The James HuttonInstitutes Professor Philip White gave farmers at the Maize Growers Association’s Maize Conference 2016 a timely reminder of how key trace elements are for maize growers in order for them to maximise the potential of their animals.
Trace elements(micronutrients) are essential minerals and can only be received from the diet plants take them up and pass them on but if there are insufficient quantities in the plants then animals will not give you their best, pointed out Professor White.
He said that while nitrogen, sulphate or phosphate were often considered the key crop limiting inputs; a lack of iron, zinc or manganese in soils, for example, also put limits upon yield.
Different varieties have different properties and mineral composition, as does different soil, and all affect the quality of forage that is produced from maize, headded.
Professor White said that there were two ways to address trace element deficiency in crops,including agronomic via better soil management; and genetics via breeding varieties that allow a better uptake.
Indications are that soils in the UK have a slight deficiency problem with many of the key trace elements such as boron, zinc, copper and magnesium, and the problem is increasing as more and more are taken off each season.
Diagnosing deficiency has to be addressed but by the time its showing in the plant, its too late, stressed Professor White. Soil and leaf diagnostics are the only way to tell if there is a problem although soil analysis is not always useful regarding some trace elements.
Professor White said that it was key that growers began by mitigating yield and quality losses by starting to put trace elements back in their soils and maintain a nutrient strategy. If you take so much off then it must be put back in by your fertilisers, he added, suggesting that starter fertilisers (similar to a seed treatment) were a good way to get crops off to a good start.
With an increasing likelihood of soil deficiency, growers must hit the problem before they see it the forage they feed to their animals needs to have the right elements to achieve the feed quality, he concluded.