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What are the essential nutrients for crops during the growing season?

Crop Nutrition - Essential Nutrients

Growing Crop Margins

To achieve the maximum potential yield, crops need to be provided with the correct balance of essential nutrients throughout the growing season.

High yields come from achieving the correct leaf and shoot numbers, maintaining a green leaf canopy that intercepts 90% of the light and achieving an increased number of ears with larger grain sizes.

That's easier said than done when dealing with a crop exposed to the elements and other factors that may limit potential. However, a significant factor is a balanced crop nutrition programme, including the right levels of nitrogen, potassium, phosphate, and sulphur.

Nitrogen - protein production & photosynthesis

Nitrogen plays a significant role in plant growth, it is responsible for protein production and is involved in the process of photosynthesis, directly impacting the number of grains that are set on the individual ears in the cereal plant.

There will be approximately 45 to 50 grains/ear in a high yielding crop of wheat, which will be reduced if nitrogen is limited. Achieving high grain quality is also down to maintaining a sufficient nitrogen supply, which is essential when growing Group 1 or Group 2 wheat varieties for milling.

Read more: How to Boost Your Nitrogen Fertiliser Use Efficiency

Phosphate - energy transfer

Phosphate is involved in energy transfer within the plant, especially during periods of rapid growth. In the early stages of plant growth, it promotes root development, therefore if its availability is limited, it can affect the efficiency of the nutrient uptake. Regular soil testing is recommended, to ensure there are sufficient levels of phosphate in the soil to satisfy the early demand of the crop after planting. If levels are deficient, they need to be topped up before the root development stage.

Read more: Don’t forget the need for soluble Phosphate

Potassium - metabolic processes

Potassium, or Potash as it is often referred to, is key to the transportation system within the plant. It's fundamental to many metabolic processes, through the activation of a large number of enzymes required for chemical reactions.

It controls cell sap content, which is crucial to maintaining a turgid crop and plays an essential role in the distribution of the sugars and proteins manufactured by the green tissue, and utilised for plant growth and grain fill.

Alongside nitrogen, potash increases yield by influencing the number of grains per ear, therefore affecting the quality of the crop and the profit margin.

Read more: New PotashPlus CAN range of fertiliser

Sulphur - amino acid production

The importance of sulphur in cereal crop growth is often overlooked. It's involved in amino acid production to produce proteins, and in sulphur deficient crops, there tends to be a lower protein level. This affects the quality of the grain, resulting in difficulties in meeting market specifications.

Since sulphur is integral to protein synthesis and enzyme function, it is essential for normal plant metabolic processes, which in turn affect plant health and vitality. When sulphur is deficient the plant is less able to withstand stress and disease resistance is often compromised.

Read more: Sulphur - The Secret to Maximising Silage Potential

Read more: Make sure your grass has enough Sulphur

Read more: Sulphur - The Making Of Your Maize Crop?

Resolving the deficiencies

To achieve the maximum potential yield of the crop, it's vital nutrient levels are tested in the soil periodically. Nutrient deficiencies can have detrimental effects on crop quality and yield, therefore having an awareness of the fertility status of the soil before the growing season can really improve input decisions.

Every field and farm is different, so for maximum impact from fertiliser applications, speak to your local Wynnstay specialist who can create a bespoke fertiliser plan to ensure all nutritional requirements are met and that the crop achieves its maximum potential.

Need advice? Speak to one of our specialists.

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