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Soil micronutrients key to plant health

By Staff | Feb 26, 2010

Bob Streit, personal crop consultant, finished up a series of three meetings on 2010 cropping challenges where he focused on the need to be more aware of soil micronutrients.

Bob Streit, private crop consultant presented Feb. 16, the final segment of a three-part series on cropping challenges for 2010.

The main focus during the series concerned soil micronutrients and what their roles are with overall plant health and plant growth.

“Micronutrient deficiencies will become a large issue over the next few seasons,” said Streit.

Streit focused on copper and manganese during the third session and said that soils tests have been showing shortages on those particular micronutrients as well as others including sulfur, zinc, and boron. Zinc and boron, he added are some of the most important micronutrients due to their affect on membrane stability of the plant.

“In soil tests we have been seeing shortages in many of those which could have a factor in corn dry down and over all plant health,” Streit said as an example of some of the possible side effects of growing crops with a lack of micronutrients.

When it comes to soil testing, Streit recommends have one out of every four or five samples be tested for micronutrients and then if there is a problem with some of them to have the whole entire field tested.

Cost could be a factor with the extensive testing of micronutrients; however, Streit did add that it is money well spent.

One particular area where the possibility of micronutrient deficiencies is showing up is in the recent problems in leaf diseases.

“Incidences, and the severity, of leaf diseases have become rampant the last two to three seasons,” Streit said.

He added that if the nutrients are out there, they increase the plant’s resistance to diseases.

Sudden Death Syndrome in soybeans is another disease that has become a yield limiting factor, Streit noted. during the last five or more years. He recommends, in addition to breaking up soil compaction and treating the soybean seed, looking into correcting a possible copper deficiency as a solution.

Experts are beginning to believe, Streit said, that many of the biological organisms that have made micronutrients available in the past have been killed off and research is being conducted into many of the possibilities causing this problem.

One way to get your plants what they need, Streit said, is to first identify what nutrient is missing in the greatest amount through soil testing, as well as tissue sampling, and then apply that element.

Streit foresees many farmers moving toward plumbing their planter in order to put more liquid fertilizer infurrow to help with this problem.

The micronutrient manganese, Streit said, is used in forming chlorophyll in addition to other factors leading to proper growth, including a role in energy redox reaction.

A lack of manganese, he said, may make for a slow developing plant and leave it vulnerable to infection.

“It won’t be able to fight the infections off as easy,” Streit said. “That is one of the reasons why we’re seeing problems with leaf diseases is low manganese.”

Disease management

Zinc is as essential in soil as the presence of copper, Streit said, in controlling plant diseases.

Some of the keys to using nutrition to manage diseases, Streit presented to the group, included plant genetics; nutrient availability and application rate and the integration of applying nutrients with other practices, such as applying pesticides.

2010 cropping plans for corn

  • Manage residue to speed up soil warm up and mineralization.
  • Planting earlier hybrids will most likely be needed.
  • Planting populations of 34,000 to 36,000 on better soils.
  • Manage for optimum phosphorus levels.
  • Plant when the soils are dry enough, even if it is early in the season.
  • Increase root zone microbial activity, which Streit said he has been seeing a problem with those populations.
  • Sample soils and plant tissues.
  • Monitor and manage plant health.

2010 cropping plans for soybeans

  • Fertilize to soil test recommendations.
  • Shatter compaction layer.
  • Select disease resistant varieties
  • Apply seed treatments
  • Plant when soil is dry.
  • Manage insects and diseases.
  • Application of Overture at the V3-V4 stages for a boost of growth
  • Scout for insects. One could be looking at an increased aphid populations and scout for diseases and use scout guides for help.

Streit concluded that he expects applications of foliar micronutrients on both corn and soybeans resulting in producers seeing higher yields.

Contact Kriss Nelson at jknelson@frontiernet.net.

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