Fertilizer

Second Helpings: The importance of post-plant nutrients

Picture this: you've just finished a hearty meal, but you're still hungry for more. You go back for seconds to get all the nutrients you need to feel satisfied. In many ways, side dressing nutrients for corn is like going back for seconds at the dinner table, providing a spoon feeding of a three course meal right to the crop before and during the growing season. It's about providing the crop with essential elements, ensuring it has everything it needs to thrive and reach its full potential.

Pre-plant fertilization lays the foundation for healthy growth, whereas post-plant (or in-season) nutrition plays a crucial role in supporting corn plants during critical development phases, setting the crop up for the best yield potential. Side dressing nitrogen and other nutrients is a great option to continue to spoon feed that crop into success.

Dr. Jake believes, generally, a planned side dress application is valuable. Planned applications allow you to adjust for economics and weather. For example, the early growing season often has low temperatures which slow down nitrogen mineralization and leave the corn crop vulnerable to nitrogen deficiencies. Economically nitrogen prices change throughout the year and side dressing nitrogen may or may not be a good value. Always check with your Liqui-Grow Sales Applicator to learn about up to date pricing.

 

Timing Matters: V5, V9, VT

V5

Dr. Jake emphasizes the value of side dressing nutrients before V5 for a few reasons:

  1. Nutrients are limited because of slow mineralization early in the season, back to the cold soils again…
  2. Low nutrient availability and small root size means the roots often aren’t large enough to find the nutrients available. By side dressing nitrogen, you can increase your odds of keeping that plant on track to yield well.

If you are experiencing greater than normal spring rainfall, planning a V5 or before side dress nitrogen application can really benefit small corn plants. Rain can push nitrogen deeper into the soil, and the small roots are just often not large enough to keep up with the nitrogen moving through the soil profile. By V5, roots are established, facilitating nutrient uptake, including water, crucial for ongoing growth. Focusing on nutrient uptake during this phase sets the stage for effective plant development throughout maturation.

If you have low CEC soils or know you have low soil fertility because of soil tests taken, this could also be a great opportunity for side dressing. Check with your local Liqui-Grow Sales Rep to find out more!

Larson, E. (2023) V3 Growth Stage. Mississippi State Extension. https://www.mississippi-crops.com/2023/04/21/how-to-determine-corn-vegetative-growth-stages/

V9

For Dr. Jake, "in-season application" ideally occurs before V5, but certainly before V9. The old way of thinking was to get that nitrogen on right before V9, so it’s there and later in the season, but there is lots of research to debate this theory. Beyond V9, there's a risk of stunting plant growth & yield, especially with a nutrient split of 75% before or at planting and 25% after - or any ratio that is less than 75% at or before planting. Typically, Midwest soils can adequately support nutrient uptake from V9 up to VT, depending on adequate soil moisture levels. By V9 through VT, the crop is at its peak nitrogen absorption rate per day, meaning delaying application until after V9 puts the crop at a disadvantage in terms of nutrition. Even though farmers have been across the fields “a lot” in a short amount of time, delaying the side dress pass can ultimately hurt yield, keep your equipment “warmed up” and ready to go again!

If you have questions about what this means, contact a Liqui-Grow Sales Applicator, or check out this video: Is Side-Dressing Nitrogen Worth It This Year?

Nielsen, R. (2000) V9 Growing Point & V9 Whole Plant. Purdue University. https://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/corn/news/articles.00/Growing_Points-0510-Gallery.html

VT

Nitrogen uptake will peak at VT, and by this time the soil will provide enough nitrogen through mineralization to carry the crop, as long as adequate soil moisture is present to carry the nitrates. Late season N applications will only be beneficial in certain conditions.

The Extras - Just like mashed potatoes are good, they are better with gravy.

Side dressing nitrogen is important but with today's hybrids available to us, the potential of these hybrids, and the modern day cropping practices farmers participate in, we can see a benefit in adding some potassium and sulfur. Oftentimes these added nutrients can help combat limiting factors for plant development. Boron and zinc can even be added to your side dress mixture for additional micronutrients in your application.

Potassium (K):

Potassium is essential for various physiological processes in corn plants, including water regulation, enzyme activation and stress tolerance. While pre-plant applications are often the only recommendation for potassium, there are situations where side dressing with K can provide additional benefits, especially in fields with specific challenges.

  • Jake’s recent research trials suggest that applying potassium solely at pre-plant results in stronger crops than a 75% up front followed by a side dress of 25% ratio. However, there are times you’ll see a “bang-for-your-buck” with additional K in your side-dress application those are:
    • fields experiencing dry springs, or sandy/droughty soils
    • low and limited soil potassium levels
    • compaction issues (where roots have been limited)

Applying 10 to 15 pounds of potassium during side dressing, particularly in sandy or low-potassium soils, can help address deficiencies and promote optimal crop growth. Liqui-Grow manufactures its own 0-0-12 product to be used during the side-dress season. Just so you know, adding potassium to the tank can be tricky. It’s important to have the correct N to K ratio, and your Liqui-Grow team is knowledgeable and ready to help.

Sulfur (S):

Corn needs sulfur for proper development and over the past 10-15 years we have seen an increase in crop need for sulfur, here in the Midwest. To delve into why corn needs sulfur, check out this blog post from Jan! An extra benefit to using Sulfur in with our side dress nitrogen is its ability to act like a nitrification inhibitor, because it slows the nitrification process, leaving more nitrogen available for uptake for a longer period.

Recommended ballpark sulfur rates vary depending on crop rotation and soil type. For corn on corn, applying 20 to 25 pounds of sulfur per acre is advisable, while corn after soybeans may require 15 to 20 pounds. In sandy/droughty soils, we like to see 30 pounds regardless of crop rotation. For more specific rates tailored to your operation, give us a call!

In cool early season soils, sulfur applications can be a huge benefit to the corn crop, especially since it’s just not readily available until the soils warm up. But if your crop is on track, and the economics make sense, adding additional sulfur into your side-dressing application can result in a positive ROI for your operation. Find out more in our video: Sulfur: When is Enough, Enough?

Finishing Touches

By incorporating potassium and sulfur into your nitrogen side dressing application, you can provide your crop with the extra nourishment it needs to thrive. With the right approach, side dressing nutrients become a recipe for success in corn production.

Your Liqui-Grow Sales Applicators are happy to discuss the best option for your operation. Liqui-Grow is proud to offer

  • custom side dress applications
  • bar rentals if you prefer to do your own application and
  • high-quality products like our 20-0-4-2
  • Delivery or pick-up of product as well

We pride ourselves on being able to work with your operation, and fill your crops needs.

Questions? Give us a shout!

Text us at 564-220-2508 or email questions@liqui-grow.com.

Starting Strong with Starter Fertilizer

 

Do you know how the weather will shake out this spring? We don’t either, but numerous research studies have shown average U.S. corn yields increase with the addition of a starter fertilizer. Here in the Midwest we are very used to seeing all four seasons in one week, sometimes in one day– as an insurance policy against all of the elements, starter fertilizer is a great addition to your spring plan. So what does starter fertilizer provide?

In this blog, we’ll learn about the importance of starter fertilizers by understanding starter basics, when to use starter fertilizer, and what to consider while using starters.

Understanding Starter Fertilizers

Starter fertilizer is a combination of nutrients applied to the crop at or around planting. Depending on the placement of the starter fertilizer, the nutrient application consists of phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, nitrogen and zinc. Starter fertilizer can be especially helpful in environments such as:

  • no-till or reduced-till soil
  • sandy soil
  • cool soil
  • soil with low organic matter
  • soil with low P, K & other soil minerals

As we continue to plant earlier in April, these soils are oftentimes colder than the crop needs for adequate nutrient uptake. Soil nutrients are slow to mineralize in cold soils, and starter fertilizers offer crops nutrients that may not be readily available in the soil during times of unseasonably cold weather or exceptionally early planting where nutrient movement and absorption is noticeably slower. By using a starter fertilizer early in the growth cycle, you can help ensure proper root development—which is essential for successful yields. Why? Because corn has little, itty-bitty roots that can’t always reach the nutrients present in the soil. By using starter fertilizer and placing it close to those roots, it helps the crop out while it is young. Kind of like a hearty breakfast early on can jumpstart your day, a strong starter fertilizer early on can jumpstart your corn crop! Even for well-producing fields, starter fertilizer can be advantageous for yields and as Dr. Jake states, “a cheap insurance policy” to hear what else Dr. Jake says about starter fertilizer check out this liqui-grow loop: https://youtu.be/yuRvWZ27oi4?si=F9DIc8Fvvgo1sr8r

 

Why Starter Fertilizers?

Root Development

After germination, corn kernels develop two root systems. The first set of roots  developed are seminal roots, followed by nodal roots crucial for nutrient uptake. If nodal roots face stress, it can hinder nutrient absorption and overall plant growth. And when a plant’s health falls behind by two or more growth stages, it becomes very difficult for that plant to catch up, therefore hurting overall yields.

Rented Land Fertility

According to Iowa State University, about 60% of crop ground is rented land. While we know it’s possible to build soil fertility over time, short term leases can pose a risk for renting low-fertility fields, as tenants might not take as good of care of the farm as long term leases. This is another instance where starter fertilizer can bridge that gap, providing necessary nutrients for a relatively low cost with a more immediate return on investment. A great way to be aware of your soil fertility is through soil sampling– check out our last blog to learn more on soil sampling!

Photo of Tractor planting with fertilizer

 

Starter Fertilizer Considerations

The goal of any fertilizer is to feed the crop and the yield. That being said, we always want to be conscious of seed injury. When talking about starter fertilizer, we specifically want to be aware of salt injury which means some nutrients have higher salt contents and if they come in contact with your seed corn, they will injure or kill the seed. It’s very important to know what products you are using and what placement you have available on your planter. Never hold this information back when working with an ag retailer, we don’t want to give you the wrong information because we didn’t know all the pieces to the puzzle.  

6-24-6-.25 (Zn) 

6-24-6-.25 (Zn) is a seed-safe in-furrow starter fertilizer with low salt content. With the recommended three to six gallon per acre application, salt injury is uncommon. As Dr. Jake says, this is the “crown jewel of starters and an extremely successful product of Liqui-Grow.” 

4-10-10

For fields with significantly low phosphorus and potassium levels, 4-10-10 is another quality starter fertilizer option. This is an out-of-furrow fertilizer, allowing higher application rates without seed injury in the 10 to 20 gallon per acre range. Choosing a starter fertilizer can have many considerations, including soil health and even efficiency preferences—higher application rates will mean more stops to fill up.

18-3-3-3-.15 (Zn)

Another option to consider, especially for high phosphorus and potassium soils, is our 18-3-3-3-.15(Zn). This is a complete N, P, K, S, and Zn starter. Our 18-3-3-3 is an out-of-furrow fertilizer with application rates in the 15-30 gallon per acre range. This is a great option for continuous corn since it provides a readily available source of nitrogen, when we commonly see N tied up in residue. 

Talk to your Liqui-Grow sales applicators to learn more about which starter fertilizer is right for you.

To Conclude

Starter fertilizers can positively impact corn yields, especially in specific geographical regions or under certain soil conditions. In essence, starter fertilizers are like a booster shot for young corn, providing the plants with the nutrients they need to thrive during the critical early stages of growth. 

 

Questions? Give us a shout!

Text us at 564-220-2508 or email questions@liqui-grow.com.

Unlocking the Power of Zinc

 

Getting the small things right can make a big difference—especially when it comes to crop nutrition. 

Zinc needs for corn are relatively small, but given the right environment and nutrient blends, it can add significant yield benefits. Read on to learn more about this essential nutrient.

The Importance of Zinc

Zinc is an essential component in several enzymes required for metabolic processes in crops, including protein synthesis and growth regulation. This crucial micronutrient is largely responsible for plant development, and without it, crops would fail to thrive. Zinc is widely known for its ability to positively impact crop growth and yield productivity.

Zinc Deficiency

Zinc deficiency is a very common problem across the globe in agriculture. It can be caused by low levels of Zn present in the soil profile, an imbalanced fertilizer program, or even other nutrients, such as phosphorus. We know zinc is important, but what happens without it?

  • Because of its role in plant growth, signs of zinc deficiency include minimal new leaf growth, small leaf growth, curled or cupped leaves, discoloration of leaves, stunted stalk growth and overall lower yield and quality.
  • Without zinc, crops are also more susceptible to damage from temperature changes, including cold and drought conditions. Particularly in cold temperatures where mineralization within the soil slows down, crops can take up less zinc from the ground. This is especially important to consider in terms of shallow, sandy soil composition where soil cools dramatically quicker than denser soil. So as we continue to push the limits and plant earlier in the springtime, zinc deficiencies are showing up more frequently in field conditions.

The Impact of Phosphorus on Zinc

Another important factor concerning zinc is its relationship with other nutrients. Phosphorus, another vital crop nutrient, can actually tie up zinc, if not properly balanced. This imbalance can cause harm to the plant and lower yields. Phosphorus isn’t bad, we just need to make sure we use the right ratios when using it in starters to maximize the yield benefits of starter fertilizers.

In the chart below, Dr. Jake shares how several studies have indicated that applying phosphorus starter fertilizer without zinc can actually lower crop yields.

In fact, Dr. Jake saw yields increase by five to seven bushels per acre when zinc is applied. Traditional phosphorus fertilizer can actually prevent zinc uptake, therefore doing more harm than good for the plant. This is why adding zinc is crucial to starter fertilizer application. 

A well-formulated fertilizer will include zinc at a concentration level that can mitigate phosphorus interaction and produce strong, healthy crops. To learn more, or check and see if your starter fertilizer program is balanced, reach out to a Liqui-Grow Sales Applicator!  We are here to help!

Maintaining Zinc

Now that we’ve established zinc’s importance in crop development and yield optimization, let’s talk about how to maintain zinc levels. 

  • Your soil composition greatly impacts your need for zinc and affects your application strategy. As mentioned before, soil density and composition can impact zinc requirements. While temperature plays a role, conditions such as rocky or sandy soil are additional determining factors. Zinc occurs naturally in rocks, so even small rocks within the soil can be a source of zinc for crops (so don’t get too carried away when picking rocks in the field!). Being aware of soil health also means knowing when certain resources or nutrients have been depleted and will need to be replenished to maintain plant health. 

All crops require zinc, but the amount differs based on the crop, where it is growing and the balanced fertilizer applied to it. Dr. Jake has pinpointed where corn responsiveness would be maximized in terms of zinc application, but other crop varieties will differ.

  • Be aware of the signs of deficiency and, in rare cases, toxicity. The ability to identify problems early on means you can properly address the issue and continue growing a strong, healthy and high-yielding crop. Zinc is especially vital during the early stages of plant growth, so be proactive and scout early to set your fields up for success.  

 

If you’re interested in learning more about zinc use in your crop, check out this Liqui-Grow Loop video. 

Want to learn more about Dr. Jake’s research? Check out this overview or watch his 2023 research results summary. 

Embed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKECU92VdbU

Questions? Give us a shout! 

Text us at 564-220-2508 or email questions@liqui-grow.com.

The Story Behind Sulfur: Why nutrient deficiencies are becoming more common

 

You hear about N, P and K often, but those aren’t the only essential nutrients you need to grow a healthy crop. Sulfur is the nutrient behind most service calls Dr. Jake receives each year. 

First, it’s important to understand sulfur’s function in the plant. Here are the highlights:

  • Sulfur plays an important role in protein synthesis, which is at the root of nearly all plant development, no pun intended.  
  • Sulfur is heavily involved in chlorophyll production, which is key for photosynthesis. Remember photosynthesis is the process of converting sunlight into energy the plant can use.  
  • Because of its enzyme formation abilities, sulfur works in harmony with other biochemical reactions in the plant, such as nitrogen metabolism.  What we’re saying is there is a synergistic relationship between nitrogen and sulfur.
  • As with most nutrients, sulfur improves nutrient uptake, plant structure, disease resistance and crop yield and quality, basically the plant needs it to function.

But if sulfur is so important, why are there such frequent deficiencies? Dr. Jake believes there are a couple reasons. 

First, corn yields have increased dramatically since the 1950s—and with increased yields comes an increased nutrient requirement, depleting fields of their sulfur.  Think of your high school kids and how much they eat because they are growing.  We need to feed these plants what they really require.   

Graph of US corn grain yield trends since 1866

Second, the 1970s Clean Air Act mandated reduced sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere, the primary source of sulfur for crops. For comparison, in 1986, an average of 15 pounds per acre of atmospheric sulfate deposition was common. In 2021, that level dropped to just three pounds per acre, leaving a significant gap in nutrition. These two primary factors have instigated in many the search for a new sulfur source with a large quantity to support plant growth.

Diagnosing Deficiency

A sulfur deficiency is not as easy to detect as one might expect. In corn and depending on what growth stage the crop is, it can imitate nitrogen or even manganese or magnesium deficiencies. 

The primary sign to keep an eye out for is lighter green or yellowing tops of plants. Nitrogen deficiency causes plants to yellow from the base of the crop upward, whereas signs of sulfur deficiency start in the areas of new growth and move down.

But the real question is, “Can sulfur deficiency be corrected?” 

 

 

Managing Sulfur Levels

In short, yes. Naturally, your first instinct when noticing a lack of sulfur may be to simply add more sulfur through a fertilizer application. While yes, this certainly helps, it may not be needed right away. Typically, soil mineralizes more sulfur as it warms, and with warmer soils to mineralize nutrients, the deficiency can resolve itself. 

However, sulfur applications can have positive yield impacts, whether in the fall or spring. See Dr. Jake’s research findings below:

If you are considering a supplemental sulfur application, make sure you’re selecting the right source for your fields. Check out this Liqui-Grow Loop video or contact your Liqui-Grow Sales rep to understand the different types of sulfur and which perform best based on our research.

 

If the deficiency is resolved early enough, the crop may fully recover and see no yield loss. When deficiency reaches the V7-V8 stages, however, expect to see an impact during harvest. There is no 100% guarantee you will or will not see yield losses from sulfur deficiency, but these crop stage guidelines serve as a good rule of thumb.

Whether you're familiar with sulfur deficiencies or just curious about boosting your crops with this nutrient, there's a whole lot more to explore.

Watch our full breakdown from our 2023 L.E.A.D. Academy to find out more about sulfur, including how to monitor and manage this nutrient in soybeans, the yield changes Dr. Jake has observed from sulfur application and more. 

Plus, register for our 2024 L.E.A.D. Academy Winter Series for an exclusive session on The Micronutrients You Didn’t Know Your Crop Needed.

Or check out these resources for more information:

2023: Year In Review

 

As we bid farewell to 2023, we’re reflecting on the achievements, challenges and business success we’ve experienced as we work to bring you the highest quality service and products for your operation. 

Major Achievement: Launching ExactStrip

A major highlight of 2023 was doubling the number of acres we applied using ExactStrip, which was first offered in 2022. On top of that, Dr. Jake has completed his research of this technology and we’re satisfied with the results! We’ve heard positive feedback for this innovative solution ever since the initial launch and are looking forward to 2024.

“I was sort of a guinea pig for ExactStrip, and I’m glad I was! There was a phenomenal visual difference the entire season season and when it got to harvest there was considerably more yield with the ExactStrip application”

Navigating Challenges

The business and our growers faced challenges, particularly in supply and demand dynamics post-COVID. Liqui-Grow worked tirelessly to ensure that our customers didn't bear the brunt of these challenges. This resilience will continue to expand and reward customers in 2024, with improved supply resulting in lower costs for many inputs.

Grower Success Amidst Adversity

Despite facing a challenging drought year, our dedicated growers who trusted our recommendations still achieved high yields. New hybrids and cutting-edge technology played a pivotal role in helping them weather the tough conditions, showcasing the vital role that Liqui-Grow's products and service play in supporting farming operations throughout our trade territory.

Internship Program Flourishes

Our commitment to nurturing talent continued through our internship program, which welcomed seven interns in 2023! These young minds brought fresh perspectives and helped drive our research and sales efforts, fostering a culture of innovation within Liqui-Grow. We’re proud to support the growth of young individuals interested in agriculture. In 2024 we’re making improvements to enhance the learning experience. Contact our Davenport office for information about a future internship.

Growing the Liqui-Grow Family

The company expanded its workforce in 2023, adding 15 new full-time employees to the team. Additionally, we celebrated the arrival of 5 team members' babies

Empowering Communities

Beyond the fields, Liqui-Grow continued its tradition of giving back to the communities we serve. Through sponsorships and donations, we empowered local initiatives and organizations, emphasizing our role not just as an agricultural company, but as a community-focused organization dedicated to the well-being of our small towns. Please contact the Davenport office for donation/sponsorship inquiries. 

As we look back on 2023, Liqui-Grow takes pride in the strides made, the challenges overcome and the positive impact created. The year reaffirmed our commitment to excellence, innovation and community empowerment, setting the stage for even greater achievements in the years to come.

To learn more about Liqui-Grow our goals for 2024, text us at 564-220-2508 or email questions@liqui-grow.com.

 

How to Get the Best Pricing for 2024 Crop Inputs

 

The saying “the early bird gets the worm” is applicable to more than robins and blue jays. In fact, when it comes to crop protection inputs, if you’re not early you may not get a worm at all.

As we gear up for our 2024 pre-pay season, we’d like to offer some key insights that we foresee in next year’s supply inventory and help you prepare to take advantage of the best time to purchase your inputs.

What’s new?

The supply chain for crop protection products took a major hit following the pandemic in 2020. Those issues lingered into 2021 and 2022, tightening available inventory and creating challenges for delivering secured product. Thankfully, 2023 held a better outcome and 2024 looks to continue on the upward trajectory for more products.

Let’s look at the forecast for product inventory:

    • Glyphosate products like RoundUp are in great supply. This product has rebounded since 2020 and is even experiencing up to a 40% price reduction on certain products. Contact your Liqui-Grow sales representative to learn which products have the best prices.
    • Post-emergence grass killers for corn and soybeans have a good supply and have seen a price reduction. These will be a great addition for growers trying to control volunteer corn in soybean fields. .
    • For the first time since 2020, fungicides will be in good supply from Liqui-Grow. However, most of the inventory will be booked by February 15th as growers see the value in these products for overall plant health. We will be offering a significant discount during pre-pay season and encourage growers to place their order early to guarantee product availability.
  • Pre-emergence products for soybeans will have some product changes and we encourage you to ask your local Liqui-Grow sales representative what new products are best for your operation.

Pricing will likely still play a role in product selection this year, but the trends are looking favorable for growers, if you make your purchases during the pre-pay window.

Planning Ahead Pays

Each year, we encourage growers to consider new ways to increase yield and reduce input cost. The best way to accomplish that is by taking advantage of the best pricing window of the year. 

At Liqui-Grow, we devote time to researching and securing the best products on the market to give our customers ample choices for their operation. In fact, that makes us different from most ag retailers. We don’t come to your farm with a preferred list of products - we provide the products that you ask for to meet your goals. 

This personalized mindset is also the driving force behind our service lineup. Whether you want herbicides and fungicides custom applied on your operation or just need the products packaged and ready for pickup, we can support your crop protection needs. 

We also offer “hot loads” for growers who use their own application equipment but need chemicals mixed at a moment’s notice. When you’re ready to load, give us a call and the mixture will be ready when you arrive!

But the bottom line when it comes to having a successful customer experience at Liqui-Grow is to take advantage of this pre-pay season to book the best products at the best price. 

Buying now is truly the only guaranteed way to secure your product for next year. Plus, if the weather changes and you have to adjust your plan midway through the season, we’ll work with you to ensure you have the product you need for your crop.

Growers concerned about cashflow can also utilize Liqui-Grow financing options as long as you lock in your pricing by January 10th. Terms with all financing options have changed for the 2024 season, so consult your Liqui-Grow sales representative for the current rates and payment options. 

For more questions around product options, availability or pricing, text us at 564-220-2508 or email questions@liqui-grow.com.

What 2024 Tax Changes Could Mean for Your Operation

 

Running a profitable farming venture requires more than reducing input costs and increasing yields. In today’s economy, you also have to manage taxes, payroll and countless other financial variables that dictate your bottom line.

With December 31st knocking on our door, we want to provide our customers with some key insights regarding upcoming tax changes and how they could impact your operation. We met with Dustin Kimball, CPA, to discuss the most pressing issues around tax laws and financial planning for your operation.

In this visit, Dustin outlined changes related to:

  • Iowa State Tax Reductions
  • Section 179 & Bonus Depreciation
  • Estate Planning
  • Capital Equipment Purchases
  • Business Entities
  • And More!

 

Highlight Video (15 minutes)

 

Questions? Give us a shout! 

Text us at 564-220-2508 or email questions@liqui-grow.com.

A Researcher’s Reward: 2023 Research Plot Results

Our fall L.E.A.D. Academy webinar provided answers for a question on the top of many farmers’ minds this time of year—what worked well, and how can we improve for next season? Watch Dr. Jake’s overview of his 2023 research plot results here, or read on to learn more about his conclusions.

 

Fertilizer Distance Study

We launched our multi-location fertilizer distance study three years ago in preparation for the launch of ExactStrip application. Now, after testing more than 800 plots at 10 locations across three seasons, Dr. Jake is excited to share his findings.

ExactStrip shares RTK guidance lines from the floater to the farmer’s planter, tractor or strip till machine in order to plant as close as possible to the fertilizer bands. Much like a teenager being close to a refrigerator, the closer the plant’s roots are to the fertilizer, the more nutrients the plant will consume.

Dr. Jake tested ExactStrip fertilizer application against broadcast application and a check plot with no fertilizer applied. Each ExactStrip application included a 30” band of full-rate fertilizer, and distances tested ranged from 0” to 15”.

Traditional liquid fertilizer applications tend to occur between 6” and 9” of the planted row—a range that yielded a 2 to 3 bushels per acre increase over broadcast application and 12 to 14 bushels per acre more than the untreated plot in our study. 

With ExactStrip, we are able to place fertilizer within 3” of the row—providing a 5 to 8 bushels per acre yield advantage over broadcast application and 16 to 18 bushels per acre over untreated.

This yield increase proves the value of precision application for maximum crop performance. We are excited for Liqui-Grow customers to continue seeing these results on your own farms. 

If your farm equipment is up to date with RTK capabilities, reach out to your local Liqui-Grow sales representative and ask them about our distance study and ExactStrip technology.

 

Pairing ExactStrip with Strip-Till

Continuing with his ExactStrip research, Dr. Jake conducted a study comparing different approaches for applying fertilizer in strip-till operations. 

ExactStrip application following strip-till performed very well against traditional injected application, and Dr. Jake is optimistic about how these numbers will continue to improve as his research on pairing ExactStrip with various tillage practices moves forward. 

In-Furrow Additives on Corn

Dr. Jake has been studying biological and non-traditional products for corn for the past six years. Through this extensive research, two products stand out. 

 

Micro-AZ and AvailT5 show consistent yield improvements of more than 4 bushels per acre across the 20+ plots tested. Dr. Jake strongly recommends these products for an affordable and reliable yield boost in corn.

Micro-AZ In-Furrow Starter

Micro-AZ caught Dr. Jake’s attention because the formulation centered around azospirillum brasilense—a well-researched bacteria that causes significant increases in corn root hairs, which improves nutrient uptake and leads to consistent yield increases.

 

AvailT5 Additive

AvailT5 is a phosphorus enhancement product that is a valuable additive for any field, particularly ones with pH above 7 or below 5.5 and/or low phosphorus levels. 

Dr. Jake compiled 140 side by side comparisons across 8 sites, and the results show that AvailT5 is effective whether applied in–furrow or with fall suspension fertilizer. According to his research, AvailT5 yields an average return on investment of $13 per acre.

Next, Dr. Jake wanted to compare the impact of AvailT5 on various soil types. When you look at the locations with the ideal conditions for AvailT5 to make the biggest impact, you can see the average yield increase from 4 to 9 bushels per acre, bringing in a $38 per acre return on investment.

Using this knowledge, we’ve come up with an innovative solution to maximize the impact of your investment. By using grid samples to identify areas of the field with high/low pH and low phosphorus levels, we’re able to inject AvailT5 exactly where your fields need it, and skip the areas that don’t. 

This is an application method that can benefit any farmer. Talk to your local Liqui-Grow sales representative to take advantage of AvailT5.

New In-Furrow Additives

While we recognize and appreciate the reliability and consistency of Micro-AZ and AvailT5, we also embrace cutting-edge technology and new products on the market.

This year, Dr. Jake conducted studies involving Maneuver, Utrisha P and Fosters + Pmax. The initial results all show strong performance, but we have smaller amounts of data on these products. Dr. Jake is eager to continue studying their impact on crop yields and gathering more data to help farmers make informed decisions.

 

Foliar Non-Traditional Screening in Soybeans

Another new study for 2023 centered around foliar non-traditional screening in soybeans. The preliminary findings shine a spotlight on one key group of products: amino acid based.

Dr. Jake is confident in the ability of amino acids to provide a strong foundation for soybean additives, ultimately resulting in a high return on investment. This initial research backs this belief, and we will continue to share updates as the study continues.

Starter Fertilizer with Zinc

For his last research update, Dr. Jake shared insights from a study focused on the presence of zinc in starter fertilizers. This research revealed the shocking conclusion that applying starter fertilizer without zinc actually lowers crop yields.

This is because traditional phosphorus fertilizer ties up zinc in the soil, ultimately doing more harm than good for the plant. For a starter fertilizer to truly benefit your crop, it needs to be a well-balanced formulation.

From concluding long-term studies to just beginning new ones, this fall’s L.E.A.D. Academy webinar set the stage for another productive year of unveiling new agronomic insights in 2024.

Want to learn more about Dr. Jake’s research? Text us at 564-220-2508 or email questions@liqui-grow.com.

The Truth About Phosphorus for Crop Nutrition & Soil Health

 

The Importance of Phosphorus

Ever wonder why some fields are impacted by drought more than others?  It could be the result of low phosphorus levels in the soil.  

Phosphorus is a key contributor to plant and root development, along with nutrient uptake. From a technical standpoint, phosphorus is a fundamental element of a plant’s DNA and RNA structure, and a key component of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the primary energy currency for a plant. This means phosphorus is responsible for helping a plant grow, develop and maintain energy throughout its life cycle. 

As far as the drought conditions are concerned, when plants are already stressed and struggling to retain nutrients, it’s pretty obvious that low phosphorus levels in a field will have a negative impact on plant performance.

Signs of Phosphorus Deficiencies

Phosphorus deficiencies can be harder to identify than other nutrients, mainly because they can often look the same as harsh environmental conditions.  But don’t worry, if you think you’re seeing something, call your Local Liqui-Grow Sales Applicator to get expert guidance in identifying those deficiencies. 

The main symptoms of phosphorus deficiencies are stunted plants or purplish leaves. It’s important to know what hybrids you have in your field, as some plants have natural characteristics that may resemble a phosphorus deficiency. 

Once plants have a bold blue or purple hue to them, though, recovery can be difficult. Thus, we recommend growers take a proactive approach to nutrient management to avoid potential issues.

Learn more about phosphorus management in this video to determine if your field has sufficient resources available or needs intensive application.

 

Thumbnail image for Phosphorus video

Maintaining Phosphorus Levels

Overall, the basics of phosphorus management haven’t changed. Soil naturally has very small amounts of phosphorus in a plant-available form. But phosphorus is usually in  mineral and organic forms that must go through a long process of weathering and microbial degradation before they become plant-available. Thus, phosphorus applications are often necessary to maintain adequate phosphorus levels.

Speaking of adequate levels, as new technologies emerge and advanced hybrids are developed, new phosphorus recommendations are coming into play. In 2023, Iowa State University updated their nutrient recommendations to meet the demands of production. See how your soil compares to these new standards here

Once phosphorus is applied, the soil does a great job of retaining it. When growers apply phosphorus in a liquid form, it is more readily available to the plant and isn’t bound up by other nutrients, like calcium, iron and aluminum. Liqui-Grow’s extensive testing and research has shown that using a balanced fertilizer approach and applying phosphorus at the same time as potassium and other micronutrients provides the best results for your crop’s performance. Using a phosphorus stabilizing product like Avail T5 further protects your nutrients and helps your fertilizer investment pay off even faster. 

To learn more about the technology available for phosphorus applications, watch this Liqui Grow Loop video and contact your local Liqui-Grow sales rep to create a customized nutrient management plan for your operation. Text us at 564-220-2508 or email questions@liqui-grow.com today.  

Why Nitrogen is the Lifeblood of Your Crop

 

A plant needs many nutrients to produce a good yield, but when it comes down to the basics, nitrogen is the lifeblood of your crops. This nutrient affects nearly every vital element of a plant’s life and structure.

The Importance of Nitrogen

To grow yields, a plant has to convert sugars into energy, and nitrogen plays a big role in this conversion. It is a key component of chlorophyll, the process by which a plant harvests sunlight and converts it to sugars used for vegetative and reproductive growth. That’s a long way of saying that you need nitrogen to make grain. In fact, it takes approximately .8 - 1.2 pounds of nitrogen to grow 1 bushel of corn. 

There are several forms and sources of nitrogen, but the most common for field application is ammonium nitrogen (NH4), as it is not easily lost from the soil. Once ammonium nitrogen enters the soil, it is converted into Nitrate (NO3) by microorganisms and used by crops for growth and development. Since nitrate is a water soluble form, it’s more easily lost in groundwater.  

Managing Nitrogen Levels

To grow yields, a plant has to convert sugars into energy, and nitrogen plays a big role in this conversion. It is a key component of chlorophyll, the process by which a plant harvests sunlight and converts it to sugars used for vegetative and reproductive growth. That’s a long way of saying that you need nitrogen to make grain. In fact, it takes approximately .8 - 1.2 pounds of nitrogen to grow 1 bushel of corn. 

There are several forms and sources of nitrogen, but the most common for field application is ammonium nitrogen (NH4), as it is not easily lost from the soil. Once ammonium nitrogen enters the soil, it is converted into Nitrate (NO3) by microorganisms and used by crops for growth and development. Since nitrate is a water soluble form, it’s more easily lost in groundwater.  

Nitrogen is naturally found in soils, and as the weather warms, mineralization of that nitrogen occurs to convert it into a plant available form. However, the majority of nitrogen in the soil currently is not plant available. And we can’t predict temperatures or rainfall far enough in advance to rely upon mineralization as a sole source of plant available nutrients.

Thus, to manage your nitrogen levels effectively, it’s important to understand your field’s soil type and texture. Loam type soils will retain nitrogen easier than others. Thus, if you have varied soil types throughout your fields, it’s not uncommon to see different nitrogen deficiencies in different fields at different times of the growing season. Fortunately, a crop’s high demand for nitrogen throughout the entire plant makes it easy to spot deficiencies.  

 

Here are some signs of low nitrogen levels in your soil: (https://www.powerag.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/corn-def-nitrogen-2.png)

  • Orange & red tint in the midrib of the leaf
  • Pale, yellow-ish green plant color (from decreased photosynthesis)
  • Poor plant structure, such as stunted plants and withering leaves
  • Leaves changing color from yellow-ish green to brown

 

Of course, the best way to prevent deficiencies is through proper nutrient management. At Liqui-Grow, we recommend applying 32% Liquid Nitrogen to keep your soil healthy and equipped for productive performance each year. It has a balance of 50% urea, 25% ammonium nitrogen (NO4+) and 25% nitrate (NO3-), providing three of the four main sources of commercial nitrogen.

This blend keeps crops fed throughout the season as the nitrate is immediately available and mobile in the soil, while the ammonium is not as easily lost and readily available to plants. The urea in this blend must be converted into ammonium nitrogen to be available to plants, which can occur in warm spring soils in less than a week. 

However, application alone doesn’t guarantee the nutrient will be available to your crop. 

There are four main ways that nitrogen is lost in the soil:

 

— Photo credit to University of Illinois – 

  1. Ammonia Volatilization — When nitrogen is laid on the ground, pH levels change and nitrogen can be lost into the air as gas. Most commonly this happens with urea and can result in up to 30% loss. The best way to naturally prevent ammonia volatilization is with tillage, rainfall or irrigation to push the nitrogen into the soil. However, a surface banding application can mitigate losses to a maximum of about 10%.
  2. Nitrogen Leaching — Once nitrogen enters the soil, the nitrate form can be lost when heavy rainfall carries it down into the soil. If leaching occurs more than 6’ below the soil, plants will likely not absorb the nutrient. 
  3. Immobilization — When nitrogen is immobilized, it does not flow freely through the soil, making it unavailable to plants. While not a permanent issue, nitrogen accessibility during key periods of plant need could be affected by immobilization.
  4. Denitrification – If soils are saturated and void of oxygen, nitrogen gas and nitric oxide can leave the soil in a gaseous form. 

This volatility means timing and method of nitrogen application is key to reducing nutrient loss. Under normal field conditions, it takes urea 3-5 days to convert into ammonium. Using a nitrogen stabilizer, such as ATS or Instinct®, helps slow the conversion from ammonium to nitrate, protecting the nitrogen from volatilization and leaching. 

Additionally, measuring your carbon to nitrogen ratio with a soil test will help keep nitrogen available to plants. A 12:1 carbon-to-nitrogen ratio is ideal for plant performance. Lower ratios will limit microbial activity, while a higher ratio will restrict the soil from releasing nitrogen. To learn the best strategies for managing this ratio, visit with your local agronomist. 

Utilizing the correct nitrogen source and applying the right rate at the right time will keep your crop, your wallet and your environment healthy and strong. To learn more about managing nitrogen in your field, ask a Liqui-Grow Sales Applicator or text us at 564-220-2508.