Nutrient deficiency - an avoidable risk
A well-grown crop, whether it is a high-return horticulture crop such as kiwifruit, an extensive cereal or fodderbeet planting or mixed pasture on grassland for intensive pastoral systems, is a valuable asset. To achieve the full value from that asset requires good management as well as good environmental conditions.
While it is difficult to manage for the vagaries of climate and other unexpected events, removing the risk of poor growth due to nutrient deficiency is entirely manageable. Soil testing provides the initial information to work out starter fertiliser and along with effective soil-bed preparation is a good beginning. An under-utilized tool, however, is plant analysis. Leaf testing during the growing cycle of a crop can provide very useful information to support the fertiliser and management decisions to attain the targeted crop yields.
Too often, the lab receives requests to analyse plant samples already showing nutrient-deficiency symptoms. The lost opportunity in this is that by the time symptoms are showing in a plant, it is often too late to address for that crop. Plant analysis can indicate any “sub-clinical” deficiency, with the opportunity to then apply nutrients identified as being low to maximize the plants full potential (assuming other factors such as water and sunlight are not limiting).
A regular leaf analysis “monitoring” programme can remove the guesswork and is a sound risk-management tool. Hill Laboratories has a comprehensive library of Crop Guides, to help advise when to sample and what plant part to collect for analysis. Histogram reports are designed to aid interpretation for the plant type and growth stage (and variety in some cases). We hold the largest library of interpretive values for crops growing in New Zealand.
Images show kiwifruit leaf with potassium deficiencies (KF Nutrition, Asher, Smith & Clark)