Five years of in-depth research shows that specialist nutritional seed treatments can substantially improve the performance and profitability of spring cereals.
Controlled trials on a wide range of soil types at Agrii technology centres and iFarms across the country underline the value of treating spring barley, oats and wheat crops with well-formulated manganese, copper and zinc seed dressings. And not just on ground with known deficiency problems either.
“We’ve long known how much difference early nutrition can make to spring crops with their short growing season and limited ability to compensate for setbacks ,” stressed Agrii R&D manager, Jim Carswell. “Especially so when spring conditions prove as difficult as they did last season.
“Alongside nitrogen, phosphate and sulphur, we’ve seen valuable responses to early applications of key micro-nutrients in our spring cropping research over the years. So we haven’t been surprised to find equally good, if not better, results from seed treatments that supply these micro-nutrients precisely where and when they are most needed, in the right amounts and with far less weather dependency.
“Five years of spring barley trials with i-Man (manganese) seed dressings on as many as eight sites, for instance, have given us an average response of 0.19t/ha and return on investment of £22.25/ha at what we call T(-1),” he pointed out.
“At the same time, we’ve seen an average response of 0.34 t/ha and return on investment of £48.50/ha over the past two seasons across seven sites with T(-1) zinc in the form of Zax. And Agnition copper has delivered an average 0.50 t/ha yield benefit worth £75.10/ha.”
The same specialist seed dressings have all given positive yield responses and returns on investments in recent Agrii spring wheat trials too.
What’s more, parallel trials with both husked and naked spring oats have shown the value of i-Man alone or in combination with Zax and Agnition for responses of up to 0.45t/ha and returns on investment of as much as £60.75/ha.
“The widespread occurrence of manganese deficiency, especially in cold, wet conditions, makes T(-1) manganese essential for many spring crops,” Jim Carswell noted. “But it’s important to provide the nutrient in a form that is protected from lock-up and fully available to young root hairs. A treatment that also penetrates the seed coat is useful too.
“Copper is important for both cell respiration and photosynthesis and is crucial in pollen production and seed set while zinc plays a central role in disease and stress tolerance as well as sugar and protein synthesis.
“The availability of both nutrients tends to be compromised in soils with high phosphate levels as well as in high pH or recently-limed soils and those with high levels of organic matter or receiving many organic manures.
“In addition, we know that low soil copper status can reduce manganese uptake, and low soil temperatures reduce the uptake of all three nutrients. So it’s hardly surprising we see such good results from the seed treatments even on soils where analyses suggest levels are adequate. We have to remember too that barley is highly susceptibility to copper deficiency in particular,” he added.
Based on his Agrii trial work and extensive experience with plant micro-nutrition, Jim Carswell suggests that spring crops are most likely to benefit from specialist nutritional seed treatments where early establishment conditions are challenging.
He sees well-formulated T(-1) manganese, copper and zinc treatments as essential wherever soils are deficient in these nutrients and likely to be extremely valuable in many cases where soils appear to contain adequate levels.
“All our experience underlines the importance of assessing the nutrient status of your spring cropping ground carefully ahead of planting with a broad spectrum soil analysis,” he concluded. “But it’s equally important to understand this will not necessarily tell you how available the nutrients are, especially if soil or growing conditions become challenging.
“This is why specialist nutritional treatment at T(-1), supported in many cases with the well-proven root-stimulating phosphite and PGA dressing Take-off, can be such a valuable insurance policy.”