The Need For Nutrients

Crystal Valley Coop's Gary Spence scouts in a field of corn.
Crystal Valley Coop’s Gary Spence scouts in a field of corn.

The appetite for high-yielding technology has never been higher. With adoption of those technologies comes ancillary effects we’ve never had to consider. Such is the case with triple-stacked hybrids.

Industry experts estimate that more than 50% of U.S. corn acres were planted in stacked-trait, insect-resistant hybrids in 2013. It’s an important time to remember: There’s no easy option for long-term yield gain.

“As yields increase, so does the amount of nutrients we’re taking out of the soil,” says Gary Spence of Crystal Valley Coop, Lake Crystal, MN. “It’s important that growers pay close attention, because the game is changing in terms of nutrient removal. We’re finding that levels have dropped in a lot of fields in our areas and that means we need to pay closer attention to the soil.”

It’s important for retailers to remind customers that maximizing the benefits from top seed technology requires a comprehensive crop management approach. This includes assessment of nutrient uptake and the exact nutrition prescription needed to help the hybrid achieve success.

The Corn Rootworm Problem. There’s perhaps no better example than the plight of Corn Belt growers fighting corn rootworm. Corn rootworm is one of the most devastating insect pests corn growers face each year. It does its greatest damage at the larval stage, feeding on the roots of young corn plants. Rootworm larva feeding inhibits the corn plant’s ability to take up water and nutrients, including potassium, decreasing plants’ ability to grow, which can ultimately lead to yield loss.

More Tech, More Nutrient Uptake. Research conducted at the University of Illinois suggests that micromanaging the crop’s nutritional needs is critical in pushing the yield barrier and maximizing return on investment.

University of Illinois Professor of Plant Physiology Dr. Fred Below compared corn rootworm-resistant hybrids with their conventional counterparts to examine the variance in nutrient uptake.

Dr. Below confirmed the new resistant hybrids take up more nutrients than conventional counterparts, and that the increase in potassium uptake was greater than the increased uptake of many other nutrients.

This underscores the need for growers to combine a strong fertility program and balanced crop nutrition with the high-tech seed they’ve selected, in order for that seed to reach its full potential.

Maintaining The Power of Potassium

Potassium (K) is a vital nutrient to plant growth, since it performs a number of core functions to ensure healthy, stress-resistant plants. Treat plants to enough K, and the damage that pests and tough conditions create will actually be inhibited.

When water is scarce, K helps create concentration gradients inside the plant to help pull water into the plant. Furthermore, K regulates leaf tissue openings (stomata), helping them open and close quicker, which reduces moisture loss through the leaves and helps keep moisture in the plant.

Aside from helping maintain stalk strength and standability, K helps prevent disease by ensuring sugars and proteins the plant produces do not build up in tissues. Tissues with high levels of sugars and proteins attract insects and disease because these sugars are such excellent food sources for the pests. Adequate K levels in plants help maintain lower concentrations of sugars and proteins in cells, helping to prevent disease infections and deter insects.

On the other hand, K deficiencies can create a vicious cycle of unmet needs for a corn crop under pressure. Stressful conditions, such as those created by drought, disease and insect pressure, can interfere with root development as well as access to soil K and other nutrients.

Since corn rootworm-resistant hybrids require more K, it’s of increased importance that growers have a plan in place to protect the supply of this key nutrient pivotal to yield success.

It’s becoming clear across the Corn Belt that some growers are removing more K from the ground than they’re putting back.

“We’ve seen an increased demand for potash in our area, where the fertilizer needs seem to be on the rise,” says Spence. “It used to be that you could hold back based on rotation, but now we’re seeing a lot of farms spreading on every acre, every year.”

The International Plant Nutrition Institute’s most recent study of soil fertility levels showed that in many regions, K levels are declining, a strong indicator that growers’ current fertilization rates are not adequately replacing nutrient removal by high-yielding hybrids.

High-performance seed technology is a big investment for growers, and a proven tool for boosting yield. Hybrid seeds are an outstanding tool for higher yield, but not a replacement for the nutrients that allow the corn plant to prosper. It’s important to help producers take into account what this technology is removing from the ground as well.

As growers around the country strive toward next-level yields from high-producing hybrids, it’s more and more likely they’ll be looking for advice on updating their nutrient management plans as well. Helping growers revise fertility plans to take into account new requirements for K will be critical to help achieve unprecedented yields.

Leave a Reply

Crop Inputs Stories

HerbicidesScouting Key To Next Season’s Soybean Herbicide Program
August 12, 2014
When growing soybeans, growers need to think ahead to stay one step ahead of weeds. That means examining weed threats and evaluating which herbicides work best. Read More
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Delivers Two New Winter Wheat Varieties To Eastern Corn Belt
August 6, 2014
Adding to its portfolio of AgriPro brand wheat varieties, Syngenta introduces SY 007 and SY 474 soft red winter wheat varieties. 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
FungicidesResearchers Target Soybean Disease With Genetic Resistance Study
August 6, 2014
University of Illinois researchers will share new information on controlling sudden death syndrome through genetic resistance at this year's Agronomy Day. Read More

Trending Articles

ManagementExpert To Discuss Farmland Value, Rent At Farm Science Review
August 18, 2014
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat in 2014, declining in some cases, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economist. Read More
EquipmentAdvance Your Technology IQ At MAGIE
August 13, 2014
The Midwest AG Industries Exposition (August 20-21) is the place you need to be to see, study and evaluate how new advances in the equipment, operations, crop protection and fertility sectors can help your business prosper. Read More
HerbicidesScouting Key To Next Season’s Soybean Herbicide Program
August 12, 2014
When growing soybeans, growers need to think ahead to stay one step ahead of weeds. That means examining weed threats and evaluating which herbicides work best. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Lemon Ag Services
August 4, 2014
The acquisition of Lemon Ag fits BRANDT’s aggressive corporate strategy of providing superior agronomic advice and services for customers in central Illinois. Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Resurgence Of Crop Protection
August 4, 2014
Plenty of new offerings over the next few years should see a rebirth for the crop protection products category in terms of market share. Read More

Latest News

Crop InputsBASF Is Betting On A Bright Agricultural Future
September 1, 2014
The crop protection products giant is gearing up for a busy time in agriculture by investing in both product production and development over the next couple of years. Read More
Eric SfiligojAn Erie Feeling For Ag
September 1, 2014
Plenty of water issues have been in the news lately, including the continuing drought in California. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires California-Based Retailer
August 29, 2014
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings will acquire Kerman Ag Resources, Inc., which will operate under Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
Allied Cooperative Grain Plant
ManagementArcadia Co-op To Merge With Allied Cooperative
August 28, 2014
Allied Cooperative has announced that members of Arcadia Co-op voted in favor of a merger with Allied Cooperative, paving the way for the consolidation which will be effective on December 1, 2014. Read More
InsecticidesBioinsecticide VENERATE Now Registered In California
August 27, 2014
Marrone Bio Innovations' VENERATE is a new tool to help California growers control crop-damaging insect pests, fight the development of insect resistance and reduce pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. Read More
CropLife 100Two Iowa-Based Ag Co-ops To Merge
August 27, 2014
The Board of Directors and management of United Western Coop, Missouri Valley, IA has completed a merger with Heartland Co-op, West Des Moines, IA, effective September 1, 2014. Read More
FertilizerKoch Expands AGROTAIN Nitrogen Stabilizer Portfolio
August 26, 2014
Koch Agronomic Services, LLC has added two new innovative nitrogen stabilizers to the AGROTAIN product family – AGROTAIN ADVANCED and AGROTAIN DRI-­MAXX. Read More
Seed/BiotechDuPont To Build Two Seed Treatment Centers
August 26, 2014
DuPont has announced construction on two state-of-the-art centers dedicated to developing and testing seed treatment formulations, applications and seed handling techniques in an important step toward bringing new solutions to growers. Read More
Seed/BiotechLoveland Products Acquires A Controlling Interest In Ag…
August 26, 2014
Loveland Products, a subsidiary of Agrium , has announced the company has acquired a controlling interest in Agricen, a Dallas-area agricultural biotechnology company delivering biochemical-based products for efficient and sustainable plant nutrition. Read More
StewardshipUp Close Look At The 2014 Environmental Respect Award W…
August 25, 2014
The 2014 Environmental Respect Award winners were honored recently at the 24th annual event in Wilmington, DE. Read More
Eric SfiligojAg Science Rejection Carries Consequences
August 25, 2014
As innuendo and fear dog the regulatory process, agriculture can’t get the new tools it needs to combat world hunger. Read More
LegislationFarmers Dismayed As New Farm Bill Dumps Direct Payments
August 25, 2014
The threatened end of cash subsidies to the nation’s row crop farmers dates back through at least the last two iterations of national agriculture policy legislation. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK CEO To Retire
August 22, 2014
GROWMARK chief executive officer Jeff Solberg has announced his retirement effective September 15, 2014. Read More
InsecticidesDuPont’s Prevathon Approved For Dry Beans
August 22, 2014
DuPont Prevathon insect control powered by Rynaxypyr has received EPA registration for foliar use on dry bean crops, including dried shelled peas and beans. Read More
ManagementNCGA DuPont New Leaders Program Enters Sophmore Season
August 20, 2014
The National Corn Growers Association and DuPont are pleased to announce the second year of the NCGA DuPont New Leaders Program. Read More
FungicidesVerdesian Links Up With Mitsui, Hokusan
August 20, 2014
Mitsui Chemicals Agro, Inc., and Hokusan Co., announced the signing of an exclusive licensing agreement allowing Verdesian Life Sciences global access to its patented technology for suppressing mycotoxin contamination in wheat and barley. Read More
SprayersUniversity Of Illinois Introduces New Spray App
August 18, 2014
University of Illinois Extension has released a new smartphone app for making sprayer-related calculations. Pesticide Spray Calculator, or Spray Calc, Read More