14 states and four Canadian provinces having over half of soils test below the critical level (figure 2). Phosphorus is the main component of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the compound required for energy production, making it necessary for all functions of life. Given the importance of phosphorus, it is essential that uptake is efficient. However, this is not always the case.
Figure 2: Map of the United States by IPNI showing percentage of soil samples tested below critical levels of phosphorus in 2015.
According to the University of Nebraska, “Phosphorus fertilizer is generally quite inefficient in terms of actual fertilizer phosphorus that actually gets into the plant. Various experiments indicate perhaps 5-8% is about all we expect.” Phosphorus is also needed in very large amounts early in the season. The graph below represents the phosphorus concentration in the corn shoot at various times of the growing season (figure 3). When you consider the inefficiency and the huge need for phosphorus, this has the potential for creating the perfect storm in the middle of adverse growing conditions.
Figure 3: Graph representing phosphorus concentration in the corn shoot at various growth stages during the season.
There are two main types of phosphorus – orthophosphate and polyphosphate. In the polyphosphate form, phosphorus is not immediately available to plants and needs time to convert to a usable form. Between half and three-quarters of the phosphorus is locked up, as phosphate molecules are chained together, requiring time to convert into single phosphate molecules. These single phosphate molecules are otherwise known as orthophosphate (figure 4). The process of polyphosphate molecules breaking down to orthophosphate is known as hydrolysis. The speed in which hydrolysis occurs is affected largely by microbial activity, meaning warmer soil temperatures leads to more active microbes, causing a quicker conversion to the orthophosphate form. This is important as the one thing that seedlings don’t have is time to spare!
Figure 4: Various chain lengths of phosphate molecules. Orthophosphate is a single molecule and immediately available while polyphosphate requires time to break down. Source: cropnutrition.com/polyphosphate
Orthophosphate is immediately available to the plant, eliminating the time required for phosphate conversion from chained polymers to single molecules. The Andersons PureGrade® liquid starters are formulated with orthophosphate in three different ratios – Diamond 100% ortho, GoldStart® 80% ortho and Premium 50% ortho. PureGrade starters offer the necessary phosphorus to promote energy production, helping the plant overcome the stresses of early planted corn.
Phosphorus is not the only nutrient necessary for quick and even emergence. Zinc, manganese, and boron are three essential micronutrients with high demand early in the growing season. Although these micronutrients are needed in small amounts, they are often found to be deficient in soils. Zinc and boron are the two most deficient micronutrients in the world (figure 5).
Figure 5: Map of the United States by IPNI highlighting areas with a presence of zinc deficiency.
Each nutrient plays a vital role in plant growth. Zinc governs the production of auxin, which determines leaf size. Alongside phosphorus, zinc helps regulate energy production (ATP) for protein synthesis and seed and grain formation. The role of manganese in the plant is in chloroplast formation, photosynthesis, and nitrogen metabolism. Boron is essential for growth and development, sugar balancing, pollination, and seed and grain fill. Boron is mobile in the soil, so in situations with heavy moisture, boron needs replaced.
Zinc, manganese, and boron can be found neatly packed alongside a fulvic acid in the product MicroCarb ZMB™. Fulvic acid is a natural chelate, helping increase nutrient uptake. Additionally, fulvic acid increases the permeability of cell membranes and enhances the natural processes of the crop.
Remember, as you prepare for the upcoming spring, to consider using a high orthophosphate starter from the PureGrade line to enhance the early season performance of your crop. Using a PureGrade starter with an additive like MicroCarb ZMB will provide the greatest benefit and return on investment.
By Jessica Stacy, Product Specialist
In the above trial, PureGrade Diamond 6-24-6 was applied at a rate of 5 gallons/acre to corn. A yield advantage of 6.9 bu/acre was observed compared to the untreated check. This trial was conducted by Beck’s PFR 2018 in southern Illinois.
Over the course of 55 trials with MicroCarb ZMB in corn, a positive yield advantage was observed 87% of the time over the untreated control. The above graph is a compilation of all corn trials involving MicroCarb ZMB soil and foliar applied from years 2014-2018 in test locations CO, NE, WI, IN, IL, IA, MN, and OH.
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