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Your crops are talking; will you listen?

Recognize the signs of stress and what you can do to support crop yields.

March 3, 2023

3 Min Read
woman engineer examining plant leaf for disease
CROP MONITORING: The tissue-test analysis is almost like a midyear report card. How does your crop nutrition plan look graded against the best in the class? Tatomm/Getty Images

by Stephanie Zelinko

As hard as we try to get everything right at planting, many things can occur that may cause a crop to lose yield potential. Too much or too little moisture, insects or weed pressure, so many things can cause crop stress.

Signs of stress, such as leaf yellowing or stunted growth, are how your crop talks to you. Learn to recognize what these signs mean and what you can do to support your crop yields.

The tools

From boots-on-the-ground field scouting to aerial imagery, there are many tools at our disposal to help identify and recognize these signs. One of the most economical is a tissue-test analysis. This in-season snapshot provides a quick overview on the health of your crop.

After soil testing, the nutritional tissue-test analysis is the most important tool to understand what is happening in the plant regarding the nutritional effects on its physiology. Plant tissue analysis is the best way to identify the actual nutrient status of a plant.

Tissue tests can be used to help determine the next steps of a nutritional program to more accurately apply in-season fertility. It’s also a great tool to help diagnose visual symptoms being seen in the plant or provide early detection of hidden deficiencies in the crop.

It isn’t always easy to identify the real cause of a problem in a crop. This is especially true when trying to decipher if it’s a disease or a nutritional deficiency — or both.

It is important to keep in mind that the plant analysis is just a snapshot, a certain point in time, of the nutritional status of the plant. Because plant physiology is dynamic, it is necessary to compare plant analysis results with what we expect to see in a plant at that growth stage.

The tissue-test analysis is almost like a midyear report card. How does your crop nutrition plan look, graded against the best in the class?

Addressing the problem

Once a nutrient deficiency is identified, you must decide the next best step. There are many options. First, look for patterns in the field. Is the deficiency related to a drainage issue? Were there inconsistencies with the planter fertilizer application? It’s important to consider all factors to make an informed decision.

Depending on the deficiency, foliar applications with liquid fertilizer is an effective method for quickly solving nutrient problems appearing in many plants. Since it is applied directly to plant leaves and absorbed through the plant’s stoma, foliar applications can move quickly through the plant’s leaves into the plant, improving health of the crop and yield.

If a rescue treatment is not feasible or economically sound, perhaps it is time to adjust yield expectations and management plans for 2021.

Invest your time

It’s important to invest the time to listen to your crops. Recognizing these nutrient deficiencies not only benefits your crop nutrition plan, but it also helps ensure the return on investment of all inputs, including seed, fuel, crop protection and fertilizer.

As always, if your crop is not reaching its full potential, or the same problems keep appearing, contact your crop nutrition expert to help investigate potential nutrient deficiencies. We’re here to help you develop a crop nutrition plan to meet your yield goals.

Zelinko is a field agronomist with AgroLiquid Fertilizers.

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