Read The Signs Of Nutrient Deficiency

Phosphorus Deficiency in Corn

Throughout the growing season, crops may exhibit unusual coloring, stunted growth and leaf damage or defoliation. Often these visual symptoms are due to nutrient deficiencies, which reduce yields, crop quality and ultimately producer profitability. By recognizing visual symptoms during the growing season and pinpointing production issues before harvest, growers can make plans for post-harvest steps that will help prevent similar issues with subsequent crops.

“Nutrient deficiency symptoms can be anything from leaf yellowing and leaf loss to twisted ears with irregular kernel rows and imperfectly developed ear tips. Even stalk lodging can be a symptom of nutrient deficiency,” explains Matias Ruffo with The Mosaic Co.

In previous years such as 2010 and 2011, yellow or purple corn in the spring was often blamed on cool, wet soils. Generally, growers could wait for warmer temperatures for the crop to recover.

“2012 has given most of the Corn Belt an unusually warm and dry spring,” says Ruffo. “That may mean less discolored corn, and may also present a better opportunity to visually scout for areas of nutrient deficiency. If corn is discolored this year, chances are it’s something other than the weather.”

Ruffo says the flipside of the benefits of a warm spring can be overconfidence. It would be tempting to look at green, apparently healthy, corn this year and automatically assume no nutrient deficiencies exist. But that assumption could prove costly in lost yield this season and in the future. Once a deficiency symptom appears, some yield, and perhaps quality, may have already been lost.

Comprehensive Balance

Nutrient deficiencies are widespread and scattered across the Corn Belt. In 2011, soil testing results from A&L Great Lakes Laboratories showed the most common secondary and micronutrient deficiencies were sulfur (S) and zinc (Zn), with most Midwestern states showing a high percentage of low soil test ratings for both nutrients. (Results may be viewed here under customer tools, soil test summaries.)

According to Ruffo, getting a balance of all the nutrients, not just the amount of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) in the soil impacts corn’s ability to utilize soil fertility.  

“Your soil test may indicate adequate N, P and K, but a deficiency of S or Zn can reduce corn’s ability to take up and utilize those nutrients,” says Ruffo. “Leaf tissue testing might even show high concentrations of P, but inadequate S or Zn could be inhibiting the corn plant’s ability to use P to produce yield potential.”

Nutrients all impact one another in the plant, which is why balanced fertility of all nutrients is so important. And why Mosaic has developed fertilizer products such as MicroEssentials SZ, in which S and Zn are added in partial layers around phosphorus-based fertilizer particles. The result is uniform, nutritionally balanced fertilizer granules, each with essential nutrients combined in precisely the correct ratio for plant health.

Trust The Test

Don’t try to outsmart the soil test. Gyles Randall, professor of soil science at the University of Minnesota, has noted that low soil test P can be particularly costly to yield when growers try to mine the soil for short-term input cost savings. Nevertheless, some growers will try to save input costs.

“There have been efforts to use leaf tissue analysis to determine a corn crop’s nutrient needs,” says Randall, “but tissue testing is a complicated method with shortcomings, so should not be used as a sole indicator of determining the amount of soil nutrients necessary compared to soil testing.”

The nutrient content of a corn leaf is highly dependent on when the leaf sample was taken — the smaller the plant, the higher the concentration. Additionally, plant growth phase and timing of fertilizer application will affect the leaf tissue results.

Randall says plants initially may not show obvious symptoms of deficiency other than slower growth. But even a mild deficiency or fertility imbalance can disrupt essential plant metabolic processes. Since deficiencies rarely occur uniformly across an entire field, crops may mature unevenly, leading to less yield, harvesting difficulties and lower quality of the harvested product.

Randall’s research has shown significant yield benefits from adding more P (25 to 50 pounds per acre) to the soil when soil tests show a low P level of seven parts per million (ppm). Very high soil P-test soils (25 ppm) showed no yield benefit (or loss) from adding additional P.

What Tissue Testing Teaches

While tissue testing is no guarantee of adequate soil fertility, it can be a good way to red-flag fields, or areas of fields, for potential nutrient deficiency problems.

Bob Deutsch with AgVise Labs notes that plant tissue tests across North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota showed an average of more than 25% of all corn tissue samples below the critical level for N, P, K, S and Zn. Much of that could be due to soil variability across individual fields, or to the fact that in some cases, growers requested tissue tests of plants already showing visual deficiency symptoms.

“The corn data indicates we had a significant number of fields testing low in N, P, K, S and Zn,” says Deutsch. “The large number of corn fields testing low in N may be partly due to the loss of N during above-normal precipitation events, causing leaching and denitrification.”

Wheat data indicates many of the same trends as corn. The high number of wheat fields testing below the critical level in Zn was somewhat surprising. This low number may be due to the fact that we are receiving large volumes of plant tissues from areas where Zn has never been applied.

“We need to be aware we have nutrient issues on corn and wheat in our area with the three major nutrients of N, P and K,” Deutsch continues. “We also have issues with secondary nutrients of sulfur and chloride and the micronutrients zinc and copper.” Deutsch indicates these micronutrient issues could be addressed with products like MicroEssentials.

Leave a Reply

Fertilizer Stories

Young Corn Field
Crop NutritionNext Generation Of Nitrogen Efficiency Technology Converts Nitrogen To Bushels
June 13, 2016
Commodity price projections indicate farmers will continue to face tight margins again this year. Delivering higher yields and more bushels Read More
FertilizerMSU: Early Lake Erie Algal Bloom Projections Positive
June 1, 2016
Over the past decade, Lake Erie has seen an increase of harmful algal blooms (HABs). These algal blooms are made Read More
FertilizerSimplot Introduces Fused-Safe Ammonium Sulfate Nitrate Fertilizer
May 31, 2016
The J. R. Simplot Co.’s new FŪSN fertilizer is now commercially available to growers. Simplot uses advanced technology to fuse Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes Announces Minnesota Water Quality Partnership
May 25, 2016
Governor Mark Dayton and Land O’Lakes, Inc. President and CEO Chris Policinski today announced a new public-private partnership to protect Read More
Trending Articles
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To Explore IT Solutions
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Eric SfiligojWhat’s Next For Monsanto?
May 31, 2016
For the folks at Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, MO, it has been an eventful few weeks. Back on May Read More
Soybean Plant closeup
Industry NewsMonsanto Rejects Bayer Bid; Open To More Talks
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG’s $62 billion acquisition bid as “incomplete and financially inadequate” Read More
Eric SfiligojPity The Monsanto Haters
May 23, 2016
An old saying goes thus: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” Given current events, there Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Crop InputsReport: Bayer Eyeing Monsanto For Possible Mega-Merger
May 16, 2016
Bayer AG is exploring a potential bid for U.S. competitor Monsanto Co. in a deal that would create the world’s Read More
Aerial Drone
Precision AgA Deeper Dive Into The Future Of Precision Ag
May 9, 2016
For about two decades now, through the good and the bad times, the ups and the downs inherent in agriculture, Read More
Latest News
Key Cooperative’s new liquid fertilizer, crop chemical, and seed facility in Grinnell, IA stores 1.5 million gallons of liquid fertilizer and 120,000 gallons of crop chemicals.
Retail FacilitiesKey Cooperative Facility Features The Latest In Murray …
June 27, 2016
When Key Cooperative wanted to improve the overall efficiency at its new state-of-the-art facility in Grinnell, IA, it turned to Read More
Allen Summers Asmark Institute PSM Training
EmployeesAsmark Institute Sponsors 25 ResponsibleAg Auditor Trai…
June 21, 2016
The Asmark Institute has announced plans to provide 25 scholarships through their affiliated State fertilizer and agrichemical associations to help encourage Read More
Kennebec Elevator
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Celebrates Kennebec Elevator Grand Openin…
June 21, 2016
Over 250 patrons and guests were on hand to celebrate Wheat Growers’ Kennebec Elevator grand opening. South Dakota Secretary of Read More
Land O Lakes
Industry NewsLand O’Lakes To Acquire Ceres
June 20, 2016
Land O’ Lakes, Inc. and Ceres, Inc. have announced that they have signed a definitive merger agreement under which Land O’Lakes Read More
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To …
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
LegislationVilsack Christens WinField Crop Adventure, Talks Monsan…
June 17, 2016
The WinField Crop Adventure grand opening ceremonies at Fair Oaks Farms (near Winemac, IN) welcomed USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Read More
Crop InputsFields of the Future: WinField Doubles Down with Agri-E…
June 16, 2016
Land O’Lakes, Inc., joined by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, today will host Fields of the Future, a live broadcast about Read More
Bayer sign
Crop InputsMonsanto Turns Back Bayer Again
June 14, 2016
Bayer AG’s bid to buy Monsanto Co. for more than $60 billion has hit an impasse that could pose a Read More
Young Corn Field
Crop NutritionNext Generation Of Nitrogen Efficiency Technology Conve…
June 13, 2016
Commodity price projections indicate farmers will continue to face tight margins again this year. Delivering higher yields and more bushels Read More
Industry NewsLa Crosse Seed Acquires Cover Crop Solutions Brand
June 10, 2016
La Crosse Seed announces that it is the new and exclusive owner of the entire family of brands of Cover Read More
ManagementTravel Plans and EU Rejection of Glyphosate, Biotech Cr…
June 9, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about upcoming trips and the latest in the European Union’s moves against glyphosate Read More
Aspire with Boron
Crop InputsStudy: Aspire with Boron Ups Alfalfa Yields
June 8, 2016
Alfalfa growers are successfully improving yields through the cutting season by applying an important micronutrient. In a recent study, The Read More
Industry NewsAGCO Announces Tragic Death of Longtime Employee
June 8, 2016
It is with deepest regret that we announce the passing of our dear friend, colleague and customer advocate-in-chief Kevin W. Read More
Wheat Field North Dakota
Industry NewsBASF Inks Northern Seed for Clearfield Wheat R&D Li…
June 6, 2016
BASF has licensed Northern Seed LLC to perform research and development of BASF’s proprietary and patented Clearfield technology in wheat. Read More
ManagementBayer/Monsanto, EU/Glyphosate, Corn/Soybeans
June 2, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss the latest regarding industry mergers, the glyphosate debate in Europe, and an update Read More
Growers looking at soybeans
Industry NewsKoch Licenses 2 Marrone Products For North American Dis…
June 2, 2016
Koch Agronomic Services (Koch), with support from its affiliate, Koch Biological Solutions, has secured exclusive rights to sell REGALIA Rx Read More
Gypsum
Industry NewsBeneficial Reuse Management Launches GYPSOIL BLENDABLE
June 2, 2016
Beneficial Reuse Management (BRM) has introduced GYPSOIL BLENDABLE, a new high-quality pelleted gypsum fertilizer that supplies 17% sulfate sulfur and Read More