What is abiotic stress? What do you need to know about it? First off, nobody likes unwanted stress and neither do plants. Abiotic stresses can be categorized as stresses on the plant by environmental factors such as heat, cold, drought, and flooding as examples. As one can guess, these factors aren’t good for the plant and can cause significant impacts to yield and quality. We all know you can’t control the weather but, just like in humans, we can influence how the plant reacts and handles that stress.
Understanding how a plant overcomes these stresses is crucial in knowing what can be done to help. The plants react to stress with metabolic processes that help them to overcome and grow through. Proper nutrition can positively influence these processes by allowing them to react quicker and stronger. Balanced fertility is critical for a plant to achieve its highest potential. Many nutrients are important in these processes, but for the sake of this newsletter, we are going to highlight three that have a very high impact if not found in adequate amounts.
Potassium and calcium are buddies when it comes to ensuring adequate moisture levels in a plant to keep up with productivity. When a plant goes through heat stress or drought, moisture becomes the limiting factor and the plant essentially shuts down or wilts. If a plant gets to this level of stress, energy is no longer being provided and the plant’s potential starts to drop. If potassium and calcium are deficient, the plant will respond to the stress too slowly and will lose valuable moisture required for grain development and quality.
Potassium also plays a role in improving a plant’s ability to tolerate cold weather. Potassium and sugar in the plant will work together to act similar to an anti-freeze agent and prevent frost damage. If potassium is low or deficient, the plant’s natural ability to tolerate cold weather will be reduced and the damage could result in too low of a plant stand. This will impact the harvestability of the crop with uneven maturity.
Zinc is crucial to prevent leaf damage caused by heat stress. If zinc is deficient, the plant can not maximize photosynthesis leading to less energy for the plant to produce seed.
A proactive and complete crop nutrition program is key to improving the plant’s tolerance level to abiotic stresses. Making sure you provide adequate nutrition upfront and available to the plant at seeding and then supplementing with foliar nutrition throughout the season as the growing environment changes will make sure your crop can better handle the stresses that are thrown at it. YaraVita® PROCOTE™Zn and YaraVita® PROCOTE™BCMZ are great products to target early nutrient needs without adding any complexity to your granular fertility program. Utilizing the sprayer pass by adding foliar products such as YaraVita® SAFE K™ and YaraVita® FLEX™ will give an added boost before the crop hits the heat in July and August.