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Using crop nutrition to prepare crops for dry conditions

After enduring a particularly wet winter and spring, UK arable farmers now face the stark contrast of preparing for potential dry summer conditions.

The shift from excessive moisture to possible drought poses challenges for spring-drilled cereal crops, and an effective nutrient management strategy becomes paramount. This will not only aid spring seedbed recovery from winter’s waterlogged soils, but also build crop resilience against possible upcoming dry spells.

This blog explores the critical role of nutrient application during the spring to boost crop growth and resilience for the months ahead.

Optimising crop resilience in spring

A wet winter often results in significant nutrient leaching, where water-soluble macronutrients, such as nitrate, potassium, and sulphate, are washed out of the soil’s root zone by excessive rainfall.

This leaching depletes the availability of essential nutrients needed for crop establishment.

Waterlogged conditions can also lead to anaerobic soil environments that adversely affect root function and development.

Roots may have become physically damaged or suffer from reduced oxygen availability, hindering their ability to efficiently absorb and transport water and nutrients, even when soils dry up post-saturation.

Such compromised root systems are less effective in supporting plant growth, making cereal and oilseed rape crops more susceptible to environmental stresses, including drought.

Replenishing essential nutrients

Following a wet winter, it is critical to replenish soil nutrients lost through leaching or run-off with fertilisers that contain essential elements such as nitrogen and sulphur.

Dynamon, our integrated nitrogen-sulphur fertiliser, is particularly suited for this purpose, because it supplies these nutrients in forms that are easily accessible to cereal plants.

Sulphur is a key component of certain amino acids (methionine and cysteine) and vitamins (thiamine and biotin) that are vital for protein synthesis and overall crop health.

By ensuring an adequate sulphur supply, Dynamon also helps optimise nitrogen use efficiency.

This is because sulphur is involved in the formation of enzymes that help integrate nitrogen into organic molecules within the plant.

Efficient nitrogen utilisation promotes healthier crop growth, enhanced stress resilience, and better preparation for potential dry summer conditions by developing robust root systems and foliar biomass.

Read our essential guide to spring fertiliser application to boost crop nutrition.

Preparing crops for dry conditions

Strategic fertiliser application in spring helps improve soil nutrient status, better equipping cereal and oilseed rape crops to endure dry conditions.

Healthy, well-nourished plants are more capable of maintaining physiological processes such as photosynthesis and transpiration efficiently, even under environmental stresses, such as drought conditions.

The robust crop rooting systems supported by adequate nutrition can access deeper soil layers for moisture that lesser-nourished plants cannot, providing a critical advantage during dry weather.

Advice on spring fertiliser application

The timing of spring fertiliser application is crucial for building crop resilience to dry conditions.

Early application ensures that nutrients are available when plants are establishing their root systems and starting rapid vegetative growth, for maximum impact.

For both cereal and oilseed rape crops, split applications of a nitrogen-containing fertiliser, such as Dynamon, help in managing plant growth and improving nutrient use efficiency.

Splitting the fertiliser between one application in early spring and another before the onset of rapid vegetative growth helps avoid a rapid surge in growth, which can compromise the plant’s ability to effectively use available water, increasing susceptibility to drought.

Read more on how Dynamon’s balance of sulphur and nitrogen helps achieve high quality crops with optimal yields.

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