The Importance of Plant Health

The Importance of Plant Health

Written by Scott Baker – OMEX Crop Nutrition Agronomist

Currently, UK Growers have hundreds of Active Ingredients (AI) at their disposal, but it’s widely expected the list will be significantly reduced in the next 5-10 years. Not only will the list get smaller, out in the field we’re seeing resistance to many of the chemical active ingredients becoming more common, meaning current attitudes and reliance upon reaching for the can has to change.

OMEX is a big believer in plant health – stronger, healthier plants are less susceptible to pest and disease damage. Very much like humans, if you look after health, you are less susceptible to attack from disease etc.  A plant has its own natural defence against both pests and diseases – mainly in the form of using nutritional elements such as Mn, Zn & Cu. Newly released OMEX product Zynergy is a specially formulated combination of highly available copper and zinc designed to form a key part of an integrated crop management programme to boost crop health and maximise yield potential. Zynergy corrects nutrient deficiency in order to improve plant health along with tolerance of abiotic stress.

The way in which growers feed their crops can also have a substantial effect upon plant health, for example, luxury uptake of N can lead to plant cells producing an exudate – in basic terms this is the plant placing a large sticker on its leaf saying to predators such as Aphids “eat me”. OMEX product Didin, a nitrification inhibitor for improving crop yields by reducing nitrogen losses, controls the release of nitrate nitrogen therefore increasing yields and significantly reducing greenhouse gasses. Luxury uptake of nutritional elements can also lead to an in-balance of the plants pH. This results in the plant utilising energy to scavenge for ions that are either negative or positive which can be used to rectify the in balance, energy that could instead be used for yield gain. The most accurate way to assess the plants nutritional status is through SAP analysis. Whereas conventional tissue testing reports the level of nutrients in a sample, including those locked up and unavailable for growth in cell walls and storage cells, SAP analysis measures only the actual level of crop nutrients available for plant growth. The end report provides growers with an easy to interpret bar chart alongside agronomist comments to ensure the plant is provided with the correct nutrition for good plant health.

There are a number of commercial benefits to nurturing plant health. As pressure rises from the consumer for food to be grown with less AI, supermarkets are beginning to produce contracts for growers stipulating less use of chemistry. Benefits of improved plant health are also reflected in increased yields, demonstrated in numerous OMEX trials. OMEX are continually striving to better understand plant health, researching and trialling, resulting in well formulated and effective micro nutrient products. Our robust trials programme allows for all products to be rigorously assessed with years of trials data to back up all our field recommendations in crops across the globe.

Good nutrition alone cannot solve every problem, but can be the essential foundation for sustainable agricultural production fit for a future where we rely less on pesticides but still strive to produce bigger and better crops. OMEX research is leading the way to achieve this.