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

FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
Aerial view of the West Fertilizer explosion site
FertilizerFertilizer Companies Blame City For West, TX, Explosion
August 6, 2014
El Dorado Chemical Co. and CF Industries contend the city failed to properly train the first responders and had insufficient protocols in place to battle the April 17, 2013, blaze at West Fertilizer Co. that triggered the explosion. Read More
FertilizerThe Fertilizer Institute: New President, Renewed Energy
February 3, 2014
Chris Jahn relishes the opportunity to lead the organization through the challenging times ahead. Read More
FertilizerA New Cycle For Fertilizer Demand
January 2, 2014
Changes in the corn market could have a major impact on the crop nutrients sector in 2014, say experts. Read More

Top 100 Articles

CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT, Verdesian Ink Distribution Agreement
December 9, 2014
The agreement grants BRANDT the exclusive right to sell and market Verdesian’s patented Steric chemistry in the Turf and Ornamental and eastern U.S. ag markets under the BRANDT Reaction product line name. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Colors Of Custom Application
December 5, 2014
Although many color spray rigs are in the yards of the nation’s top ag retailers, the majority of them still come in only a few shades. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Invests In Meridian Agriculture Distribution
December 4, 2014
Meridian will provide retailers with supplier-branded products and numerous opportunities to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: Entering A New Seed Era
December 4, 2014
The seed category has been re-vitalized during the past few years, and more good news (and varieties) are headed the industry’s way in 2015. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Depressed State Of Fertilizer
December 3, 2014
Following downright giddy growth earlier this decade, fertilizer sales have fallen back down to earth the past two years. Read More

Latest News

Seed/BiotechReport: China Approves Viptera Corn, U.S. Officials Awa…
December 17, 2014
Chinese authorities have informed some agriculture industry officials the government has approved U.S. imports of a type of genetically modified corn developed by Syngenta. Read More
FertilizerMonty’s Plant Food Brings In New Sales Rep
December 16, 2014
Monty's Plant Food Company has hired Warren Kearns as its newest Sales Representative for the South Carolina area. Read More
EquipmentHagie Wins 2014 CropLife IRON Product Of The Year Award
December 15, 2014
The self-propelled sprayer maker has a hit on its hands with the new STS Series model. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Sees China Approving Contentious GMO Corn Soon
December 15, 2014
Syngenta will make an announcement when it receives official documentation from China that Agrisure Viptera corn, known as MIR 162, has been cleared for import. Read More
Crop InputsVerdesian Life Sciences Names Vice President Of Communi…
December 15, 2014
Amy Bugg will oversee the execution of all promotional strategies for the corporate brand and the complete product portfolio. Read More
StewardshipFarmers, Retailers Attend 4R Certification 4U Workshop
December 15, 2014
More than 160 farmers and ag retailer attended the “4R Certification 4U” workshop December 12 to learn more about the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship, water quality research in the area and cost-sharing opportunities. Read More
Matt Hopkins10 Best New Agriculture Apps For 2015
December 15, 2014
These new agriculture apps are certain to help ag professionals do their jobs more efficiently in 2015 and beyond. Read More
ManagementARA Learnings, Retail Buying Intentions: Welcome To Cro…
December 12, 2014
This informal video program puts news and events effecting retailers into context, and features Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Herbicide-Tolerant Technology Closer To Commer…
December 12, 2014
The final EIS moves Monsanto one step closer to the introduction of Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, paving the way to provide access to dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton. Read More
Seed/BiotechUSDA Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement On Her…
December 12, 2014
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is issuing a final environmental impact statement on varieties of cotton and soybeans that have been genetically engineered for resistance to several herbicides, including the one known as dicamba. Read More
CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
LegislationARA Applauds CFATS Passage Prior To Holiday Adjournment
December 11, 2014
The streamlined bill provides a four-year authorization of the CFATS program and guidance to DHS on key issues of chemical facility security Read More
Seed/BiotechBayer CropScience’s ILeVO Approved By EPA
December 11, 2014
EPA has approved ILeVO, the only seed treatment that protects the root system against infections caused by the Sudden Death Syndrome fungus and has activity against dangerous nematodes. Read More
Biologicals in Emerging Markets Map.
Crop InputsBiocontrols Could Quadruple By 2025; Will Regulators Pl…
December 11, 2014
The European experience with GMOs offers caution — and a promise — for biologicals. Read More
Crop InputsBASF Donates $75,000 To Feeding America
December 10, 2014
The donation will support Feeding America’s National Produce Program, an initiative that helps with planning, transportation and logistics to ensure fresh produce deliveries to the 200 member food banks around the country. Read More
InsecticidesHow To Avoid Aphid Infestation In Winter Wheat
December 10, 2014
The best strategy for managing aphid infestations in winter wheat — and the potential yellow dwarf diseases that they transmit — is prevention, according to a South Dakota State University Plant Pathology field specialist. Read More
LegislationDufault Installed As New ARA Chair
December 10, 2014
Dave Dufault, Vice President and General Manager of J.R. Simplot Company's Retail Business, was installed as the 2015 Chairman of the Board for ARA on December 4. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
December 10, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More