Biological N fixer a success for Cornish potato grower

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With growers able to plant their maincrop potatoes, Corteva Agriscience is highlighting the role biological products could play in 2024 nitrogen strategies.

The foliar-applied BlueN captures nitrogen from the air and converts it into ammonium, reportedly providing up to 30kg/ha of supplemental nitrogen.

John Sellars, category marketing manager for Corteva’s range of biological products, said: “The manufacturing of fertilisers is a hugely energy-consuming process. BlueN provides supplemental nitrogen to crops without the risk of leaching, increasing nitrogen use efficiency.

“The bacteria in BlueN fixes nitrogen from the air via an enzymatic reaction meeting changing market expectations by being able to provide a sustainable source of nitrogen.”

Fully available last year, BlueN was used by Cornish farmer Andrew Thomas, who said he saw a 20% increase in yield.

He admits that he wasn’t sold on the idea, but trialled the product on 1ha of his 24ha farm. “I’m probably a bit traditional and set in my ways but I couldn’t believe the results,” he said.

“I sprayed one field but I didn’t spray the other because I ran out of time – I wish I had now. We could see the difference in the size of the tubers, the quality and the yield.

“Spring last year was quite cold and wet, so the potatoes were looking a bit stressed. After I applied BlueN I couldn’t see much difference for a fortnight, but after that, I could tell they’d picked up more nitrogen – I could see a difference in the foliage.

“It increased yield by at least 20%, which equated to about 2.5t/ha. I have told many fellow growers about the experience I had because it exceeded all expectations.”

Corteva states that the optimal application time is between BBCH 25 to 33. The product enters through the leaf stomata and moves to photosynthetic cells.

“Once the bacteria have established in-between the cells, they start the nitrogen-fixing cycle, delivering ammonium to the plant,” says Iuliia Kovalova, biologicals field technical manager at Corteva. “This means that as the crop grows, the bacteria continuously provide supplemental nitrogen to the plants.”

BlueN is a living organism so it should applied as soon as the pack is opened and the product is mixed in the sprayer tank. Growers should ensure that the crop is not stressed and that temperatures are above 10C.

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