HaifaStream: Calcium nutrition - How small actions can lead to great differences

Calcium is a critical element affecting fruit quality, plant health and cellular strength. Being highly immobile, calcium shortages are often not even related to calcium supply and can challenge the best of growers. Haifa Group's expert Juan Manuel Diaz Martinez and Marco Molenaar are here to share their insights for other means to improve calcium uptake.
Marco Molenaar (Interviewer) & Juan Manuel
Transcript of the episode

Marco Molenaar [00:00:08-00:00:00]
Welcome in Haifa Stream Greenhouses. This podcast has been presented to you by IFA Modern Greenhouse Task Force.  First of all, I want to introduce myself. My name is Marco Molenaar, working from Haifa, North West Europe. Today we have an interesting topic. Our subject for today's episode will be calcium supply and some trick that can help during the cultivation to reduce problems related to this element, deficiency. I want to invite one interesting speaker from Mexico and I want to introduce himself and to speak a little bit about the topic which we discussed for today.
Juan Manuel [00:00:49-00:01:24]
Hi everyone, I'm Juan Manuel. I'm from Haifa, Mexico. I have been working in Haifa almost four years. Today I'm going to talk about the importance of holistic approach to ensure a properly calcium supply to our crop. I choose to focus on calcium because many times when I visit growers, I see many problems related with calcium availability to the plant. Rather than that with calcium low concentration in the nutritional solution that they are given.
Marco Molenaar [00:01:26-00:01:44]
Interesting topic, Juan. I fully agree. Sometimes we forget that plant nutrition isn't only a matter of recipes, but also of agronomical adjustments concerning other factors that influence the availability of the nutrients to the plant. Could you give us some insights about your personal experience with calcium?
Juan Manuel [00:01:46-00:02:43]
Yes, everything starts from calcium physiology. You need to know to find the best solution for its right supply. At some points it's important to consider that calcium has an immobile element. The movement of calcium is through the helium and driving by transpiration. It's necessary to have a good transpiration, a good water flow into the plant. For example, a personal experience. One day I visited a tomato grower. He cultivates in soil and we were in the first part of the hot season. He called me because with the increase of the temperature, when he started to irrigate more and more, he noticed that the last fruits of the plants become dark, soaking or leathering in the bottom part.
Marco Molenaar [02:44-00:02:59]
Interesting, Juan. Your description of the symptoms and the climate conditions are suggesting me that the grower will be dealing with one of the most famous problems related to calcium, the blossom end rot. Could you tell us more about this problem in the market?
Juan Manuel [00:03:0-00:03:29]
Yes, the blossom end rot is a physiological nutritional disorder related with locirescent calcium deficiency. What it appears, calcium, as mentioned before, is an immobile element. This is special in the fast-growing plants, like the one of the growers I was talking about. It cannot reach the tissues that have low transpiration rates. It has, for example, fleshing fruits like tomatoes.
Marco Molenaar [03:31-00:003:47]
 You are speaking about transpiration, which is a psychological process really influenced by climate conditions. What are the greenhouse climate conditions which we have to put more attention on concerning this issue?
Juan Manuel [00:03:48-00:04:15]
All the conditions that are related to transpiration and with water absorption. For example, when we have a high temperature, it is difficult for the plant to obtain calcium. Humidity is also the substrate and the soil temperature. We need to take care of these three main conditions because the trees are related with the transpiration of the plant.
Marco Molenaar [00:04:17-00:04:31]
What about the nutritional competition with elements? Can you explain to us that the right nutrient uptake is also related to the ratios between some of them? Which are the antagonisms of calcium uptake in the plant and how can we prevent this?
Juan Manuel [00-04:33-00:05:57]
It is important to consider the competition between elements. It is important to know that calcium is a calcium and is an antagonist. This element competes with another calcium, for example, magnesium, potassium, ammonium, and sodium. It is important to consider these elements, these and other cations that compete with calcium. We have these elements in the soil, in the water, and in the nutrition solution analysis. We need to know how we can find these elements and we can adjust our plant nutritional solution. For example, what is supplied to the crop is according to the needs and phenological stage without causing water distress. It is important to consider. In the open field, the use of plastic covers is recommended to avoid excessive evaporation. It is a common practice and a good practice. Another is to avoid ammoniacal forms, for example, of nitrogen. They can increase, for example, an excess of ammonium ions or cations, reduce, as mentioned before, the calcium absorption.
Marco Molenaar [00:05:59-00:06:11]
What about nutritional competition with elements? The right nutrients uptake is also related to the ratios between some of them. Which are the antagonism of calcium uptake in the plant and how can we prevent this?
Juan Manuel [00:06:13-00:07:24]
It is important the competition of elements. Remember, the calcium is a cation. Cations compete with other cations. We have cations like magnesium, potassium, ammonium, and sodium. We can find these cations in soil, water, and the nutrition solution. It is important to know how we have these cations in these parameters because we can adjust our plant or nutritional solution. For example, we can give or supply water to the crop according to its needs and phenological stage without causing any kind of stress or symptoms or water stress. In the open field, for example, it is very common to use plastic covers. It is recommended to avoid excessive transpiration, for example. As mentioned before, avoid applying a lot of other cations or excess of cations. Ammonium, for example, forms of ammonium in nitrogen. They can reduce the absorption of calcium.
Marco Molenaar [00:07:26-00:07:36]
Thank you, Juan. You have explained us the importance of other elements to avoid calcium related to problems. Please, can you give us some more specific insights about this?
Juan Manuel [00:07:37-00:09:00]
Okay. From the point of view of fertilization, first, we can boost additional calcium to the plant. However, this is only the starting point we have to take consideration. About the fertilizer we are using, excessive is common, excessive doses of potassium fertilizers in combination with ammonium. When we have these two combinations, potassium and a lot of ammonium, the blossom in root can be caused. Two cations that are competing with the absorption calcium. Another attention to the sodium, also to the sodium, some fertilizers can bring in irrigation water in addition to the natural content that the water on the soil has. As I mentioned, avoid fertilizers with ammonium, especially in summer, when there is a lot of water supply, can increase too much the ammonium level inside to the soil or substrate, causing a competition between these elements, calcium and ammonium. When speaking about calcium nitrate, for example, is a valid solution for this particular problem, it could be the application, for example, Hifa Cal Prime is a good solution.
Marco Molenaar [00:09:01-00:09:09]
Okay, Juan Manuel, you mentioned a little bit about Hifa Cal Prime. Can you explain a little bit better why to choose this specific grade of calcium nitrate?
Juan Manuel [00:09:11-00:10:13]
 Yes, yes. First of all, because Hifa Cal Prime has the highest content of calcium in the market. Around 25% more than other products or standard products calcium nitrate. In addition, the ratio between calcium and nitrogen is better. It is nearly to two meaning, for example, this meaning that you can supply more calcium if balancing the nitrogen needs, or that you can use less product if you want to balance the calcium need. Secondly, it has nearly to 0% of nitrogen ammoniacal inside, while another sources of calcium or standard calcium nitrate has 1.1%. In the end, also because of the low content of sodium and the higher solubility.
Marco Molenaar [00:10:15-00:10:23]
Before you are speaking about Cal Prime, you are also speaking a little bit about sodium, related to a hidden enemy that can be brought into the nutrient solution by fertilizers. What is the recommended level of sodium or sodium in the water? Can you say something about that?
Juan Manuel [00:10:34-00:11:17]
Yes, you are right. We must take care of the product we use to supply nutrients, because they can also have contents in not desirable elements like sodium. In the end, a safe level of sodium in nutrient solution, I recommend it's low to three milliequivalents per liter. It is a good recommendation, for example, for the Mexican market, we use this recommendation. It is important to start from water with a good quality also. Look for sodium free fertilizers like Multi-K Resi or potassium nitrate grade formulae, especially for this aim.
Marco Molenaar [00:11:19-00:11:28]
Thanks, Juan, for sharing your personal experience and for the very useful information you give us. May I ask you to make a conclusion of your interesting topic for today?
Juan Manuel [00:11:30-00:12:24]
Yes, to sum up, I want to say some important points. It's important to be aware of growing conditions, as mentioned before, the temperature, measure the relative humidity, the importance to have inside the greenhouse sensors to measure these conditions. Create the best root environment. Calcium uptake is made by the active roots. If you have a good environment in the root zone, it's better for uptake calcium. Choose the right fertilizers. Choose fertilizers, for example, with maximum content of calcium. Pay attention when you apply another sources, pay attention to another cations like ammonium, magnesium and potassium. Be aware of hidden enemy, it's the sodium.
Marco Molenaar [00:12:26-00:12:54]
Thank you, Juan. That's all for today's episode. Again, I really want to thank Juan for his presence and all the growers and agronomists that have listened to our episode. This was our podcast, Haifa Stream Greenhouses, presented by Haifa Mothers Greenhouses Task Force. Do not miss our next episode. If you want to be always updated, click on the following and enjoy every new episode. Thank you to you, Marco, for inviting me. Thank you.

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