Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K): It’s not uncommon for these three nutrients to be top of mind when considering the necessary components of a proper fertility program. While these macronutrients are indeed necessary for plant growth and development, it’s important that micronutrients, like boron (B), are not forgotten when working to achieve balanced crop nutrition.
A key micronutrient, boron supports the structural and functional integrity of plant cell membranes. But because the range between B deficiency and toxicity is narrower than with many other micronutrients, some farmers are hesitant when it comes to using it on their crops.
“Growers continue to explore new strategies for improved nutrient management, and the use of boron is no exception,” says Dr. Ross Bender, senior agronomist with The Mosaic Company. “Researchers better understand the role of boron in plant development today; and in the quest for balanced crop nutrition, farmers are the beneficiary of this knowledge.”
The truth is, boron is an essential nutrient and key component of many parts of the plant life cycle. Creating strategies to ensure each plant has access to a small amount of B that’s available all season long is critical.
Here are five myths about boron that have been debunked:
Only specialty crops need boron.
Boron is involved in a number of physiological and morphological plant functions. For example, B plays a key role in increasing the activity of a specific enzymatic system in roots that significantly contributes to nutrient uptake. This system creates a gradient in root cells, and works as the driving force for active uptake and transport of mineral nutrients, especially K. Boron also improves seed set under stressful conditions, and is essential for cell wall formation and reproductive development. Therefore, the impact of B on these plant functions is applicable to all species and not only “specialty crops.” In fact, crops like alfalfa, canola, cotton, soybean and corn have a significant demand for B, requiring frequent B application.
All forms of boron are the same.
Boron-containing fertilizers can exist in a number of forms, which ultimately influences B availability. While sodium borate–based fertilizers are immediately plant-available at the time of application, their highly soluble nature can make them subject to loss by leaching. Therefore, B applied in this form may not be available for late-season plant demands. Boron sources that become soluble more slowly may provide adequate B for late-season plant requirements, but there is a risk of B not being available quickly enough for early-season plant needs. The increased nutrient uptake associated with the two forms of boron in Aspire® with Nutriform® Technology is an effective solution to ensure season-long plant-available B and to provide the most flexible application window.
Boron is only needed during vegetative growth.
While a significant amount of B accumulation occurs during the growth of vegetation, adequate availability during reproductive development is responsible for improved seed set and grain development — leading to increased quality and yield. Aspire, with two forms of B, can ensure that boron is available during both those crucial times. Sodium borate is released right away, making it immediately available to the plant, and calcium borate is released slowly, ensuring the plant has boron later in the growing season.
All boron fertilizer sources are equally effective.
Plants require small amounts of B, and are often fertilized with low application rates of high-analysis, traditional granular B sources. While this practice theoretically supplies adequate boron, plants may have limited access to this B. Alternatively, fertilization with a nutrient source that has a low B analysis (e.g., Aspire) can more uniformly distribute B to each and every plant. University and third-party research suggests that even higher application rates of less-efficient traditional fertilizer sources will not achieve the same yield as numerous crops fertilized with Aspire.
Boron is toxic and should not be used in crops.
All nutrients have the potential to cause plant injury when used at rates not safe for seedling or crop development, and B is no exception. On one hand, boron is an essential micronutrient, and the absence of adequate B will prevent the plant from developing grain and completing its life cycle. Albeit rarely, others’ experiences have shown that too much B can cause plant injury, particularly to young seedlings. Because the range between toxicity and deficiency is narrower than with many other essential nutrients, it is important to apply B at the proper rate and as uniformly as possible. Aspire, for example, can uniformly distribute low rates of B to help provide adequate early-season nutrition, yet minimize the potential for any plant injury.
Myths aside, it is important to remember that one of the most essential micronutrients for crop development also happens to be one of the most deficient in agriculture: boron. It is one nutrient that should not be overlooked, as it can have a major impact on crop yield and overall farm profitability. Plus, new sources make it is easy to ensure crops always have it when they need it most.
“More than ever before, new fertilizer technologies have improved boron management by providing improved nutrient distribution, season-long boron availability and a more flexible application window,” emphasizes Dr. Bender.
View a recent AgriSight highlighting the latest research on boron.
The Aspire ROI Calculator allows farmers and retailers to choose a crop type and enter in the price of the crop as well as choose a traditional fertilizer source for comparison. The result shows the expected yield difference of Aspire fertilizer compared to the chosen traditional fertilizer.
For more information on Aspire, visit AspireBoron.com
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