When a seed hits the ground, the fight for life is on! Not only does it have to contend with hungry insects and unfavourable weather conditions, but it also has to fight off constant disease attacks. Plant disease can be a huge yield robber and it can infect the plant at all growth stages. Proper crop nutrition is important in supporting the plant’s ability to fight off infection, but it often gets overlooked.
Plants are equipped with natural defense mechanisms to fight off and resist disease, but they cannot do their job if they are lacking proper nutrition. A complete and balanced crop nutrition program is important for plant success, but there are some nutrients with a bigger role to play to help fight infection.
Roots can be infected by disease throughout the season, but are more susceptible in the spring when the soils are cold and growth is slow. Soil borne diseases such as Rhizoctonia and Pythium will attack a root system and reduce water and nutrient movement in the plant. Supplying the plant with available phosphorus (P) and zinc (Zn) will promote a more vigorous root system that is better able to outgrow the infection. Boron (B) plays a role in cell wall structure and strength. If boron is deficient, cell walls will separate making it easier for disease organisms to penetrate the outer layer of the root.
The vegetative stage requires a high level of energy from photosynthesis for rapid and proper growth. Large, robust leaves and a healthy stem will maximize photosynthesis by providing the necessary chlorophyll. If the leaves or stem are covered in lesions caused by Tan Spot (cereals) or Aschochyta (pulses), not only is water and nutrient movement restricted, but photosynthesis is reduced as well. Potassium (K), boron (B) and copper (Cu) are important for cell wall strength and lignin production in the plant. They act as physical barriers to keep out harmful diseases and reduce the movement and multiplication of pathogens.
Continuing proper nutrition into the reproductive stage helps the plant produce more healthy seed. In cereals, a copper deficient plant will have a longer flowering period. The longer it flowers, the higher chance of infection from diseases such as Fusarium graminearum and ergot. In canola, Sclerotinia feeds on dying petals that have fallen onto the stem. The pathogen penetrates the cell wall and eventually kills the plant by cutting off water and nutrients. Potassium (K), boron (B), and copper (Cu) again will help keep the cell walls strong to reduce infection.
Complete nutrition beginning at seeding and supplemented through the season makes the plant more resistant to disease. Using YaraVita® PROCOTE™ on the granular fertilizer at seeding improves uptake and distribution of plant available micronutrients such as boron, zinc and copper. Foliar feeding with YaraVita® FLEX™ or YaraVita® BORTRAC™ at herbicide timing will support the plant’s ability to fight off disease with a boost of energy and a stronger cell wall. Since we can’t tell the crop to stay home and rest when it gets sick, the next best thing is to provide the necessary nutrients to keep it healthy and strong.