Nov 10, 2020Holistic is the new normal
Today’s progressive growers take a holistic approach to crop and plant health, a concept that’s not as wacky as you might think. David Booty, Technical Development Manager for OMEX® Agrifluids, explains to VGN readers.
Our understanding of plant and crop health has advanced in leaps and bounds in recent decades. We’ve responded to changing regulations and embraced new chemistry that’s light years ahead, not only in efficiency but also its use, bringing benefits for operators and the environment alike.
Today’s fungicides and herbicides work at fractions of an ounce per acre, rather than rates measured in pounds. Active ingredients face ever more stringent tests, ensuring only the best products reach the marketplace.
We also see plant protection products differently. No longer are they a fall back when something goes wrong; instead, integrated crop management plans specify how and when to use products, responsibly and sparingly, resulting in healthy, high-yielding and profitable crops.
While growers may bemoan the loss or restricted use of familiar active ingredients, it’s a fabulous opportunity to improve good agricultural practice. In most cases, products are withdrawn only because a real risk – to human health or environmental protection – has been identified.
Another problem with modern crop protection chemistry is specificity: the precision, single-site activity that allows such sparing application means growers enjoy only a short period of high efficiency before the pathogen or pest develops resistance. That’s a problem for manufacturers too: bringing new products to markets is costly, but manufacturers recoup their investment over a product’s lifecycle. If that lifecycle is compressed, research and development teams are less incentivized to develop further products.
What can we do to solve this problem together? Why does a holistic approach make sense? It’s an idea that’s more compelling still when considering the parallel with human health, where the value and significance of a well-balanced diet is in no doubt. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, reduce intake of highly processed foods, access vitamins and minerals, and so on. Nowhere has that become more evident than in the current health crisis, where Covid-19 cases are being reported as more severe and more pronounced in those who lack a good diet or are otherwise unhealthy. That’s because pathogens take advantage of every weakness they can find.
In plants too. For example, it’s established as fact that manganese-deficient wheat presents an easier target for the pathogen causing take-all. In this and other situations, the more holistic approach, crop nutrition included, can reduce or avoid altogether a pesticide application.
It’s invaluable when products carry ever-stricter harvest intervals, yet the diseases or other conditions they tackle often occur during the ripening or immediate pre-harvest period. Tackle the source of the problem, prevent its occurrence. Don’t just try to resolve the effects.
Growers must first establish a crop’s need: soil, leaf and tissue analysis. Then map out what different crops need at key development stages. For instance, early root stimulation demands phosphorus, while calcium is essential in fruit ripening. The crucial next stage is to consider whether the plant can access the nutrients deemed necessary.
Glasshouse crops, for example, are subject to regular temperature stress, affecting their ability to absorb nutrients. Another consideration is that plant roots are non-selective in take-up; they absorb what’s available, making timing crucial.
Here at OMEX®, we’ve been following the same innovative path as our crop protection colleagues: finding ways to do more with less. Our SizeN technology relies on stabilized amine nitrogen. Because it’s less susceptible to volatilization, plants make better use of what’s applied. Likewise, fruit growers who have become used to bulk applying calcium chloride can’t believe that Cell Power® Calcium Gold, with its LoCal mechanism triggering the cell’s own uptake apparatus, delivers better, more consistent results with a fraction of the amount.
We’re fully focused on the value of foliar applications: leaves are a better ‘receptacle’ for fertilizers. They have an active metabolism, we can leverage adjuvants, we can vary application timing to target open stomata.
What’s also interesting is how other products, such as Zynergy®, can create – as the name suggests – a synergistic effect between foliar nutrition and crop protection. We’ve observed how nutrition can effectively ‘prime’ the plant to better respond to pathogenic attack, allowing growers to use a lower rate of fungicide yet maintaining an equivalent or even improved level of protection.
Thinking holistically is not about wholesale replacement of plant protection chemistry; instead, it’s about reducing our dependence on it and extending the usefulness of the shrinking number of actives we have available. The more quickly we can all adopt this thinking, the more benefit we’ll extract from it.
Learn more at www.omexusa.com.
The product names and brands referenced here are registered and trademarks of OMEX® Agrifluids, Inc.
© OMEX® Agrifluids, Inc. 2020.