Key Nutrients in High Yielding Wheat
The time for Nitrogen application is upon us, and in some areas the first nitrogen application has already been applied with the support of nitrogen stabilizers. The wheat plant’s greatest need for Nitrogen begins around feekes stage 6, which is when the first node forms at the base of the main stem. Once that stem begins to elongate, the plant begins to uptake a lot of Nitrogen. Feekes stage 6 usually occurs in early to mid-April here in PA. Split applying Nitrogen, to time the application of nitrogen to critical growth stages, may be the most effective way to maximize overall yield and productivity.
Let’s take a look at a few other key elements to high yield wheat, such as Potash, Sulfur, and Boron.
Potassium is very important because of its impact on the process of photosynthesis, whereby the plant utilizes energy from the sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrates to feed the plant. Potassium increases the chlorophyll and protein formation within the plant and assists in moving sugars through the plant to feed the new cell growth that is happening in the plant. Potassium also increases stalk health and strength, improving stand-ability of the wheat crop.
Cold, dry soils or soils high in Calcium or Magnesium may decrease the availability of potassium to the plant. High Nitrogen rates also reduce the ability of the plant to uptake Potash simply because the Nitrogen is more readily available and clogs up the vascular system of the plant limiting the flow of Potassium into the plant. We frequently recommend spiking your Nitrogen applications with Potassium or foliar applying some Potassium to help maximize the uptake of Potash into the plant.
Sulfur is another element that is important for protein and chlorophyll synthesis. Sulfur brings out the dark green color in the plant due to its impact on chlorophyll production. Sulfur helps the plant fight off disease, helps to influence test weights, and generally contributes to overall yield increases by developing a healthier more robust plant that can support higher yields.
Boron is sometimes the forgotten ingredient in wheat production. Boron is a vital component of plant growth, because of the role it plays in forming and building cell walls. Boron is needed at the growth point of the plant, where cell division and new cell formation is developing. Boron helps transfer nutrients like sugars and carbohydrates to the new cells that are forming. An inadequate supply of Boron to the plant can retard the growth of fast growing tissue, impacting plant development. Boron can help the plant during flower set, pollination, and kernel formation, allowing the plant to express more of it’s genetic potential.
Boron does not re-mobilize in the plant, which means it doesn’t move from old growth into new growth. Therefore, the plant needs an adequate supply of Boron through early growth stages into the grain fill period. Also, its important to remember that soil pH above 6.5 ties up the availability of Boron to the plant.
Plants do not need high amounts of Boron, but it is important to keep this key element available because Boron also has an impact on the uptake and transportation of Potassium within the plant.
Boron deficiency is most often expressed at the growing point of the plant. You may see underdeveloped new leaves, or you may see saw tooth leaf edges or a crinkling pattern on the leaf, or even plant cell death at the growing point of the plant, which is indicated by brown necrotic leaf edges.
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