Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

Zinc deficiencies limiting Palouse crop yields

 

March 21, 2019



Nearly half of the world’s cereal crops are grown in zinc-deficient soils. As an essential element found in several plant growth hormones such as auxin, zinc is absolutely critical to plant growth and development, according to Cat Salois, director of research for the McGregor Company.

This is particularly true in the early growth stages when zinc micronutrients are responsible for initiating germination, speeding emergence, and improving drought tolerance. Crops must have readily available zinc when plants are young and growing rapidly in order to optimize yields.

Zinc levels in Pacific Northwest soils and crop tissues have been largely unidentified and unstudied until recently. Salois has championed research efforts surrounding what she refers to as “the black box of nutrient concentration and distribution,” over the last five years.

Research which has led to the development of innovative technologies aimed at maximizing nutrients. A native to Eastern Washington, Salois noted that “zinc has proven to be ubiquitously deficient across the PNW and placement is a key factor to the ROI of zinc applications.”

Because zinc is a non-mobile nutrient with very early season crop demand, it quickly became apparent to Salois in her research that a solution would need to involve zinc application as close to the seed as possible in order for uptake at the time of germination.

“Adequate zinc at germination influences seedling viability and phosphorus use efficiency,” said Salois. “The combination of the two nutrients at this timing speeds emergence and early season root development, which has proven to be yield beneficial across a majority of the growing regions tested.”

Further research identified that traditional chelated forms of zinc were not readily available for crop uptake early enough in the plant life cycle to meet germination needs. Salois and her team worked with scientists across the region to develop proprietary nanotechnology now being utilized in The McGregor Company’s exclusive seed applied zinc formulation – TMC SeedStart Zinc, a 40 percent micronized zinc formulation applied directly to the seed. Zinc oxide particles in their natural state range close to 150-200 microns. However, zinc particles found in TMC SeedStart Zinc have been micronized to a sub-1 micron distribution. Salois boasts that, “TMC SeedStart Zinc’s micronization process provides highly available zinc early, hitting the crop’s critical demand period during germination.”

Through her research, Salois identified seed-applied zinc to perform “on par or better than starter band placed zinc,” as well as proving a very cost-effective way to enhance early season growth and bottom line. Salois states that “in many cases, seed applied TMC SeedStart Zinc generated a higher ROI than in furrow zinc applications,” – Evidence that source, placement, and timing are all paramount for effective zinc application.

 
 

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