By Dr. Thomas T. Yamashita
As growers in the United States and California in particular push ever harder towards greater crop yields and quality, agriculturists will have to expand their appreciation of balanced nutrition, as the consequences of failure are far more severe than they used to be.
Let’s explain what I mean with an analogy. A driver is taking his Model ‘T’ Ford up a winding, mountainous road at 25 mph, and reaches for his cup of coffee and accidentally turns the steering wheel, veering slightly off the narrow path but is able to recover stability. A second driver owns a Porsche Turbo Carrera. While driving up the same winding, mountainous road at 100 mph he also reaches for his cup of coffee and accidentally turns the steering wheel the same amount as the first driver. However, the Porsche driver loses control and veers off a cliff.
The farmers of yesterday are analogous to the first driver. Average yields were targeted with standard, conventional programs. Despite the average to below average yields, low overhead and decent prices allowed them to make respectable livings. Any errors made with nutritional programs were forgiving, as producing lower yields of mediocre quality do not require precision or accuracy.
Today’s and tomorrow’s farmers are analogous to the second driver. They can no longer make a living with average crop performance. To compete in the modern agricultural market and turn a profit, they must accelerate plant performance to secure record-breaking yields and quality. The high performance demanded of his crop must be induced by enhanced nutritional programs. At this pace of farming, the slightest imperfection in nutritional programs will be deleteriously magnified, proportional to the accelerated demands on plant physiological efficiency.
The bioavailability of essential minerals plays an integral role in modern plant nutrition programs.
Essential minerals for plant nutrition have varying degrees of bioavailability. That is, the ease with which plant roots can extract minerals from the soil varies depending on the mineral. For example, on a rating scale of 0 to 100, from impossible to extract to effortless, nitrogen is the easiest mineral to extract from the soil, and would be rated at about 100. Phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and minor elements would tend to fall at around 40, and calcium would be rated near 5.
As a farmer increases his input of nitrogen, plants respond with accelerated growth and increased biomass. However, due to increased growth, the supply of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and minor elements would begin to fall behind, and mineral availability would become unbalanced.
Every element has a unique relationship to other elements. For example, the leaf tissue of a healthy almond tree will have a nitrogen to phosphorus ratio of less than 10:1, a nitrogen to potassium ratio of less than 1:1 and preferably near 1:2, a nitrogen ratio of less than 1:1 (preferably 1:2), a calcium to boron ratio of 400:1, and so on.
Boron is a critical stabilizing agent in plant tissues, and must be kept in a consistent ratio with calcium to ensure optimal plant health.
Calcium and boron are immobile elements. That is, once set in place within the plant, these 2 elements will not be translocated to other areas of the plant. The immobile designation is related to the role of these 2 elements serving to bolster the structural integrity of the cell walls and cell membranes. Calcium, for example, finds its major role as an electrostatic bridge and/or binding agent for (1) repeating molecules of galacturonic acid in the cell walls, (2) as a cementing agent of proteins in the cell membranes and (3) as a bridge and/or binding agent for repeating units of phospholipids and glycolipids that make up the cell membranes.
Boron is also utilized by plants as a physical “binding agent” to (1) help stabilize the phospholipids and glycolipids in the membrane, (2) as an alternative bridge for cell wall integrity and (3) as a regulator of the pentose phosphate pathway, which is responsible for the production of resistance compounds.
Fabric manufacturers rarely knit a piece of cloth using only a single style of stitch and type of fabric. At key positions in the fabric, they will interpose a ‘stabilizing factor’ using a stronger fabric and stitch, which acts as a point of elasticity and stability. So important is this stabilizing factor that it greatly improves the integrity and texture of the fabric. This is one of the major roles played by boron in stabilizing the cell membranes and cell walls. Periodic depositing of boron within the membranes and cell walls improves the stability and texture of plant membranes and cell walls. The integrity of these cell walls and membranes is necessary for maximizing the efficiency of key enzymatic reactions located on the membrane. This is the reason why there are set ratios of calcium to boron, just as with fabrics there is a ratio between stabilizing stitches/fabrics versus the material into which they are woven.
Given the importance of the ratio between calcium and boron, growing and developing plant tissues should be constantly supplied with both elements. For example, in the science of tissue culturing, the plant cells are literally bathed in modest concentrations of calcium and boron, as well as other nutrients. Withholding either or both elements from growth media results in seedlings which don’t develop correctly. In many cases necrotic areas develop on newly forming tissues. This is one of the reasons why consistent incremental dosage of nutrients throughout the growing season is far superior to periodic slugging. It is also the reason as to why balanced, blended fertilizers are more effective than singular solutions (e.g. UAN-32, AN20, urea, etc.). Also, because both calcium and boron are not translocatable elements, it is even more important to provide these consistently throughout the growing season.
Those who advocate refraining from boron sprays during the bloom period of deciduous fruit and nut trees are wrong.
The bloom period involves a rapid growth phase of reproductive and vegetative tissues. Thus, to avoid imperfect areas of tissue formation, it is imperative that constant supplies of calcium and boron are available to secure stabilization of membranes and cell walls. This is even more important as the spring push occurs typically occurs in cool, moist weather. This is because the transpiration of blossom tissues, the sole means by which calcium and boron are moved from the soil to various canopy tissues, is minimal during this period.
To compensate for this, light concentrations of a full array of balanced nutrients (not just boron or calcium) should be sprayed onto blossoms. An added benefit of this balanced blend of nutrients is that it mitigates the phytotoxicity of various fungicides.
In numerous trials, we have observed increases in fruit and nut set of 9% to 85%. It is important to set the sprayed minerals at a critical concentration as opposed to rate per acre. For calcium, the desired concentration is roughly 650 to 900 ppm, and for boron the desired concentration is 25 to 50 ppm. Because calcium and boron are difficult to translocate from the canopy to the root tissues, it is always desirable to apply these elements to both plants and soils.
Healthy plant development requires careful, constant nutritional supplementation.
Cultivating healthy plant growth is analogous to laying a foundation—not only must you have a constant supply of concrete mix, but the stabilizing rebar must be set at a constant ratio. If you omit the rebar, the foundation can still be laid, but it will have weak spots that become apparent over time, and which will jeopardize your entire construction project.
Calcium and boron are the rebar of the plant. Tissues will form with deficiencies of both elements. But, all tissues are not formed equal. Those supplied with consistent, incremented, balanced blends of nutrients and selective microbial activators will always form superior growth, yields and quality.
Fusion 360’s specially formulated nutritional products are an ideal way of ensuring that your crops achieve ideal growth and yields. For more information on how our products can help you, contact Fusion 360 today.