A Hedge Against Drought

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With the Midwest receiving only 25% to 50% of its normal rainfall, 2012 has been referred to as the worst drought in the Midwest since 1988. Based on current forecasts, Rich Nelson, director of research for Allendale, an agricultural and financial market research center, expects nationwide corn yields to be 143.3 bushels-per-acre, a 10% decline from the trend yield.

“Even under ideal growing conditions, as much as 95% of applied phosphorus is lost to the environment due to phosphorus (P) lock-up, making it difficult for plants to build a fibrous root system,” says Larry Murphy, agronomist with Murphy Agro, Manhattan, KS. “During severe drought conditions, they can struggle even more because a weak root system limits the plant’s ability to utilize soil moisture.”

A Tool To Help Minimize Loss

In recent years, growers throughout the country have experienced more drought-resistant crops — with healthier plants and higher yields — by using AVAIL Phosphorus Fertilizer Enhancer. AVAIL Phosphorus Fertili­zer Enhancer, from SFP, is a water-soluble additive for granular or liquid phosphorus fertilizer and acts as a shield, protecting the fertilizer from elements like aluminum, iron, calcium and magnesium that normally would tie up the phosphorus and render it unavailable to the plant. According to the company, it helps reduce the amount of P that gets tied up in the soil, leaving more available for uptake into the crop.

“By developing a larger root mass sooner, the plant is able to receive more nutrients and water later in the growing season during the dry, drought conditions,” Murphy says.

The benefits of AVAIL treated phosphorus on extreme drought-stressed crops were shown on winter wheat in north-central Oklahoma. The 2011 study, conducted by W.B. Johnston Grain Co., compared fall-applied 10-34-0 + zinc (at a rate of five gallons per acre) with and without AVAIL. At harvest, results showed an increase of 3.8 bushels per acre in fields that added AVAIL.

A 2006 study in South Dakota compared corn grown under severe moisture stress with 10-34-0 at planting (at a rate of seven gallons per acre), also with and without AVAIL. At harvest, there was a five bushel per acre increase in the fields that added AVAIL.

Fall-applied fertilizer helps reserve nutrients in the soil, allowing crops to withstand colder months while storing major nutrients such as nitrogen (N), P and potassium (K) in the soil. This allows the plant to develop a stronger root system in the spring, leading to the potential for increased yields.

Gibson is a public relations intern at Osborn Barr, St. Louis, MO.
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