Biologicals help farmers to cut back on nitrogen

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With the cost of crop nutrition still running high, and environmental pressures mounting, now is the time many farmers are turning to alternatives, and biologicals offer plant health benefits at a reasonable cost.

Application timing is critical to seeing these benefits and Cambridgeshire-based arable farmer, Russ McKenzie, says he has seen a .3 – .35 t/ha yield improvement on his winter wheat using Unium Biosciences’ TWOXO signalling compound.

“It may seem like a modest yield improvement, but we have trials to prove it and TWOXO gives a good bang for its buck. We use it growth stage 32 to boost N uptake in the wheat at a key time. It’s a no brainer product to build the foundations of a good yield,” he explains.

Mr McKensie operates no till systems across the 140ha farm, based near Huntingdon. He’s reduced N applications and believes biologicals have helped to support this. “TWOXO is good at supporting what you’re doing and gets the plant working for itself.

“We’ve reduced N from the standard 200kg/ha to 180kg/ha and biologicals have helped us to trim it back,” he says.

Good rooting essential

Mr McKensie explains that he uses TWOXO on winter wheat that has good rooting and is looking healthy. “If you have a crop that’s struggling you might use a different product, but if you have good rooting, it pushes NUE in the plant,” he says.

John Haywood at Unium Biosciences has been working with Russ to trial a lot of its products and says TWOXO can be used between growth stage 30 – 37, and optimum timing is at stage 31 and 32. “TWOXO essentially supports nitrogen assimilation within the plant.

“It’s a signalling compound designed to enhance nitrogen use efficiency and carbon sequestration,” he says.

“There are two enzymes that play an important role in nitrogen metabolization, glutamine synthetase (70% in cereal crops) and asparagine synthetase (30% in cereal crops).

“TWOXO works 100% on the glutamine pathway and what scientists proved with over 30 years of research was the link between carbon and nitrogen metabolism in this pathway.

“The product has two modes of action, the first is when the plant photosynthesises and fixes carbon, the TWOXO signals to the plant to upregulate the N uptake to bond to the carbon. It can also upregulate photosynthesis to bond carbon to N.

“The carbon helps to keep the balance in the assimilation. We know that excess use of N causes lush floppy growth, making cells extend rather than divide, and carbon is central to optimising N use in the plant. Also, if excess N is exuded off the leaf it encourages pathogens and bugs,” he says.

“It’s not simply about cutting back N, it’s about managing it effectively,” says Mr Haywood.

John Haywood

Independent winter wheat trials from Nottingham University have shown that by using TWOXO in conjunction with the endophyte, Tiros, and a polymer, nitrogen use efficiency is boosted by 25% in the plant.

And in 2021, results of field trials in Essex showed it was the highest performing biostimulant at T1 stage, resulting in a yield of 8.61t/ha – a 19% yield increase on the control.

Lincolnshire field trials run by Niall Atkinson on KWS Cochise spring wheat, showed a 4% yield increase, and higher performance on all yield components, including 14.08% protein compared with 12.81 on the control.

“The 2-Oxoglutaramate (TWOXO) assimilates N and builds it into amino acids, and then when it’s assimilated in the biomass, in the next flag leaf, you must convert it to yield and that’s when you apply T6P,” says John.

“The key is knowing what you’re trying to achieve. You need to understand that it’s used as part of a programme, and T6P helps to get the nutrition balance right and regulate carbohydrates in the plant,” adds Mr Haywood.

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