Jan 13, 2020Product offers nitrogen in short, targeted bursts
At a time when growers are beginning to apply a minimum of nitrogen, two products from British Levity Crop Science and OMEX Agrifluids USA are marketed to growers to target specific stages in growth, such as as fruit bulking.
University California, Davis researchers this summer published a study about managing the application of nitrogen in agriculture. Among the study’s suggestions are applying fertilizers more precisely and getting nitrogen to where it’s needed most. In some agricultural markets, access to basic NPK fertilizer is a concern, while in others, over-application of nitrates is an environmental concern.
“People not having access to fertilizer to grow food is as much of a problem as inefficient use of it,” lead author Ben Houlton said in a press release.
Slow-release, biological and organic fertilizers have been marketed as reducing excess nitrogen application. Cell Power SizeN, a Levity product distributed by OMEX, also offers a chance to reduce the total amount of applied nitrogen.
SizeN, developed by Levity, has seen wide use in potatoes and is now being marketed widely to fruit growers in the Pacific Northwest, Florida and Michigan.
“As an industry, we’re under an obligation to find ways of getting more from less,” said Mike Williams, CEO at OMEX Agrifluids USA.
“That means finding ways to improve crop production, increasing yield while reducing waste, and providing opportunities to lower our reliance on harsh chemicals.”
Levity’s patented technology uses targeted applications of stabilized amine nitrogen to assist the plant in growing during its current stage of growth. For growers, this can be used to target the specific stages of fruit or vegetable growth, for example, to bulk up fruit.
Rock Klenk, a former Omex employee, who has worked on his father’s farm, Klenk Orchards, now operates a greenhouse business full-time. He said Levity products were used on his father’s cherries and Honeycrisp apples with good results.
In the orchard’s 2017 cherry season, he remembered, the trees didn’t have much of a June drop. The trees were almost overloaded with fruit, he said, but fertilization helped all those cherries fill out to a good size, called nine-row, with most cherries at 75/64ths of an inch.
“What we saw in cherries was really promising,” he said. “They looked really good. We had a really good crop.”
He’s also had luck using SizeN on mums in his greenhouse, and seen some success in using a calcium product from Levity called LoCal to stave off bitter pit in Honeycrisp.
“We saw really good results on bitter pit control,” he said. “Obviously, you’re not going to control that 100%. It’s hard to put a number on it, but looking at it, it was hard to find a Honeycrisp that had bitter pit.”
The science behind SizeN product makes a lot of sense to him, he said. While many growers spread dry urea or calcium nitrate, the fertilizer in that form isn’t readily available to the plant, while SizeN is already in an amine form.
A lower amount of nitrogen can be used and the product has been stabilized to stay in the soil, Klenk said.
“It won’t leach in the soil, which, environmentally, that’s good,” he said.
Austin Ochoa, a fifth-generation potato grower near Othello in Washington State’s Columbia basin, said he used SizeN on his Russet Burbank, Clearwater Russet and Alturas processing potatoes, making two key applications at tuber initiation and bulking up.
“We really liked the results and yield,” he said. “We saw an increase in tubers per plant and we also did see the increase in bulking size.”
Ochoa said he had also tried some other products with biological organisms for low-nitrogen fertilizer.
“There is some good stuff about those (biologicals), but you don’t see the same results as SizeN,” he said.
In the three and a half years that SizeN has been offered in the U.S., Levity Crop Science Managing Director David Marks said, he’s been “refreshed” by growers’ willingness to try something new and different.
“They will try something they’re skeptical about,” he said.
— Stephen Kloosterman, associate editor