How Healthy Were Crops in 2017?
Nutrient Trends and Insights
Here are some nationwide nutrient trends revealed by tissue analysis conducted by WinField United in 2017.
- Corn suffered from more nutrient deficiencies in 2017. Compared to 2016, corn plants saw increased deficiencies in key macro- and micronutrients, including nitrogen, potassium, sulfur, zinc, manganese and boron. The most common deficiency was zinc; nearly 82 percent of sampled plants were short on the nutrient that aids in chlorophyll synthesis and other metabolic functions.
- Soybeans had a sharp increase in copper deficiency. More than 65 percent of soybeans sampled lacked sufficient copper levels to meet plant health needs. This is up 24 percentage points compared to 2016. Copper is a key nutrient for protein synthesis, cell wall formation and many enzyme systems. A majority of soybean samples were also low in potassium and manganese.
- Wheat lacked micronutrients. Copper deficiency was widespread across wheat crops last year, with nearly 85 percent of sampled plants lacking adequate concentrations of the nutrient. Limited availability of copper in wheat can lead to aborted heads and yield loss. Two other micronutrients, zinc and magnesium, were more deficient this year compared to last year.
- Cotton showed boron deficiency. Cotton samples were more deficient in boron this year compared to last year, with more than 65 percent of sampled cotton lacking adequate levels of the nutrient. Boron deficiency can lead to flower abortion and boll shedding, limiting cotton yield. Nearly all of the cotton tested was low in potassium, consistent with last year’s test results.
- Alfalfa was short on calcium. Nearly 90 percent of the more than 300 alfalfa samples analyzed had low levels of calcium in 2017. Calcium aids in nitrogen uptake, nutrient absorption and it contributes to enzyme activity in plants. The majority of alfalfa samples were also short on magnesium and potassium.
- Corn silage had deficits in manganese, nitrogen and zinc. Deficiencies were found in a greater percentage of samples for all three nutrients in corn silage this year compared to last year. Potassium, boron and sulfur deficiencies were also common in 2017. Corn silage removes more nutrients from soil than grain corn, so crops often require additional fertilization to meet yield goals.
- Potatoes needed more zinc. Zinc and copper were lacking most in potato crops last year. More than 80 percent of potatoes sampled were deficient in one or both nutrients. Zinc aids in nitrogen metabolism and affects starch content in potatoes. Sample results also revealed a common shortage of phosphorus and manganese in potatoes.
Plant tissue sampling throughout the growing season can provide real-time insights into a crop’s nutrient status to allow for in-season adjustments to prevent yield loss. Armed with this data, you may be able to remediate nutrition problems before the crop shows signs of stress.
While nationwide trends in crop health were analyzed and reported, individual field testing is the best way to evaluate nutrient deficiencies. Plant health is dynamic, and nutrient availability is based on localized conditions and management practices.
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