Authored by John Pope
“Plant Health” Chatter
Conversations around plant health were prevalent throughout both the Golf Industry Show and the World Ag Expo this Spring. These discussions could be found in all corners of the trade show floors, and came from growers, turf managers and applicators alike.
The beginning point of talking plant health and yield improvement, from MY perspective, is the management of soil nutrients and soil physical characteristics.
Today’s grower employing a precision production model has access to some of the best plant genetics and operational opportunities since the beginning of modern knowledge of agriculture. This applies to both productive and aesthetic crops. The NEXT step is to leverage the plant’s growing conditions and genetic yield potential, maximizing all production inputs (including plant nutrition) in a balanced approach, in a sustainable way.
Baseline nutrition and soils management are the keys to plant health, nutrient sustainability and managing yield potential. It’s all about balancing soil nutrients to maximize growth, production and investment. It’s also about managing nutrient release characteristics to match the plant growth curve.
Soil can function as a reservoir of nutrients for plant roots, throughout the growing season, only when the nutrients exist in the soil in proper balance. It can also be a hindrance, however, if the soil is unbalanced.
Sometimes, focus is not on building “the bank” (the balanced “bank” of nutrients in the soil) as part of precision crop management. Instead, some growers have adopted practices that allow nutrient balance to become difficult to manage – managing the crop (plant) rather than managing the plant and the soil in unison. Foliar feeding the immediate needs of the plant is part of the yield improvement plan, but may not be the whole plan, particularly during periods of adverse or unexpected conditions that do not allow for foliar nutrient replacement. In these situations, the grower is left hoping there is enough nutrient quantity and balance in the soil to maximize yield!
Granular nutrients and soil amendments can be used as tools to maximize the uptake of mobile elements and build a nutrient “bank” – a balance of soil nutrients to be made continually available to roots under a wide variety of growing conditions. These tools are key to effectively managing the periods of limited nutrient availability and increasing the sustainability of the soil.
Like a financial bank in certain years of limited resources, a soil can be managed to make a “withdrawl” from the “soil bank” in order to improve the yield and bottom line, when sustainable practices are followed.
How Are Humates Involved?
Humates, Gypsum and [the correct quality] Liming Material are typically 3 of the largest parts of the nutrient management soil amendments equation, contributing to soil vigor and building a “soil bank,” baseline nutrition and other crop management practices. When in balance, they allow for healthy plant production and [if properly applied] manage yield and plant quality.
Humates like Humic DG – soil-applied, self-incorporating granules – offer the best opportunity to get the most from a humic acid product, as they assist the plant in utilizing soil-derived nutrients.
Humic DG’s fulvic acids, humic acids, and humins are all necessary components of a quality humic acid product, aiding in the balancing process of nutrients applied to the soil. The humin content assists the soil in moving applied lime or gypsum deeper into the soil profile, changing pH, chelating applied nutrients, and increasing available calcium.
Humic DG also helps to free tied up phosphorus from the soil (even in high phosphate soils) and to chelate nutrients (like nitrogen) to keep them in the root zone, feeding plants over time.
On a pound-for-pound basis, Humic DG applies 3 to 6 times the amount of humic acid as most liquid humate products – allowing for better mediation of the soil nutrient balance (“the bank”).
Balancing your soils account and your growing budget are part of an overall “soil banking” model, which can pay both short and long term economic dividends, when properly planned and applied.
John Pope is a Territory Manager for The Andersons, Inc. Turf & Specialty Group, with a focus on high-tech, high-value solutions for the professional turf, horticulture and agriculture markets. John has been in the Plant Nutrient Industry for 33 years. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.