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Are you feeding your crops what they need to maximize yield?

Dec 22, 2020

Chances are you have some routines and standard processes in place for managing your crops. You’re probably fertilizing, taking care of weeds and choosing the right hybrids for each acre. Is plant physiology something you’re keeping in mind when you make those decisions? It's more than just applying fertilizer, it’s also thinking about the timing, the rate and source of the nutrients to ensure they’re available to the crop exactly when it needs it.


There are 17 nutrients that are required by all plants for survival. Each nutrient promotes a different function in the plant and is derived from a different source, whether that is the air, water, soil minerals or a synthetic fertilizer. If you completely removed any one of the 17 essential nutrients from a crop, it would not be able to perform one or many crucial functions. For example, a plant grown completely without nitrogen would not produce chlorophyll and amino acids, which are essential for proper growth. While it’s critical for plants to have an adequate supply of the essential nutrients for development, not all nutrients are needed in the same quantities and at the same time.


Agronomists use the term “elemental prominence” to describe the idea that there are certain nutrients that are more important than others at key points during the growth and development of a plant. We know that zinc, for example, is one nutrient that plants are most responsive to early in the growing season when the seed is germinating, emerging from the soil and establishing a young plant. Zinc is important for root growth and enzyme processes in the plant, so it makes sense to apply that nutrient early in the season rather than waiting until later. This will help achieve maximum benefit.


Understanding the inner workings of your crops can help you develop a more effective fertility program. Soil sampling prior to planting gives a baseline for determining nutrient levels so you can decide how and when you’ll fertilize based on crop needs. Plant tissue sampling can give snapshots of how efficiently the crop is using soil nutrients and can allow for amendments in-season.
Much of the focus in the spring will be on nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. But there's also a great opportunity to focus on some of the other nutrients, such as sulfur and micronutrients, to provide a strong foundation for high yields. Talk with your Centra Sota agronomist to make the most of your crop fertility plans.

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