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Update from the Field: Relying on Hope is Not a Profitable Plan

Posted by Dave Dyson, Agronomist on May 01, 2020

Creating a plan for in-season foliar applications is essential for crop success, as simply relying on hope is not a profitable method. The crop requires adequate nutrition throughout the growing season to maximize yield at harvest. There are numerous factors to consider throughout the season such as hidden hunger, critical growth stages, and proper fertilization to meet crop needs. 

With regards to yield, a crop can only perform as well as the most limiting nutrient allows. This concept is known as the “law of the minimum”. The law of the minimum is represented by a stave barrel, where each nutrient is a stave and the water is yield. A nutrient deficiency is represented by shortening a stave. The water can only rise as high as the shortest stave, even if all other nutrients are at adequate levels, Figure 1.


 

Figure 1: The stave barrel utilized to describe the law of the minimum.

“Hidden hunger” is a term used to describe nutrient deficiencies that are not exhibiting visual symptoms. A nutrient deficiency causes stress on the plant, thereby reducing yield. If a grower is not prepared for a crop’s hidden hunger, they will be chasing deficiencies all summer.  To avoid falling victim to a “hidden hunger” and risk losing yield potential, perform a tissue test to diagnose hidden nutrient deficiencies. Once tissue test results are received, a foliar fertilizer strategy can be developed to ensure the crop has the proper nutrition needed to maximize yield. 

There are critical times in the corn and soybean season that can determine the difference between a 10% increase or a 10% decrease in yield. During the critical growth stages in corn is when it is essential to minimize as much stress as possible. These critical growth stages are V5, V10, and VT. The 5th leaf collar, V5, is when the corn plant determines the maximum number of kernel rows that will be around the cob. The 10th collar, V10, is when the corn plant determines the maximum length of the ear. When the tassel emerges, VT, the plant requires specialized nutrients to develop silks and kernels to fill out maximum ear size.

Soybeans are a little simpler to manage. There are two growth stages that are critical times to minimize stress. The R1 growth stage is when flowering begins. At this time, the plant switches from concentrating on vegetative growth to reproduction. The R3 growth stage is when pod development starts, and the soybean plant requires an exponential amount of nutrients to progress through seed set.

Understanding critical growth stages and yield-limiting nutrients will help in developing a season-long approach to fertilization. A proven plan to minimize crop stress during the critical growth stages is through foliar fertilization. Foliar fertilization allows for safe and efficient uptake of nutrients during critical times in the growing season. Minimizing crop stress during the critical growth stages with foliar fertilization will allow the crop to focus its energy on maximizing yield. 

The Andersons has a suite of high-quality foliar fertilizer products that can minimize crop stress in both corn and soybeans. Check out the below resources for more information on the importance of a season-long approach to fertilizer:

 


David Dyson

Dave Dyson is a regional agronomist for The Andersons’ Farm Centers which are located throughout Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. He is an Indiana native and grew up on a dairy farm in Miami County. A graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Crop & Soil Science, Dave has a deep knowledge of various agronomic topics and is committed to helping growers improve their crops. If you have any questions, Dave can be reached at david_dyson@andersonsinc.com

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