Integrated Crop Management (ICM) is becoming a common place strategy in nurseries accross the country, with most growers looking to reduce chemical reliance. Whilst taking a more hands on approach, adopting cultural control methods and natural predators, is becoming widely adopted, growers are also utilising nutrition to their advantage. Crop nutrition is helping growers manipulate the plants natural biochemical responses, to ensure they remain healthy with a strong natural defence system.
The all important, Roots
The most important cornerstone of nutrition based strategies starts with roots, as highlighted within our ‘Roots, Roots, Roots!” podcast. Using a combination of O-Phyte and Kelpak together will help boost root mass along with fine root hair growth, therefore improving root surface area. A strong root system ensure your plant is well anchored, and effectively able to uptake nutritional inputs. For growers looking to go that step further in creating and preserving root structure, specially formulated root inoculants, such as Biomex Starter, act as a root colonising bacillus amyloliquefaciens strain, designed to form symbiotic relationships with the plants roots.
Whether using a liquid feed strategy to “top up the nutrition” or as the sole liquid nutrition source, are vital to maintaining a healthy plant. O-Mix range soluble NPK fertilisers are known for their increased solubility and increased availability of applied nutrition. Most crops will now be on a higher N regime feed to match the increased sunlight hours, temperature and growth demands of plants. However, growers must be mindful of not over doing N applications, especially nitrate, both to reduce leaching out of pots and prevent weak “leggy” growth. Be mindful if crops are looking hungry, it doesn’t necessarily mean increase feed levels or frequency, there may be an underlying issue such as poor rooting from sitting wet, which you should assess with your OMEX Technical Manager to establish the true cause. Complimentary foliar macro nutrition in the form of Bio 20 is ideal as a crop pick mu up or as a pre-dispatch feed in most situations, to move on plants that are looking like they wont hit specifications.
You may be asking yourself “what can I do to give my plants the best possible chance?” The answer is; provide foliar nutrition that will allow your plant to build a robust natural defence system. Copper and Zinc are both vital for this. Copper in the form of lignin production to strengthen vascular tissues and Zinc to build enzymes in response to building natural bio-chemical response. Zynergy is a highly available form of both, and can be applied weekly/bi-weekly as part of a spray programme.
Maintaining Moisture Levels
A key issue growers face whilst trialling new growing medias, is keeping plants at optimum moisture levels. This year in particular the UK is dealing with lack of overall rainfall, and April has seen one of the driest months on record with May not too far behind. As a result reservoirs are running low meaning alternative, and generally poorer quality water sources, are being used instead. These alternatives can bring unwanted salts into the growing media such as sodium or chloride which, if left unchecked, can have a negative effect on a crop. These situations could require careful, and expensive, management and flushing. Flushing events using DeSaltus will lower salt and EC levels in pots to create a blank nutritional canvas to work from, and manage watering and nutrient costs more effectively.
Changes to growing media, seeing the inclusion of higher percentages of peat free materials, is also causing a shift in water management. These generally free flowing mixes have a tendency to hold much less water compared to the sponge like charachteristics of peat. With this in mind watering is becoming more frequent and under periods of high transpiration. Dry spots, crusts and poor water distribution within pots can occur, especially when watering below either via ebb and flow system or capillary watering. Adding Kobra to your stock tank mix will increase water spreading and penetration into these dry areas, enabling the plant to maintain an optimum level of moisture. The OMEX technical team have seen many plants this year with good top growth during the vegetative phase, which come unstuck when flowering begins and plant water/nutrient demand increases. This is brought about mainly by poor water retention within the growing media.
Planning your ICM Strategy
The team of OMEX Technical Managers are here to help you establish the most effective ICM strategy for your nursery or growing operation. The team are FACTS qualified, with a wealth of industry knowledge. To speak to your local technical manager, click here.