Keep up to date with the latest fruit nutrition and fertigation information with this advice from Yara's fruit and horticulture specialist Giz Gaskin.
The fruit grower must consider a system in balance, if he or she is to understand where all the nutrients are going. We will look at the full system of testing and explain at each point why it is necessary to check and what kind of problems can be experienced at each stage.
Water is often very varied from location to location. There are three main sources of water, and a fourth which is rarely used on mass. In order of most used: bore holes, rivers & streams, mains water and rain water. Rain water does supply water to rivers and indirectly mains and bore holes, however if collected it can be considered a fourth source.
Regardless of the type of initial irrigation water, a first water sample must be taken for a nutrient and pH. Your nutrient adviser can then work out what should be applied to the water to both buffer it and feed the crops, depending on crop stage. It is essential to know the pH as most Irish water is alkaline and most soft fruit programs are acidic, by contrast most top fruit and vines are neutral to alkaline.
Once past the fertigation shed a second water sample should be taken, this sample will tell the grower if the fertigation equipment is working correctly. The equipment is normally computer controlled though it should be checked at least once per season to be sure it is calibrated correctly. Other issues which may arise include how well blended the fertigation mixture is. Mixing Calcium with Iron can be problematic as they can react to make gloopy blobs, which block the irrigation system. Using a high quality fertiliser mitigates this issue, but awareness of the potential issue means it can be monitored and managed.
A water into bag sample is recommended to be taken more often, such as bi-weekly or monthly. At this point the irrigation water has passed through a full system of plastic pipes and valves. The pipes can, on occasion, cause issues from debris during use, contamination of cleaning products. or if new, contamination of manufacturer products. An example of this is the use of chlorine to clean through pipes after manufacture. Should chlorine enter the fertigation system it bleaches the leaf of the crop while at the same time interfere with the E.C. readings. All growers are recommended to flush the irrigation lines at regular intervals to mitigate this issue, unless the lines are just used for the one set of crops.
The fertigation water should be set up to run out of the bag to the tune of 12% of the volume going into the bag. Water out will most likely contain NPK, though more N than anything else as its highly mobile in water. It may contain Chlorine which is a sign to soil sample the bags and attempt to trace where the contaminate is getting in to the system. Water out, if measured over time with water in, will allow the grower to see how the crop is responding to the fertigation mixture and what improvements or savings can be made against the mixture for future years.
If the grower has all the information, a calculation can be made to show that the balanced sum of the data is zero. That means all the nutrients in the system have been accounted for. As the mixture is changed from vegetative mixture to flowering mixture, the change in E.C. and water/out measurements should define the change, in addition to looking at the crop and tasting the fruit.
Yara Analyical Services are able to conduct a complete range of analyses. For more information on any of these analyses or services please click the link below
Wet years bring an increased likelihood of softer leafy growth. More nitrogen less calcium tends to increase this situation, to the benefit of sap drinking insects like aphid. Aphid take advantage of the soft cell walls piercing leaf with the proboscis and extracting the sap. Stronger leaf resists aphid better, in a normal year the aphid would be seen on the newly emerging leaf as they are much softer. Maintaining a good micronutrient regime on crops can limit the impacts of softer growth leading to decreased pest pressure.
As the weather is set to warm up from a saturated soil condition, this year will become as last year, ideal for fungal growth. Fungal pathogens are much hardier of anaerobic soil conditions, needing only warmer temperatures to begin their cycle. Plant site of infection roots, crows and lower stem will be softer in spring due to saturated soil. Combine this with softer leafy growth higher up and the fungal pathogens can land anywhere and have an impact. Expect mildew (downy more than powdery), botrytis and phytophthora (root rot) to be issues this year. The key to these is good husbandry and trying to break up the micro climate which these pathogens love. Foliar feeds like YaraVita SENIPHOS and YaraVita THIOTRAC 300 can further help to keep suppressing fungal pathogens by breaking the microclimate at leaf & fruit level, while maintaining nutrient uptake. Foliar feeding reduces the demand on the roots reliving root stress as soil condition return to a more normal state. As the roots need to get back to better root condition, feeding foliar YaraVita BIOTRAC can help reduce plant stress while at the same time add root stimulation growth from the organic plant enzymes contained with in YaraVita BIOTRAC.
After a wet winter, with heavy rainfall following flooding from last autumn, both soil and many pots grown fruit plants have been under saturated conditions for all the winter. The three-week forecast for the UK moving forward is less rainfall than previous years but some rain is still expected and the start of season is looking dry and slightly windier than normal. Given the weather outlook, the application of foliar fed calcium would be advantageous.
In grape and cherry crops in a high-water year, fruit issues are seen with ‘splitting’ in the fruit after fruit swell pre full ripening. This issue in both crops is caused by the same physiological condition of too much water uptake and lack of calcium uptake. Calcium is a key nutrient for strong leaf and fruit growth, its key component of cell walls.
Calcium is an immobile nutrient and is difficult for roots to take up under saturated conditions, as highly mobile nutrients are far more available to root. Further, soil microbes which would normally aid the breakdown of calcium for root uptake perform badly in saturated water due to lack of oxygen. Given the lack of uptake of calcium from root level in wet years, building and keeping good leaf is essential. The leaf can in a wet year provide both functions of photosynthesis and nutrient uptake from foliar feeding of immobile nutrients like calcium. It is important to remember that leaf must be free from deposits if it is to continue with good photosynthesis. Building up calcium on leaf will limit the ability of the leaf to perform its primary function. Therefore, the efficacy of the calcium feed used must be correctly formulated for an even spread. This is particularly important in wet years, when plants can succumb to stress more easily.
As discussed above, this year crops will need foliar application to support nutrient uptake reliving root pressure. The coverage of leaf needed to be uniform to aid efficacy and more importantly reduce deposits building up, blocking photosynthesis. All YaraVita foliar feeds are tested and formulated thoroughly to make sure they perform through the application machinery and upon contact with leaf spread uniformly, with no build up. This has been demonstrated in on cherry using the Yara foliar feed of YaraVita STOPIT.