Foliars that fit

Written by Allison Jenkins on .

Nutrients when they’re needed the most. That’s the design behind MFA’s new Gold Advantage Foliar Nutrition products. Working in tandem with a sound fertility program, Gold Advantage can give your crops exactly what the name implies—an advantage to reach their full genetic potential.

Unlike a one-size-fits-all approach offered by other foliar fertilizers, Gold Advantage is customized for each crop. Specific formulations are available for corn, soybeans and small grains, each with the precise combination of micronutrients that those plants need. The products are designed to be tank-mixed and applied along with most fungicides, insecticides or herbicides with no compatibility concerns.

“There are several options out there for foliar nutrition, but Gold Advantage is designed like no other,” said Jason Worthington, MFA Incorporated senior staff agronomist. “Generally, growers aren’t going to make a pass through the field just for foliar nutrition. They’re going to piggyback it along with another application. Gold Advantage is tailor-made for each crop at the growth stages when we’re making those other applications anyway.”

Each micronutrient package includes the elements that are in highest demand at the time when they will be applied. Correct timing allows Gold Advantage to improve overall plant health and provide an opportunity for maximum yields, Worthington added. The targeted growth stages and nutrient prescription for each type of crop are:

  • Corn — Apply during the V4 to V7 growth stage. The micronutrient package includes boron, manganese, zinc, magnesium and copper.
  • Soybeans — Apply during the R2 to R4 growth stage. The micronutrient package includes boron, manganese, molybdenum, zinc, iron and sulfur.
  • Wheat (Small Grains) — Apply at green-up and/or after flagleaf emergence. The micronutrient package includes boron, manganese, zinc, sulfur and copper.

Each micronutrient was selected because it plays a role in key processes for each crop. For example, boron is essential to the growth of pollen tubes; zinc aids in the formation of seed; copper is critical to the reproductive process; molybdenum helps convert nitrogen in the plant to a usable form; iron acts as an oxygen carrier; and sulfur promotes nodule formation on legumes.

“You look at some of the micronutrients like molybdenum or copper, for example,” Worthington explained. “They’re needed in such little amounts that it’s hard to effectively broadcast them with the dry fertilizer upfront. That’s why foliar delivery might be a better option.”

Developed and marketed exclusively by MFA, Gold Advantage was introduced in 2017 and evaluated at the MFA Training Camp testing site as well as several on-farm trials before it became available to customers this year. Gold Advantage is the first foliar fertilizer to be added to MFA’s proprietary product line.

“Whenever we’re vetting a new product, we often put them in one of the fields that our Crop-Trak consultants will be scouting every week,” Worthington said. “We set it up in side-by-side plots that give us a good test so we can analyze that product and see whether it provides an advantage or not.”

In 2017, yield data from those trials showed that Gold Advantage provided additional bushels, particularly in high-yielding situations for wheat and corn. The soybean trials didn’t provide a good measurement, Worthington said, so the results couldn’t be analyzed.

“When growers are doing everything right, that’s when the foliar nutrition seemed to be most beneficial,” he explained. “In 100-plus-bushel wheat and 220-plus-bushel corn, we were really seeing that advantage, both visually and from the yield data.”

MFA Director of Agronomy Jason Weirich warned, however, that foliar nutrition should be part of an overall fertility management strategy. The field’s phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen levels must be in check before foliar nutrition should be considered, and the products aren’t meant to be a rescue treatment.

“Foliar nutrition isn’t a replacement for sound soil science,” Weirich said. “If the crop is limited in phosphorus, for example, this probably isn’t going to help you. The micronutrients won’t bring enough additional yield to cover up the lack of P. If you have everything else in place, and you’re in a high-yielding environment, Gold Advantage could help you push those yields even further.”

For growers who want to take their production to that next level, Worthington said Gold Advantage may fit well into their management plan.

“If you’re already in a program like Nutri-Track, have good weed-control practices, someone is looking at your fields every week like we do in Crop-Trak and you’re managing everything right, this foliar nutrition can provide incremental yield increases,” he said. “Get with your MFA location to see if these products work in your situation, and make sure you’re putting them on at the proper time. Remember, it doesn’t replace anything, but it definitely has the potential to add bushels.”

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