Managing Calcium Can Improve Yield

Dan Davidson, Agronomist PhD, CPAg, CCA

One of the most important and unappreciated nutrients is calcium.

Plants get their nutrients from the soil with those reserves being replenished by fertilizer, composts or manures. Growers readily apply nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and micronutrients, but rarely ever calcium. If you run a soil test, the report will show unusually large amounts of exchangeable calcium, but never report soluble or levels of available calcium. With such high levels of exchangeable calcium, few bother to apply a commercial source or give calcium its needed attention.

Yet calcium is an important plant nutrient and plays an important role in soil tilth by enhancing soil structure. A couple of important facts about calcium:

  • It’s a secondary macronutrient along with magnesium and sulfur
  • It’s an important constituent of cell walls and membranes
  • Enters the plant through roots and is transported with the water stream to individual cells
  • It has limited mobility in the plant and can’t be reused like other nutrients
  • Ties up easily in the soil with phosphates, bicarbonates and other anionic minerals
  • The bridging effect of the calcium ion (Ca2+) and its flocculating ability aides in the formation of stable soil aggregates

 

Broadleaf crops like cotton, peanuts, and soybeans can benefit from managing calcium in the plant. All three crops are indeterminate species where flowering, fruit initiation, and pod maturity occurs over an extended time during the growing season. Modulating calcium and enabling it to be more mobile in plants is a key benefit of Fortalis®. Calcium, while seemingly sufficient by tissue tests, is not always bioavailable to site of growth where demand can outstrip local supply – and the plant can’t recycle its own reserves to support demand.

The key to soybean yield is producing as many seeds per acre as possible and the answer is producing more pods per acre. And while soybeans can produce many flowers and pods, many of these structures abort and never contribute to final yield. Fortalis®, a crop enhancement product, initiates the movement of calcium through small portals that networks cells together. Fortalis® takes advantage of this natural network and enhances the movement of calcium within sites of high demand, such as flowers and corresponding fruits. Increased movement of calcium from cellular reserves to sites of need improves pod and seed set in soybeans.

In cotton, the key to yield is the number of cotton bolls per plant. Like soybeans, cotton produces many squares (flowers) and sheds many bolls (fruit) before reaching harvest. Boll shedding in cotton is caused by stress, hormonal imbalances, or a limited supply of sugars and nutrients by growing bolls. And as with soybeans, under given environmental conditions and management practices, the plant can support only so many bolls. And like soybeans, calcium has very poor mobility in the cotton plant. At square and boll sites, bioavailable calcium is limited, leading to significant square and boll loss. Combining Fortalis® with a fungicide keeps foliage healthier, greener, and metabolically active longer and increases yield.

Peanut is another crop similar to cotton and soybeans, in that it flowers and sets pegs and pods over an extended period, and many of those flowers and pods never fulfill their destiny to form a peanut. High temperatures, drought, other stresses or lack of sugar and nutrients during development reduce the number of flowers, pegs and pods – and some of these losses are attributable to lack of sufficient available calcium.

In both cotton and peanuts, combining Fortalis® with a fungicide keeps foliage healthier, greener, and metabolically active longer while Fortalis® enhances the amount of bioavailable calcium, resulting in yield increases.

To learn more about Fortalis®, visit http://www.fortalisyields.com/.



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