Growers urged not to underestimate the importance of zinc this spring

Tissue analysis samples from 2023 have shown that 75% of cereal crops had below optimum levels of zinc, meaning a foliar application of the nutrient would have been beneficial, according to the latest findings from FMC.

This result is based on the analysis of over 1,300 samples collected from crops across the country by FMC last year, and deficiency levels were over 10% higher than the average level we have seen over the previous 5 years.

FMC product manager for crop nutrition, Chris Bond, says these deficiencies are likely to be a result of the cooler, wetter conditions seen, and that given the difficult autumn and winter, crops are likely to be in a similar situation going into spring.

Getting right components

FMC product manager for crop nutrition, Chris Bond.

“The uptake of zinc from the soil is generally reduced in these conditions, as crop root systems aren’t as active, and the biological state of the soil is also relatively inactive.

“Flooding also poses an increased risk of poor zinc availability, due to higher formation of insoluble zinc compounds in the soil and we have seen many soils across the country highly saturated for extended periods of time.

“While the imminent T0 window presents an opportunity to get foliar nutrition including zinc onto crops, the continued patchy weather patterns mean this could be missed, putting more pressure on the T1 timing,” warns Mr Bond. If this is the case, he suggests that it is going to be even more important to get the right components in the tank mix.

“At this stage, the crop is about to move into a rapid period of growth in terms of stem elongation. So, anything you can do to make sure nutrient levels are where we want them is going to be very beneficial. “For zinc specifically, lock up can be a particular issue in situations of high pH or organic matter soils.

“There is also the challenge posed by crops that have rooted poorly over the winter. With little need to explore the soil for water, many crops are now ill equipped to maximise absorption of plant available nutrition from the soil.”

Important time for crops

To get around this issue, Mr Bond recommends an application of Cereal PlusT at T1. “This nutrient solution contains a combination of magnesium, manganese, copper and zinc – the key nutrients for cereal growth and development.”

Cereal Plus should be applied at a rate of 2.5–5 litres/ha, in at least 200 litres of water.

For growers who have carried out a tissue analysis which has flagged a zinc deficiency, Mr Bond suggests considering an application of FMC Zinc – a straight zinc supplement, at this timing or soon as you can get it on.

Mr Bond adds: “If timings do get missed and a lot of products end up being rolled into one at T1, then it’s important to ensure that both the FMC Cereal Plus and the Zinc are compatible with the wider tank mix.

“We’re approaching a really important time for crops in the ground, so getting that nutrient balance right now, is vital for ensuring a profitable harvest.”

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