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Foliar Feed for Corn

May 17, 2021

By Jeff Blauwet, CFE Technical Agronomist

We have moved beyond solely focusing on the primary nutrients of N, P, & K in corn fertility programs in the last decade. Micronutrients have garnered more interest as we have become better at minimizing the primary nutrient deficiencies in fields with variable rate applications based on more intensive soil sampling techniques. We have been doing more zinc exploration in soil testing and fertilizer applications with positive results. Zinc seems to be well correlated with the higher yielding areas in fields thus pointing out it’s importance in next level management.

We have seen an increased interest and usage of in-season tissue sampling in corn once we get towards V4 (around herbicide application timing). Most of the “yield contest” growers talk extensively about the importance of knowing what the plant is telling us as far as nutrient sufficiency, tissue sampling is the best snapshot of this. We have tissue tested for many years in our Innovate Trials and have noticed that >90% of the time Boron is less than adequate and >75% of the time Zinc is lower than desired. This is especially noticeable at the beginning of rapid growth which is around that same V4 stage of growth. The plant often is trying to do so much that even if the soil fertility is high, the plant may not be able to take up enough zinc and boron from its roots when the need is very rapid.

Foliar feeding of nutrients is an additional way to feed the plant critical nutrients (especially micronutrients) to help supplement the plants increasing needs. Only a small amount of uptake can be accomplished by foliar feeding but if there is a need, a yield gain can be had. These generally are not overly expensive products to add to the tank when applying your herbicides as a ride-along. Our Innovate Replicated Trials in corn have shown us a 4.4 bu/ac yield gain over 6 years and 9 sites of data for adding Max In Zinc + Max In Boron. This is generally a good ROI for about a $6/ac investment, but with the commodity prices at today’s levels, it is a no-brainer. If you aren’t giving these products a look today, you may want to discuss them with your CFE Agronomist.

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