Nutrients when they’re needed the most

Written by Jesse Surface on .

With higher fertility prices and concerns about supply, there’s increased interest in foliar nutrition this growing season—when to use it, how it works and what bene­fits it brings when added to other applications.

MFA’s Gold Advantage foliar nutrition line includes products for soybeans, corn and small grains. Gold Advantage formulations contain nitrogen, sulfur, zinc, mag­nesium, iron, manganese, molybde­num and copper. Let’s look at what each nutrient does for the plant.

Sulfur aids in seed production, helps with chlorophyll formation and is an integral part of the plant’s amino acids. Zinc also aids in for­mation of seed and plays a role in plant growth hormone production. Boron contributes to pollination— more specifically in pollen tube growth—as well as seed and cell wall formation. Iron also promotes formation of chlorophyll.

Molybdenum helps enzymes convert nitrogen to a usable form. Manganese helps with digestion of glyphosate and is an activator for at least 35 different enzymes. Magne­sium also contributes to chlorophyll formation and improves mobility and utilization of phosphorus. Cop­per functions in photosynthesis and seed development.

Foliar nutrition is designed around plant health, but it is not meant to replace products such as DAP, potash, AMS, zinc sulfate or Granubor. Doing the math, if Gold Advantage weighs 10 pounds per gallon and 1 quart is being applied, there is only a 10th, 100th and even a 1,000th of a unit of these nutrients included.

How does Gold Advantage help maximize plant health benefits and ultimately yields? First, we need sound soil fertility. And that starts with a fertility plan. Personally, I like a “build and maintenance” plan. With this approach, growers build their fertility levels to an optimum range and then maintain those levels through crop removal. It’s like having a checking account. If your optimum dollar amount to “build” is $2,000 and $500 is spent, then maintenance would require deposit­ing $500 back in the account.

Once the field’s fertility is on point, application timing is how we best realize the plant health benefits of these products. We want to feed our crops foliar nutrition when it’s needed the most in their growth.

With Gold Advantage Corn, we recommend application in the V4 to V6 timeframe. That is when post-emergence herbicides are be­ing applied, so we can include Gold Advantage in that herbicide pass. This period is important in a corn plant’s life because it’s when ear size is determined. A healthier plant at that growth stage sets the plant up for maximum yield.

Gold Advantage Soybean should be applied during a similar time frame, when the post-emergence herbicide is going out, normally sometime between V3 and V5. Soybeans have a lag period from slightly after emergence till about V5 or V6, when they make a big jump in growth. Helping the plant more quickly overcome that lag time leads to more nodes on the plant and, in turn, provides more places for pods to be set.

Let’s switch gears and talk about Trend-B, our nitrogen foliar product that contains added boron. Its anal­ysis is 24-0-0-1B. We recommend 1 gallon per acre, which delivers 2.4 units of nitrogen and 0.1 unit of boron. Just like the other Gold Advantage products, Trend-B pro­motes plant heath and maximizes yield. And we use timing to do that.

Both in corn and soybeans, we like to add Trend-B with a fungicide application. Timing should be R1 to R2 on corn and R3 to R4 on soy­beans. Corn is pollinating during that time, and it is vital to mitigate stress. We can achieve stress relief with Trend-B and a fungicide such as Trivapro in corn and Miravis Top in beans. Fungicide makes the plant healthier which, for lack of a better term, makes it hungry. Adding Trend-B provides readily available nitrogen for the plant. The added boron in Trend-B also helps with pollination and seed development.

In soybeans, we want to hit that R3-R4 timing for a different reason. During this stage, the plant is setting pods and starting to fill the seed, and boron helps with that. But what is also going on in a soybean’s life? Nodulation is slowing down. That means nitrogen production is also slowing down. Providing available nitrogen at this critical time boosts plant health and helps maximize yields, the ultimate goal in crop production.

Gold Advantage foliar nutrition products cannot replace typical fertilizer applications, but they aid in plant efficiency. They’re simply more tools in the toolbox. Check with your MFA agronomist for more details on how Gold Advan­tage and Trend-B can benefit your crops this season.