Know Your Nutrients

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Seeding into Cold, Wet Soil

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As producers across the Prairies are anxiously awaiting the start of seeding, Old Man Winter seems very reluctant to release his grip in some parts of the region. Spring temperatures have been trending below normal and the forecast is showing an increase in precipitation for most areas across Western Canada. In early April, frost was detectable at a depth of 7-8 feet in Manitoba.

So, what does a cool, wet spring mean for farmers who want to get a jump on the season?

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Know Your Nutrients: Chloride

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Chloride (Cl) is required in small quantities but is very active in plant cells. It acts with potassium to regulate stomatal openings in the leaves, controlling internal water balance, and functions in cation balance and transport. Chloride is effective in suppressing and lessening the effect of fungal infections and can advance maturity of small grains in some soils.

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Know Your Nutrients: Copper

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Identifying and addressing a copper deficiency can make a big difference when it comes time to harvest. 

Copper (Cu) is a micronutrient which is only needed in trace amounts, but is involved in several key plant actions, including photosynthesis, nitrogen utilization, protein production and water regulation. Adequate copper is needed for lignin formation, affecting the overall strength of the plant, and is critical for proper seed formation.

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Know Your Nutrients: Sulfur

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Sulfur (S) is a secondary nutrient, but it can be just as important as the primary (macro) nutrients. In fact, a plant’s sulfur requirements are similar to its needs for phosphorus, which is why some people call it “the fourth macronutrient.”

Sulfur is essential for plant growth, aiding in enzyme and vitamin activities, chlorophyll formation and nitrogen stabilization. It is an integral part of several amino acids which are essential for protein production and is necessary for nodule formation in legumes. 

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The Role of Nutrition in Promoting Healthier Crops

The Role of Nutrition in Promoting Healthier Crops

Well-balanced nutrition plays a key role in crop growth and development. There are many micronutrients essential for plant growth including boron, calcium, copper, manganese and zinc. However, deficiencies, biotic and abiotic factors can inhibit a crop’s ability to take in the nutrients it needs.

For example, high pH soils, high organic matter soils or light textured and sandy soils are all prone to zinc deficiency. Crops growing in zinc deficient soils may exhibit stunted growth and small or misshapen leaves. To help supplement zinc deficiency and promote robust crops, I recommend OMEX’s Zintake, a foliar fertilizer with high concentrations of phosphorus, potassium and zinc.

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Using Micronutrients in a Liquid Blend

Using Micronutrients in a Liquid Blend

To attain high yields, crops require a balanced ratio of macronutrients (NPK – nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) and micronutrients (zinc, copper, manganese, iron, boron, etc.) The correct amount of some nutrients and the limited supply of others can create imbalances and reduce yield potential.

However, the higher the yield a crop produces, the more nutrients it takes out of the soil. Today’s high-yielding crops remove more nutrients from the soil than ever, leading to issues of nutrient availability.

Weather also plays a part, with most micronutrients virtually unavailable in the cool/cold temperatures and wet soil conditions which are typical of spring across Western Canada. Using a liquid starter fertilizer at seeding time can help correct micronutrient deficiency in the soil, preventing common early-season deficiencies in crops and improving yields.

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Why pay attention to phosphorus when sowing into cold, wet soils?

Why pay attention to phosphorus when sowing into cold, wet soils?

During the fall of 2016, much of the Prairies experienced heavy rain and the ground remained saturated until winter. The arrival of unseasonably warm weather this spring is tempting many farmers to seed early, as they look to maximize yield potential and help manage the workload associated with seeding large acres. Those who have crops left in the field are even more anxious to get started, as dealing with swathed or still-standing crops will delay their seeding operation.

Farmers are seeding into cool or cold soils and often into wet conditions, which don’t allow for much availability of phosphorus, potassium or zinc, and this trio doesn’t become available until the soil temperature warms up to above 12 or 15 degrees Celsius. If they are seeding early, I believe the best thing farmers can do to get their crops off to a good start is to use a primer on the seed and a starter fertilizer in-furrow with the seed. This tactic is especially important this year as saturated soils are going to be slow to warm up.

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