Foliar Feeding for Yield Enhancement

June 16, 2021

by Tim Chitwood, VP of Agronomy

Foliar feeding allows a grower several great options to enhance yield and support your plant’s health and function through this growing season.  QLF Agronomy’s L-CBF products have a proven track record of enhancing yields and improving efficiencies of foliar feeding.

The technique of feeding plants by applying liquid fertilizer directly to the leaf has been proven to be effective.  Much research supports this application. Plants do absorb essential elements through their leaves.  The absorption takes place through their stomata and through the epidermis. Transport is usually faster through the stomata however total absorption may be greater through the epidermis.  Key ingredients in L-CBF such as plant sugars, molasses, and specific N-P-K-S chemistry help ensure and deliver through these pathways.

Back in the early 1950’s research by H.B. Tukey, Ph.D. from Michigan State University (MSU) with the help of S.H. Wittwer demonstrated that foliar feeding is effective.  Dr. Tukey addressed a research and development subcommittee of the U.S. Congress on the contributions of atomic energy to agriculture.  Tukey presented his work on the use of radioisotopes to trace and track the movement of nutrients applied foliar to plants. Dr. Tukey’s research supported “spray enhancers” to help nutrients stick to the leaf and then penetrate the leaf’s cuticle.

L-CBF products deliver several features and benefits that line up with key characteristics you would want to incorporate into an adjuvant or spray enhancement package.  Proven in wind tunnel studies at the University of Nebraska products such as BOOST and Amino15 help your spray or foliar pass stay on target, holding droplets together and reducing drift. Also, key characteristics such as droplets that don’t dry out and have humectant properties help ensure the product sticks and stays on the leaf.  In addition to improved droplet performance and function, L-CBF products deliver plant-available nutrients gently in a low pH range.  The obvious advantage and difference QLF Agronomy brings to the foliar pass is available carbon and energy.  Our plant sugar rich source of cane molasses has helped deliver nutrition and chemistry to plant, helping power through metabolic challenges and stressful periods.

A foliar pass can bypass challenges we face in soils where nutrients can be fixed or consumed and cycled through biology hopefully before becoming plant available.  Foliar feeding can address deficiencies or avoid them, especially when we know that efficiency can be gained by going directly into the plant.  For example, the two forms of nitrogen in L-CBF Amino15 are energetically advantageous, utilizing and assimulating with no additional energy or water consumption.  These same N sources are both efficient at building protein and plant health as well as stimulating soil biology.  As a foliar pass L-CBF Amino15 compliments any spray pass with its carbon source and slightly acidic solution, improving cuticle penetration and maximum leaf absorption.  Both early and late passes of L-CBF Amino15 were yield-enhancing.  In replicated independent research 3-5 gal of Amino15 per acre on young corn and tasseled corn added +10 bushels.  (site trial in Aurora Nebraska and PTI Farm in Pontiac IL).

Other advantages of foliar feeding in addition to aiding in plant nutrition is also signaling plants to do more and keep working.  We found yield benefits in adding a seaweed extract such as Kelpak at 1-2 pints per acre on top of a 2 gal per acre BOOST application for Soybeans.  (site the trial treatments 1 and 6).  Another feature layered in helped achieve more yield by mitigating stress and promoting better roots and reproduction.

Recent multi-state trials repeated the results we continue to witness with partnering spray passes on soybeans with adding L-CBF BOOST.  Post applications with herbicides followed suit with years of replicated data that BOOST can enhance yield, reduce plant stress, and power through metabolic challenges on soybeans sprayed with Enlist.  With just 2 gal per acre we boosted yields by 4.6 bushels and returned over +$42 per acre to the farmer.  Both L-CBF BOOST and L-CBF Amino15 are on the Enlist One and Duo approved products list.

Even though our assurance of consistent quality product and ease of handling are reasons producers appreciate our source of cane molasses in fertilizers we always recommend doing a jar test before a “tank test” to ensure compatibility.

QLF Agronomy’s Liquid Carbon Based Fertilizers are great tank partners for foliar feeding.  Yield enhancement with returns on your investment are only one benefit from including L-CBF in your spray passes.  Improving plant health, reducing stresses, and ensuring plant functions by staying on target and delivering the goods into the plant are also obvious reasons how our carbon-based approach and unique sources of nutrients can capitalize and build upon on the hard work you’ve done for your crop this season.

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