Cultivation/Production, Europe, UK, Ireland, Most viewed stories, Smart Farming

‘The margin game’: When lots of little things add up to make a big difference

When uncertainty about weather patterns, inputs costs and sales prices are the only certainty in the coming season, farmers and growers can reap dividends by utilising a full nutritional programme specifically designed to maximise quality and yield attributes required by the end market, according to an article by Emerald Research (ERL) in the UK, a company who take a holistic approach to sustainable crop production.

The use of micronutrients, microbials and biostimulants is a working example of the definition of marginal gains – the theory that small yet significant improvements can lead to monumental results. By compensating for broad soil deficiencies and ensuring access to the optimum nutrient growing mix until maturity, farmers and growers can look to maximise marketable yield and build resilience in what is likely to be an unpredictable season.

Optimised Nutritional Programmes have been developed from ten years’ laboratory, glasshouse, strip and field research as well as commercial on-farm trials into the nutritional needs and responses of potatoes:

  • By growth stage, 
  • In a range of weather extremes
  • Varying levels of disease prevalence

Through this extensive research, it has been possible to formulate a range of optimised growth programmes for seed, earlies and maincrop potatoes that deliver increased marketable yields on farm of 10-25%.

Planting – Getting away well

Research results have time and again demonstrated that germinating potatoes whose roots have easy access to phosphates, manganese, sulphate and iron have an improved rooting efficiency, higher germination rates and produce stronger, healthier plants that are more resilient to environmental stress brought on by cold snaps or prolonged April showers.

A snapshot of results from an east Yorkshire field trial on the crisping variety Brooke resulted in:

  • A 16.7% increase in marketable yield
  • Valued at £1,423/ha net increase in yield value
  • Out of specification losses cut by £400/ha

Stimulating growth and bulking

From rosette stage to late bulking, trial research supports a holistic approach of using biostimulant formulation to sustain the crop through its most heavy nutrient demand phase and aiding nutrient optimisation within the plant.

During trials, a mixture of bioactive compounds and minerals principally from renewable and sustainable natural resources that together aid uptake and redistribution of nutrients within the plant have shown: 

  • Improved resistance to heat, cold and drought stresses
  • Improved photosynthetic performance
  • Increased in photosynthetic area and leaf and shoot growth
  • Stronger plants – slows disease ingress and progression
  • Increase in plant carbohydrate production and sugar content

Biostimulants that contain an ionic form of phosphorous together with zinc and copper ions, combine to reinforce plant health and crop vigour, significantly increasing the ability to naturally resist a wide range of stresses that commonly occur during vital growth stages. The plant’s increased vitality translating into:

  • Increase in flower number and quality p%
  • Quicker recovery from stress and damage
  • Improved resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses
  • Increased leaf and shoot growth

Foliar nitrogen & phosphate applications 

The role played by phosphate and nitrogen in the growth and bulking stages is not in question, but rather the method of application.  The last two seasons have seen prolonged dry periods during the peak nitrogen and phosphate requirement, coupled with broadcast applications sitting on the soil’s surface waiting for rain, often missing the time-critical optimum growth window.

Once there is a large enough canopy, the use of foliar applied nitrogen and phosphate decreases the  time lag between application and plant utilisation, from hours/days to minutes, ensuring nutrient availability at the point of need.

Direct foliar application will allow growers to reduce their nitrogen and phosphate volume by up to 50% without a decline in yield, while reducing the carbon footprint, runoff to waterways and greenhouse gas emissions.

Research keeps demonstrating that taking a holistic approach to crop nutrition produces crops that are resilient to unseasonal or unexpected cold, drought and heat as well as being healthy enough to withstand common pathogens. 

By going beyond macronutrient applications and paying equal attention to the benefits of micronutrients, microbials and biostimulants, it is possible to reduce macronutrient inputs, environmental losses while improving quality and increasing the marketable yields and bottom line.

Source: Emerald Research Ltd
Photo: Optimising root growth for maximum nutrient uptake. Credit Emerald Research
Contact for more information:
Simon Fox Managing Director, Emerald Research
Emerald Research Limited (ERL) is a company who take a holistic approach to sustainable crop production. Their philosophy is built upon a universal approach to the entire cropping system and the full cropping cycle, which aims not only to improve crop performance dramatically but also to improve sustainability, reduce fertiliser use and increase water use efficiency. ERL supply tailored crop nutrition programmes including their own range of bio-stimulants, microbials under the OptiYield Brand.

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse

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