Maintaining optimal N availability in crops under stress
New solutions to the N efficiency dilemma
Maintaining sufficient nitrogen (N) levels in crops throughout the growing season is critical for ensuring plant growth and maximizing crop yield potential. This becomes very challenging when the environment introduces stressors. Plant stress comes in many forms and can impact a crop at any point in the growing season. Ideal conditions are rare; it’s either not enough water, or too much water; too hot, or too cold; and even pest pressure can play a role. The bottom line is that crops under stress are simply less efficient at taking up N from the soil and translocating it to where it is needed most during critical times in their development. The good news is that innovations in agriculture technology are offering new solutions.
Too much rain is a stressor to crops in its own right. But when it comes to N uptake, it can work as a “one-two punch” as it can also cause early-season soil-applied N to be lost to leaching and runoff—literally washing away both available N for the plant to use, and potential profit. And replacing the lost N can be challenging, as there aren’t many practical, cost effective options for maintaining N levels in stressed crops during the growing season.
In-season applied N supplement solutions are limited
The advent of N stabilizers in fertilizers has provided some measure of controlling available N in the soil. However, those stress conditions that can impact a plant’s ability to uptake N will also limit the effectiveness of N stabilizers to ensure adequate availability of N. And while N stabilizers can keep some of the N from leaching away, they don’t ensure that it gets from the soil into the plant, no matter how much is available.
Topping up in-season with applied N presents additional challenges, namely in added cost and the impracticality of application. Side dressing during the peak N demand stage can offset some N loss due to excessive precipitation, but the added input costs should be weighed against the potential for yield increase. Additional supplemental N applications are often impractical from a crop staging and cost vs benefit point of view.
Applied Envita can provide in-plant N fixation all season long
Crop stress will always have an impact on N fertilizer uptake, but what if the crop could make its own N? The idea isn’t as wild as it sounds. Crops like soybeans have the benefit of forming symbiotic relationships with N-fixing bacteria, but typically other crops like corn, cotton, rice and wheat have been on their own—until now.
Envita is a one-of-a-kind bacteria that fixes N in corn and other crops*. Most N-fixing bacteria is limited to the soil or forms nodules on the roots, and then stays there. In contrast, after in-furrow application, Envita moves quickly into the germinated seed, through the growing plant, foliage and roots, to colonize within each individual plant cell. It then actively fixes N from the air, constantly providing N to the plant throughout its entire growth cycle, where and when the plant needs it most, replacing an average 27 percent of N needs in corn plants while maintaining yields. When added to a traditional N treatment plan, Envita can bolster yields significantly—by 5-13 percent and up to 20%. This is the equivalent of 7 bushels or more.
In stressed conditions, plants have a hard time efficiently pulling in N from the soil to keep up to their growth potential. Envita can turn plants like corn into N-fixing machines that are less reliant upon N fertilizer regardless of stress. Factors like N translocation efficiency and leaching become less of an issue when N production has been built inside the plant.
*Envita is presently indicated for use in corn, soybeans and rice.