Early plant nutrition management: It's not "just" vegetative growth


Mike Dolinski has seen a lot of things over the years as an entomologist and senior Agri-Trend coach. Opinions that come and go, scientific consensus that changes, and sometimes catchphrases that catch on, even if they are misleading.

At the recent Sure Growth Technologies field day near Marchwell, Sask., Dolinski drew a bead on the catchphrase, “it’s only vegetative growth.”

Dolinski says there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. (Story continues below…)

Vegetative growth is often referenced when people talk about early plant development, sometimes giving the impression that the leaves, stalks, and roots developed before heads or pods appear, are not important. This, however, does not take into account the full life cycle of the plant, Dolinski says.

“During that period, in that biomass in fact, you are developing all of the reproductive parts in the plant…and if you don’t deal with the stress that occurs in the early stages of growth, you’re going to have plants that abort those kinds of reproductive parts, that aren’t developed properly during that growth phase,” he explains.

It is important that the fertility be adequate during the early growing season, but then how do you make sure the plants continue to have enough nutrients the rest of the way? Dolinski says “For us, tissue testing is key”

Tissue testing in-season lets you know what your plants are deficient in so that you can add what the plant needs.

Another important point to understand is that over the decades we have not been replacing the nutrients we have mined from the soil. “Since the beginning of agriculture we have mined most of our soils, even in the development of fertilizers all we ever used was N,P and K.”

As Dolinski points out, in the past, “(soil) mining has been a good way to produce a crop.” But after a 100 years of producing a crop on the Prairies, we have to replace what we take out.

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