Feb 10, 2021
Precision Nutrition

When swift uptake with precision effect is required, nothing can beat a foliar fertilizer

(Sponsored) Choosing the right fertilizer, at the right time, can be something of a chore. Fertilizers comprise one of the most diverse sectors within the agricultural marketplace, with an almost infinite range of combinations to choose from: different nutrients, in different ratios, in different forms – and that’s before we mention the myriad brands available.

Faced with this vast choice, growers often stick with what they know, citing familiarity and a degree of comfort in products they’ve used before. But as Francisco Rivera, an agronomist with OMEX® Agrifluids USA, explains, a little insight can go a long way.

“As manufacturers, we must all share some of the blame,” he says. “Sometimes we make products and ranges needlessly complicated, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Foliar fertilizers are a good example. Although many growers are aware that they exist, they’re often less confident about using them compared to soil-applied fertilizers, despite some distinct advantages and unique features.”

Sometimes that lack of confidence is accompanied by a conviction that foliar fertilizers are more expensive than their soil-applied cousins. “We’ve grown used to applying soil fertilizer in substantial amounts,” he points out, “but that’s because nutrient uptake through soil is inefficient: we lose considerable amounts to processes like oxidation and leaching before plants can access it.

“Foliar fertilizers are often sold in relatively small volumes. Measure for measure, this sometimes make them look pricy. But because far less is needed, the application rate is much lower.”

And that’s before getting onto what foliar fertilizers bring to the party. Because the nutrients are absorbed directly through the plant leaf, they can bypass the sometimes complex biochemical processes that facilitate root uptake and distribution through the plant.

“Foliar feeding can address an acute nutrient need, quickly and decisively,” explains Francisco, “allowing it to be used as both a preventative and curative measure, playing clear-cut roles at different times throughout the crop cycle. It’s particularly useful in making precise applications of specific nutrients, such as boron or calcium.”

Francisco cites post-germination seedling establishment and transplantation, early spring shoot growth in vegetable crops, flowering and fruit-set and bulking-up of tuber and root crops as good examples of where foliar fertilizers have the edge. “In addition, external factors such as soil temperature, soil moisture levels and competition from weeds can all challenge a crop that’s in need of adequate nutrient supply from the soil.

“With timely applications, foliar fertilizers can also effect an improvement in soil fertilizer efficiency,” Francisco adds. “As the plant works to metabolize what it’s absorbed through its leaves, it stimulates water uptake through the roots, in turn increasing overall nutrient absorption.”

Through this understanding of a crop’s needs and its physiological stages of development, OMEX® has formulated and manufactured a foliar plant nutrition program with two main objectives: helping growers get by with less total product, and very low use rates.

Balanced 10-10-10, for example, is a complete fertilizer offering equal levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, boosted by a package of micronutrients to aid the crop throughout its growing cycle.

“Ease of use is its main feature,” notes Francisco, “with application either through irrigation systems or as foliar spray. Applied early in the season, it helps maintain vigor during the early vegetative growth cycle in most fruit and vegetable crops.”

The nutrient combination in Balanced 10-10-10 also helps growers to achieve and maintain the foliage color development that’s so crucial for quality perception in many fruit and vegetable crops.

Micronutrients also play an important role in the effectiveness of Leaf Act™ #1. Here, they’re co-formulated with a high phosphate content to promote energy transfer and enzyme activation in early-stage development.

“Phosphorus is essential for good root development,” Francisco points out, “as well as during the crop’s flowering stages. These are some of the most energy-intensive stages of growth, but also amongst the most stressful stages for the plant. That’s why we also include cobalt in the formulation.

Leaf Act™ #1 should be applied from early 2-3 leaf stage to mid-flowering in fruiting crops, and from 2-3 leaves into mid-season for leafy vegetables.”

As crops move into their maturation phase, nutrient demands change again. “Leaf Act™ #2 has been described as ‘the great finisher’,” says Francisco. “We’ve dropped the levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, but increased potassium. This meets the demand from cell enlargement in fruiting crops, skin-set and bulking-up in tuber crops, and pigment production in fruit and vegetables.

Leaf Act™ #2 gives the best results when used little and often, ensuring crops have rapid and regular access to these essential finishing nutrients,” advises Francisco. “It’s particularly important that nitrogen levels in foliars are minimized as crops near maturity, as higher levels can result in uneven ripening and impede harvest.”

Growers should look to foliar fertilizers as a complement to soil nutrition, Francisco suggests. “Giving crops access to correct micronutrient ratios throughout the season ensures enzyme activation proceeds unhindered, allowing the plant to reach maximum efficiency and realize its yield potential.

“Not only does that deliver the result the grower’s expecting, but the end product that the consumer is demanding,” enthuses Francisco.

“With a good understanding of crop nutrition and growers’ needs, it’s not difficult to develop products that are easy to use and which demonstrate real value, through visible results.”

Learn more at www.OMEXusa.com.

The product names and brands referenced here are registered and trademarks of OMEX® Agrifluids, Inc.

© OMEX® Agrifluids, Inc. 2021.

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