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Soluble fertilizer blends help manage crop expectations

With crop nutrition being one of the largest input costs for growers, application strategies can often change and horticultural trends around the Bundaberg area, Australia
suggest a return to using soluble fertilizer blends in various cases. Local agronomist Simon Ewald, with Ag Plus Consultancy at Bundaberg, said the business was arranging tailor-made soluble fertilizer blends for numerous growers, supplying all the nutrients required in one bag.

Ag Plus Consultancy, which supports growers with a range of crops including cane, citrus, macadamia and avocadoes out to Mundubbera and Gayndah, supplies the NutraFeed custom fertilizer blends developed by Barmac. These are based on Haifa's popular Multi-K potassium nitrate fertilizer.

"Growers can adjust their own customised blends. They can have more N (nitrogen) up front and then increase the boron at certain stages, or have more potassium for bulking up crops later" Simon Said.
"They may go with a standard NPK fertilizer at planting and then supplement the crop with a Nutrafeed blend, possibly some cal (calcium) nitrate to get them through towards the end".

Barmac Area Sales Manager, Wayne Muller saaid growers traditionally applied conventional NPK and side dressing applications of fertilizer, controlled release nutrition became popular and now custom fertilizer blends were again being readily applied."Some growers previously loaded up crops with nutrition at the beginning of the season, but with the impact that a change in commodity pricing, the weather or an insect infestation can have, demand for soluble fertilizer blends has once again picked up", Wayne said.


Simon Ewald with Wayne Muller

"Further to applying FertiCote (controlled release fertilizer)  and having everything there for plants from day one, with the trace elements and all the goodies, growers colud see that they could go a bit harder and push crops with NutraFeed".The NutraFeed blends are based on the renowned Multi-K potassium nitrate fertilizer from Haifa to ensure the highest quality and custom orders can be supplied in about two weeks.Wayne said previously there were four main NutraFeed products products, but with the custom blending any element could be added or removed.
He said growers were generally undertaking two NutraFeed applications in a crop, with higher nitrogen content applied early and higher potassium at the end of the season.

To help determine the custom blends, Simon said various growers would carry out soil and sap testing, as well as draw on their fertilizer history and experience of crop nutrition needs.



Macadamia tree crops
Wayne said NutraFeed saled had trebled in the area and the blends were particulary popular for establishing macademia tree crops. He said with irrigation now occuring direct to the root zone, growers were only applying 30 grams per plant.
Previously, macadamias may not have produced fruit until the seventh year, whereas now this is occuring from the fourth season.

Simon said in addition to NutraFeed, Ag Plus Consultancy also supplied Haifa's Multicote controlled release fertilizer to macadamia growers, while they have used Haifa Cal calcium nitrate and the Multi-K potassium nitrate previously as well.He said drip irrigation of macadamia trees was now down to three to four years from establishment, before growers switched to sprinkler irrigation.

 In the picture: Simon Ewald, Agronomist at Ag Plus Consultancy at Bundaberg & Barmac area sales manager Wayne Muller.

Some sweet potato growers now using NutraFeed previously never applied fertilizer through their irrigation.
"We supplied a sweet potato mix fertilizer and they also carried out side dressings and supplemented crops with potassium sulphate, then Ferticote (controlled release fertilizer) was used, and then they have had the ability to use the NutraFeed blends rather then apply
straight potassium sulphate", Simon said.
Wayne said growers were now getting smarter about the use of trace elements with the NutraFeed fertilizers. "For a lot of sweet potato growers, they have realised they needed more boron than they thought. Growers are getting smarter with boron and zinc deficiencies, so that their plants can grow to 100 percent from day one.
He said he beleived the next step was the increased use of beneficial bacteria and Barmac was adding this to further value add to its blends.

"the wider use of beneficial bacteria has been a trend in the Philippines, China and America, and they have seen up to a 40% increase in nitrate uptake", Wayne said.