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Missing Nutrients Can Stand in the Way of Top Yields

Consider Mid-season Application of Sulfur in Corn, Manganese for Soybeans

A balanced fertility program based on soil samples, crop history, yield goals and hybrid/variety being planted is a sound approach for optimizing yields. However, in the quest for top yields, research has found value in supplementing nutrients during key growth stages. In-season foliar feeding also helps offset crop stresses.

Corn plant

Additional Sulfur Benefits Corn Yield

As corn hybrids have evolved and yields have increased, crop removal of sulfur (S) has increased significantly, making S the fourth macronutrient farmers most often need to add to their fertility programs. Without adequate and available S, yield losses in corn can begin as early as 21 days after emergence. If S deficiency continues, yield losses of 1 to 2 bushels per day can occur, according to North Carolina State University research.

Sulfur is vital to corn for many reasons. First, it is a component of protein enzymes that regulate photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation, so S levels must be adequate for proper use of available nitrogen (N). If S supplies are low and plants can’t uptake and use N, plant health and productivity suffers and N can be lost to leaching, runoff or volatilization. Sulfur, like N, also is mobile in the soil and subject to leaching.

In season, S-deficient corn typically has an overall yellow appearance, similar to N deficiency. However, when symptoms are evident, the deficiency often has begun taking its toll on yield. Tissue sampling is the best method for diagnosing nutrient deficiencies, and the Southern States agronomy team recommends a phased approach, beginning a couple of weeks before a planned application such as weed control. This allows efficient, effective foliar feeding of the crop by adding a supplemental S product to the tank mix. In irrigated crops, sample two or three times during the growing season, particularly prior to plants beginning the reproductive stages of bloom or tasseling.

Deficiency in Soybeans

Manganese Offsets Soybean Stress, Boosts Yields

An important nutrient commonly deficient in soybean tissue analysis is manganese (Mn). This micro nutrient is important for photosynthesis, but deficiencies are not necessarily due to low Mn levels in the soil. Instead, like many micronutrients, Mn availability to the soybean crop is directly related to soil pH levels reaching 6.2 or above, which causes tie-up. Tie-up is when a nutrient or chemical bonds with soil particles and does not reach the plant. Mn deficiencies are more common on sandier soils and can be seen during dry soil conditions, especially on tilled soils.

Nutritional products formulated to avoid soil tie-up of Mn are available for banded application at planting. When Mn is needed in-season, foliar application is the most economical and effective method for correcting deficiency. Applying Mn at both planting and through in-season foliar feeding has shown yield benefits up to 9 bushels per acre. An added benefit of foliar feeding with Mn is its effectiveness in helping soybean plants metabolize herbicides, avoiding the flash-burn phenomenon that may occur when the weather is hot and dry. Be sure to talk with your local Southern States Cooperative agronomy professional for advice on nutritional programs, tissue testing and in-season nutritional solutions to meet crop needs and your production goals.

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