Playing Dietician to Your Plants
Like people, each crop has unique nutritional needs. Here are some considerations for keeping corn, soybean and wheat plants healthy through the rest of the season.
Corn takes up the majority of its nutrients between V8 and VT, so paying close attention to both macro- and micronutrient deficiencies ahead of these stages is critical. Sixty-six percent of more than 17,500 corn tissue samples taken nationwide in 2016 through the NutriSolutions 360® system were low in nitrogen, which can be combatted with a side-dress application.
On the micronutrients front, 72 percent of corn samples were low in zinc. In 2015, I applied a quart of MAX-IN® Zinc micronutrient at V5 on acres showing zinc deficiencies, and the results led to a 4.55-bushel-per-acre increase. As a result, I recommend taking a tissue sample of the uppermost collar leaf at V5. If samples show a deficiency, spray as quickly as possible to feed plants when they need it most.
Remember that nutrient deficiencies change from year to year and certain hybrids respond to nutrient applications better than others. Working with your agronomist to procure quality test plot data, including response-to-nitrogen and response-to-fungicide scores, can help you create a balanced fertility program for your corn crop.
I recommend taking a tissue sample starting at V4 to V6 to get a baseline measurement of soybean plant health and another sample at R2, working with your agronomist to correct deficiencies as appropriate for your crop and operation. If you experienced wet weather this spring, keep an extra eye on boron and sulfur levels, as they may have depleted.
There’s a lot of work being done when it comes to in-season management for wheat. Copper was a common deficiency in wheat in 2016. However, we’ve found through the Answer Plot® Program that wheat is highly responsive to copper applications in the spring as well as at flag leaf emergence. That said, taking tissue samples prior to jointing and again at flag leaf emergence to assess copper and other nutrient levels can help optimize yield potential for wheat.
Remember, the earlier you can diagnose nutrient needs, the better. Collaborating with your agronomist to determine the right timing for tissue sampling and applications will go a long way in protecting the health of your crops.