Agronomy with a different eye!

1 June 2016
prayon-news

Some papers presented in Beijing looked at Agronomics with a different eye than the usual with/without addition of this or that! Papers covering calcium and micronutrients in particular explored new routes and concepts for assessing efficiency of application.

OVERCOMING PHYSIOLOGICAL DISORDERS BY UPREGULATION OF SPECIFIC GENES

Dr. Pawel Wiatrak - Cytozyme LaboratoriesOptimizing crops mineral nutrition can greatly improve crop production. Cytozyme's presentation concentrated on the mineral nutrition of Calcium (Ca) in a variety of crops. Calcium deficiency is very common throughout the world, and it's sometimes rather difficult to address it effectively.

It seems that the "Advanced-Calcium Solution" concept presented by Dr. Pawel Wiatrak of Cytozyme Laboratories, Inc. (Utah, USA), in the recent New Ag International meeting in Beijing, has a promising future. This is the result of being based not only on applying a calcium source, but also on the Metabolically Active Compounds (MAC) technology that improves the plant's uptake and incorporation of the calcium cations within the plant cells, by enhancing the plant's genetic potential for doing so.

Cytozyme's concept has been experimented in Chilean plantations on apple trees (cvs.: Royal Gala & Pink Lady), sweet cherries (Royal Dawn), kiwis (Hayward), blueberries (O’Neal) and tablegrapes (Superior).

One of the principles in the basis of the Cytozyme concept is to foliarly-apply high rates of active calcium, as early as fruit-set, and two additional foliar applications, during the following four weeks, at bi-weekly intervals. These applications were followed by checking the internal contents of total-, and bound-calcium in the treated fruits, and, of course, by actually checking fruit quality.

But, applying the calcium product at that early stage of fruit development, is not the only novelty featured by the Cytozyme system. As said, its major groundbreaking important mode of action is upregulation of plant's genes that are normally involved in binding and integrating calcium cations, pectin formation and cell-wall biogenesis and organization, in a way that strengthens cells walls, see Figure 1.

Moreover, the product enhances lipid metabolism and transport genes, and plasma membrane genes, and upregulates genes involved in glucose metabolic process and transmembrane movement of carbohydrates.

So, actually, the "Advanced-Calcium Solution" uses a combination of strategies that enable a new potent tool, executing its action on a molecular level that is expressed on a physiological level, too.

As a result, a common denominator has been found in all the experiments described above. This denominator was an increase of up to 21% in the total calcium and up to 48% in the bound calcium content of the treated fruits over the control. The bound calcium is found in the fruits in the form of Ca-pectate, in the cell-walls and middle-lamella, and in phospholipids bilayer in the cell membranes. And these are actually the structures where the calcium stabilizes the fruits (and other organs), helping avoid calcium-deficiency disorders, like bitter-pit and watercore in pome-fruits, blossom-end rot in tomatoes and bell-peppers, bunch-stem necrosis and waterberry in grapes.

A typical results pattern for these effects is shown in Figure 2. As can be clearly seen, 60 days after flowering, total Ca contents in apple fruit was 22% higher than the untreated control, while bound Ca was 32% higher than in the control. And when these analyses were performed at harvest time, total Ca contents in apple fruit was 5% higher than in the control, while bound Ca content which is the portion that really matters, was 20% greater than in the untreated control.

Figure 1

Figure 1 - Effects of Advanced Calcium Solution on Gene Upregulation

Figure 2

Figure 2 - Advanced Calcium Solution increases Ca content in apples cv. Royal Gala

COMBINING LED AND IRON FERTILIZERS TO INCREASE YIELDS

Mr. Dave Pinxteren - Develoment and application managerPrayon is a leading company in terms of developing advanced phosphorus-carrying fertilizers. And, one must admit that the recent objective aimed at, by Prayon, was rather ambitious.

The presentation delivered by Prayon's Mr. Dave Pinxteren revealed a multi-facetted plan for developing effective simultaneous solutions for several acute problems, challenging current North-Western European greenhouse vegetable growers.

These problems are as follows:

  • Very low natural light for supporting greenhouse production of vegetables, such as tomatoes, bell-peppers and cucumbers, during the five winter months of October – March.
  • Relatively low efficiency of high-pressure sodium lamps (SON-T), which are commonly utilized to compensate for the insufficient light during winter time. This low efficiency stems from the fact that the spectrum emitted by this type of lamp, contains also green light wavelengths that are not active photosynthetically.
  • Highly more costly LED lamps, see figure 4, that are more efficient photosynthetically, but have to be placed within the plants' canopy to achieve maximum effectiveness.
  • Highly stricter environmental regulations imposed on the growers by West European countries, in terms of sodium contents that may be discharged by draining the recycled fertigation water to the environment.
  • An increasing demand by the local vegetable consumers to prefer the produce grown by local growers, to the imported one.
  • Relatively high incidence of calcium deficiency in greenhousegrown vegetables at winter time, due to high relative humidity within the tightly closed structures (which is obligatory to avoid heat loss). This calcium deficiency is expressed in tomatoes as BER (blossom-end rot), and leaf scorching, and in cucumbers- as leaf tip-burn and umbrella-leaf.
  • Iron deficiency that takes place under the very pure, high-quality irrigation water (e.g. collected and pooled rainwater) conditions, prevailing in North-Western Europe. The introduction of the high-pressure sodium lamps and the LED lamps, to the regular greenhouses management, has pushed up the light limiting factor, see figure 3. This high intensity light availability to the plants, created the need for ~60% more extensive nutrients inputs, which, in turn, aggravated the mineral discharge, and the calcium- and iron- deficiency problems.
    All these opened the door for the introduction of Prayon's new product, which would be integrated within a new management technology. The new product has actually been exposed already in the last two New Ag International meetings, in New Delhi and Warsaw. It is a polyphosphate- based P-K-Fe fertilizer, branded Micronutri Fe that can completely replace the current application of expensive Fechelates (e.g. EDHA, EDDHA and DTPA).
    Prayon's product is sodiumfree, hence it does not increase the Na+ environmental load, when the fertigation water is discharged to the environment. Also, as the use of chelates is avoided, there is much larger room for fertigation water pH flexibility, and much reduced UV sensitivity, which is a great advantage under recycled fertigation management (UV irradiation of the recycled water is necessary to eliminate water-borne disease infections).
    The polyphosphate ingredient of the product also provides good P and Ca availability to the plants, and ensures scale-, and calcium carbonate- free tubing and water emitters.
    The end-result of the combination of the new management technology, and the new product, was a much longer production season, much earlier planting-, and harvesting- date, a longer picking season, (see figure 3b) and a strong effect on the productivity of the greenhouses.
    For instance, the typical tomatoes output (160 g/unit, on the vine) grew by 50% from 70 kg/m^2 to no less than 105 kg/m^2 (!!!). Naturally, growers' income has risen accordingly.
    Prayon’s next development step is addressing greenhouse growers' needs, by providing a polyphosphate- based product, which, on top of iron will contain also zinc, manganese, copper, boron and molybdenum. This product will simplify fertilizer applications and will significantly reduce the risk of errors during nutrient dosage.

Figure 3: Natural light intensities, augmented by high-pressure sodium, and LED lamps, throughout the year, under North-Western European conditions

Natural light intensities, augmented by high-pressure sodium, and LED lamps

Figure 4: LED lamps placed within the plants' canopy to achieve maximum effectiveness

Figure 4: LED lamps placed within the plants' canopy to achieve maximum effectiveness

4R STEWARDSHIP: ALSO IN MICRONUTRIENT MANAGEMENT

Ms. Fan Hui - Technical sales manager at brandt consolidated4R Nutrient Stewardship is an innovative approach for fertilizer best management practices which considers the economic, social and environmental dimensions of nutrient management.

The concept entails using best management practices to apply the right source of nutrients, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place (From IFA, March, 2015).

However, we always pay much more attention to the NPK macronutrients, and ignore the micronutrients management which is also necessary and may significantly impact the food production even the environment. This was clearly highlighted by Mrs Fan Hui, Technical Sales Manager at Brandt Consolidated in China. Brandt contributed over 50 years on micronutrients research and development.

The company has developed six generation products from inorganic salts, synthesized chelate, lignosulfonates, glucoheptanate complex, Manniplex and Smart System technology to improve the update efficiency (see figure 5).

The formulas and application programmes are based on the nutrients uptake, crop, soil, climate, agronomic cultivation and economic according to the field trials results in Brandt research farm and growers practice.

Today, 4R principles are practised in the micronutrients management (see figure 6) to achieve cropping system goals while minimizing field nutrient loss and maximizing crop uptake.

Figure 5: The Brandt micronutrient line

Figure 5 : The Brandt micronutrient line

Figure 6: Micronutrient management proposal for Potato in China

Figure 6 - Micronutrient management proposal for Potato in China

BOOSTING RICE YIELD BY FOLIAR FEED AT PRECISE GROWTH STAGES

Yara International introduced the product branded "Rice Boost" that features a concentrated liquid mixture of nutrients that markedly increase rice yields in China, applied by foliar feeding.

Rice is a staple food in china. It covers no less than 30.3 million hectares all over the country, producing some 204 million MT of dry grains, standing for a mean yield of 6.7 MT/ha.

Top ten rice growing provinces are: Hunan, Jiangxi, Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Anhui, Hubei, Guangxi, Sichuan, Guangdong and Yunnan, each one of them with growing areas ranging 1.15-4.09 million ha.

The major five mineral nutrition constraints at national level are (1) Potassium deficiency that is responsible for yield loss of ~9.4%; (2) Phosphorus deficiency that is responsible for yield loss of ~7.0%; (3) Nitrogen deficiency that is responsible for yield loss of ~6.8%; (4) Also zinc deficiency is quite common, and severely affects the yields in some provinces, and a similar problem takes place with regard to magnesium.

No wonder then, that Yara China decided to improve the mineral nutrition of the crop, by developing a product that would debottleneck these limitations.

Due to the extensive nature of the problem, and the inability of small growers to overcome it by massive soil applications, Yara decided to develop a product that would tackle the said deficiencies by foliar feeding, which should be applied at the most sensitive growth stages only.

"Rice Boost" is therefore a liquid formulation of potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc to ensure a balanced crop nutrition at least during central growth stages that critically determine rice crop quantity and quality.

These growth stages are first at nursery stage- 3 days prior to transplanting, and then in the field- 12-15 DAT (days after transplanting), at the rapid tillering phase, and 60 DAT, at panicle initiation.

The product has been checked in field experiments throughout the country, in 2010, testing its efficacy on the three common Chinese rice types, i.e. early season varieties, late season varieties, and single crop varieties.

A typical field experiment was carried out with Rice Boost on early rice, cv. Hemeizhan, by the Soil and Fertiliser Research Institute, Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences at Hengli, Huizhou, Guangdong Province.

The treatments were: T1- untreated control; T2- Rice Boost sprayed at a dilution of x150, 15 DAT; T3- Rice Boost was sprayed at same dilution, at 60 DAT; T4= T2+T3; T5- MKP was sprayed at a dilution of x500, at 50 DAT, which is the normal growers' practice. As can be seen in figure 7, T3 treatment produced the greatest effect, increasing the grain yield by 285 kg/ha (7.1%) above the untreated control, and 255 kg/ha (6.4%) above the standard MKP treatment.

These yield increases were statistically significant.

Another typical field experiment was carried out with Rice Boost on late rice, cv. Feng yuanyou 299, by the College of resource and Environment, Hunan Agricultural University, Luo Jainxin, Hunan Province.

The treatments were: T1- untreated control; T2- Rice Boost was sprayed by diluting 130 ml in 20 litres of water /mu, at 15 DAT; T3- Rice Boost was sprayed by diluting 130 ml in 30 litres /mu, at 60 DAT; T4= T2+T3; T5- MKP was sprayed by diluting 60 ml in 30 litre /mu, at 50 DAT, which is the normal growers' practice.

The results show that T2 treatment, produced the greatest effect, (see picture) increasing the grain yield by 1020 kg/ha (20%) above the untreated control, and by 540 kg/ha (10%) above the standard MKP treatment.

These yield increases were statistically significant above the control. And another typical field experiment was carried out with Rice

Figure 7: Yara Rice Booster's effect on early rice

Figure 7: Yara Rice Booster's effect on early rice

 

Boost on single-crop rice, cv. Y liangyou 8, by the abovementioned Hunan Province College.

The treatments were: T1- untreated control; T2- Rice Boost was sprayed by diluting 130 ml in 20 litres of water /mu, at 15 DAT; T3- Rice Boost was sprayed by diluting 130 ml in 30 litres /mu, at 60 DAT; T4= T2+T3; T5- MKP was sprayed by diluting 60 ml in 30 litre /mu, at 50 DAT, which is the normal growers' practice.

The results show that T3 treatment produced the greatest effect, increasing the grain yield by 645 kg/ha (9%) above the control and 600 kg/mu (8%) above the standard MKP treatment.

Complementary recent experiments (2014) designed to quantify the positive effects, showed better vegetative development, such as 17% thicker stalk.

The parameters that had strongest effect on the yield were the number of tillers per plant (+15%), number of grains per panicle (+13%) number of viable panicles (+4%), and 2.4% less empty grains, also grain color was improved.

At another field experiment, the foliar application of Rice Boost increased the dry grain yield by over 1 MT/ha, which features above 15% over the control.

All these agronomic benefits also produced marked economic returns, expressed by an augmented grower's net income by 2625 Yuan/ha, (394 US$/ha), while the direct costs of the treatment were only 302 Yuan/ha, (45.3 US$/ha), which means a remarkable benefit/cost ratio of 8.7! See table 1.

Table 1: Yara China, the success components of Rice Boost*

Table 1: Yara China, the success components of Rice Boost*

Source: New AG International