Testing highlights Zinc shortage in cereal crops

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75% of cereal crops had below optimum levels of zinc when tissue analysis was conducted in 2023.

This result is based on the analysis of over 1300 samples collected from crops across the country by FMC last year, and deficiency levels were over 10% higher than the average level seen over the previous 5 years.

Chris Bond, Product Manager for Crop Nutrition at FMC, says these deficiencies are likely to be a result of the cooler, wetter conditions seen, and that given the difficult autumn and winter, crops are likely to be in a similar situation going into this spring.

“The uptake of zinc from the soil is generally reduced in these conditions, as crop root systems aren’t as active, and the biological state of the soil is also relatively inactive.”

“Flooding also poses an increased risk of poor zinc availability, due to higher formation of insoluble zinc compounds in the soil and we have seen many soils across the country highly saturated for extended periods of time.”

“While the imminent T0 window presents an opportunity to get foliar nutrition including zinc onto crops, the continued patchy weather patterns mean this could be missed, putting more pressure on the T1 timing,” warns Mr Bond.

If this is the case, he suggests that it is going to be even more important to get the right components in the tank mix.

“At this stage, the crop is about to move into a rapid period of growth in terms of stem elongation. So, anything you can do to make sure nutrient levels are where we want them is going to be very beneficial.

“For zinc specifically, lock up can be a particular issue in situations of high pH or organic matter soils,” says Mr Bond.

“There is also the challenge posed by crops that have rooted poorly over the winter. With little need to explore the soil for water, many crops are now ill equipped to maximise absorption of plant available nutrition from the soil.”

To get around this issue, he recommends an application of Cereal PlusTM at T1.

“This nutrient solution contains a combination of magnesium, manganese, copper and zinc – the key nutrients for cereal growth and development.”

Another option is to go for a straight zinc supplement such as FMC ZincTM, at this timing or soon as you can get it on.

Mr Bond adds: “We’re approaching a really important time for crops in the ground, so getting that nutrient balance right now, is vital for ensuring a profitable harvest. If timings do get missed and a lot of products end up being rolled into one at T1, then it’s important to ensure that both the FMC Cereal PlusTM and the ZincTM are compatible with the wider tank mix.

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