As we come out from what seems the longest, coldest, wettest winter, spring is finally here!
The cold and wet weather delayed planting and growth of several crops and raised concerns about potential productivity issues. We are seeing cold and saturated soils which could present challenging conditions in the spring to get the crops off to a quick and healthy start.
One common issue we should be aware of under the current growing conditions (low temperatures, wet or low oxygen soils) is ammonium toxicity. Ammonium toxicity occurs when there is too much ammonium available for plant uptake in the soil and plants absorb harmful amounts of it. Remember that the preferred form of nitrogen for plant uptake is nitrate and the conversion of urea and ammonium into nitrate nitrogen in the soil is a biological process governed by temperature, moisture and soil pH.
Ammonium toxicity affects most plants but the threshold at which symptoms of toxicity show differs among plant species. The most sensitive plants include tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, lettuces, brassicas and some citrus species. The symptoms of ammonium toxicity include chlorosis of leaves, decreased growth and poor root development. Depending on plant species, the edge of leaves may curl upward or downward. Some plants may die and the marketability of surviving plants is reduced. Also, seed germination and seedling establishment can be inhibited by ammonium toxicity.
Lettuce plant in the middle is wilted in the afternoon from ammonium toxicity affected roots.
Photograph as seen on Ammonium Toxicity on Lettuce blog by Richard Smith & Steve T. Koike, University of California
Ammonium toxicity can be prevented by following appropriate cultural practices. When it comes to choosing your spring nitrogen fertilizer, the use of ammonium containing fertilizers or fertilizers that are converted to ammonium (urea) can have a negative impact on crops due to toxicity from ammonium. Manures can also release ammonium. By reducing the amount of nitrogen in the ammonium form and using a nitrate nitrogen fertilizer we can avoid ammonium toxicity. There is clear evidence from trials that better root growth is attained when plants receive nitrate nitrogen.
REF.: Research Centre Hanninghof, Yara - 2004
Improved root growth in citrus trees fertilized with YaraLiva CALCINIT
Quaggio et al., unpublished data
Nitrate is immediately plant available and it can be easily taken up by crops. Field research confirms that using nitrate-nitrogen can significantly increase yields compared to using ammonium nitrogen. Also, nitrate nitrogen promotes uptake of critical nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, increasing crop quality.
YaraLiva® Calcium Nitrate fertilizers provide fast-acting nitrate nitrogen, along with strength-building calcium. In combination, these nutrients fuel prolonged growth and are the preferred choice to prevent the incidence of ammonium toxicity.
Crop Manager, Lettuce and Tomato - Yara North America