Crops may have been limited by nutrient deficiencies in 2018 based on tissue sampling analysis done by WinField United. Farmers submitted over 42,000 tissue samples this year, contributing to more than 475,000 data points in WinField’s NutriSolutions® system.
The data shows that crops likely could benefit from fertilization adjustments made in-season, particularly micronutrients and macronutrients considered key to early crop development, rigorous growth and greater return on investment potential for farmers.
Nutrient trends and insights
Here are some nationwide trends revealed by tissue analysis conducted by WinField United in 2018:
- Key essential nutrients for corn were limited. Corn plants could have benefited from in-season nutrient applications based on analysis of more than 26,500 tissue samples submitted from across the country. The most common deficiency was zinc; nearly 78 percent of sampled plants were short on the nutrient that aids in chlorophyll synthesis and other metabolic functions. Potassium, nitrogen, manganese and boron were also commonly deficient or responsive.
- Soybeans had a sharp increase in copper deficiency. Nearly 75 percent of soybeans sampled lacked sufficient copper levels to meet plant health needs. This is up 10 percentage points compared to 2017 and 34 percentage points compared to 2016. Copper is a key nutrient for protein synthesis, cell wall formation and many enzyme systems. A majority of soybeans were also low in potassium based on analysis of more than 8,400 soybean tissue samples.
- Wheat lacked micronutrients. Chloride deficiency was widespread across wheat crops last year, with nearly 85 percent of sampled plants lacking adequate concentrations of the nutrient. Limited availability of chloride can disrupt plant metabolism, including water regulation in cells and plant enzyme activation. Copper, boron, zinc and magnesium were also limited in most wheat crop samples.
- Alfalfa was short on calcium. Similar to last year, more than 90 percent of the nearly 500 alfalfa samples analyzed had low levels of calcium in 2018. Calcium aids in nitrogen uptake and nutrient absorption, and it contributes to enzyme activity in plants. The majority of alfalfa samples were also short on magnesium, copper, manganese and phosphorus.
Timing, source and rates matter
According to WinField United, the sampling database also identify nutrient trends based on geography, soil type and environmental conditions.
“It’s clear that a crop’s nutrient needs vary depending on growth stage, reinforcing the need for tissue sampling throughout the season,” the report notes. “It’s not enough to know what nutrients may be limiting plant development. To optimize plant performance, consider the timing, source and rates of fertilizer applications.”
WinField United is the seed, crop protection products, agricultural services and agronomic insights business of Land O’Lakes Inc. As an industry leader, the business focuses on meeting the needs of nearly 1,300 locally owned and operated cooperative and independent agricultural retailers and their grower-customers across the United States.