For growers short of time, Charlie Bannister, technical manager, plant health at FMC, offers four tips on crop nutrition for this autumn to ensure crops are as robust as possible going into winter.
Mr Bannister says: “Because drilling is likely to be rushed and soil tests missed this year, tissue testing could become more important than ever.
“I would encourage growers to take samples as soon as the crop is big enough, usually from the three-leaf stage onwards. This allows you to see what nutrients the crop has been able to access in the soil and, without soil tests, this information could be invaluable.
“Tissue tests can help spot any lock-up issues which could be caused by other factors, such as soil conditions, temperature, water levels and interactions between nutrients themselves.”
Mr Bannister explains that foliar applications of nutrients are an ideal way to maintain the correct nutritional levels and balance in season.
“If nutrition has been overlooked, growers still have the chance to rectify anything crops are lacking through the use of foliar-applied nutrition.
“This can be a cost-effective and quick solution, as foliar nutrition products can be applied with other products and incorporated into T timings, reducing travelling and saving time.”
“Manganese is very important for photosynthesis, making it a vital element of any crop nutrition programme,” says Mr Bannister.
“This micronutrient is often routinely applied by growers in autumn, but will be especially important this year if growers are pushing ahead with drilling to get crops in the ground earlier, rather than getting caught out again.
“This elongated season before winter dormancy will mean crops will be putting on more dry matter and consequently will be ‘hungry’ for nutrition. As manganese is vital for photosynthesis, crops will be actively seeking it.
“There are certain areas, such as light and chalky soils, which are particularly high risk for manganese deficiency, so if you have any of these soil types, prioritise applications.”
Magnesium is traditionally applied later in the growing season to help grain formation.
However, Mr Bannister says magnesium is a vital nutrient because of its role as a catalyst in more than 300 reactions within the plant and this is why this second important nutrient should be included in the autumn programme.
He says: “It helps to turn fuel into energy available for the plant, stimulates the production of carbohydrates and it plays a role in protein synthesis.”
Mr Bannister says if we see another wet autumn, plants could be hit hard again as these vital processes are interrupted because magnesium is one of the most leachable elements in crop nutrition.
“For the past three years we have been looking at tissue samples across the country and have seen a significant upward trend in the number of crops which are deficient in magnesium. For example, in 2018, 68 per cent of the crops sampled were deficient and this year this has risen to 74 per cent.
“Based on these results and the wet conditions last year, there is every likelihood magnesium will already be low in soils. I would recommend growers apply it as a matter of course via foliar application from GS13 onwards.”