Due to its role in essential functions of the plants, zinc plays a critical part in a crop nutrient management plan.
What Role Does Zinc Play in Crop Production?
We know that zinc is essential in crop production and plants may not reach their full yield potential if absent in the growing season. So, what exactly does zinc do within crops? Zinc is an essential component of various enzymes which are required for growth hormones and many more metabolic processes in all crops. It is also a key component in the production of proteins and chlorophyll. Zinc plays a critical role in plant growth and low levels of zinc can stunt growth, minimize reproductive sites, and can reduce yields in all crops due to the stunting growth of roots and tissues.
Simply put, if a plant is deficient in zinc, plant productivity is reduced, and yield potential is not reached.
Worldwide, nearly 50% of soils are deficient in zinc. Deficiencies have been identified in soils across the U.S. in regions such as the Corn Belt, Northern Plains and the South.
Risk Factors That Can Lead to Zinc Deficiency
There are several factors that can impact the availability of zinc in soils.
- Soil pH: This may be considered the most crucial factor when it comes to zinc availability. As soil pH increases, zinc availability decreases.
- Soil Temperature: Cool soil temperatures can lead to an increase zinc deficiency as root growth and mineralization is reduced. Zinc deficiencies can be more prevalent during early-season when temperatures are lower.
- Soil Texture: Coarse, sandy soils and peat soils with low zinc reserves and low organic matter can be more prone to zinc deficiency.
- Low Soil Mobility: Zinc is primarily taken up by the plant via diffusion and root interception. Limits to these mechanisms can lead to reduced uptake and zinc deficiency.
- Topsoil Conditions: Soils where topsoil has been removed are more prone to zinc deficiency due to the higher presence of calcium carbonate and organic matter.
- Phosphorous Levels: High levels of phosphorous can reduce the availability of zinc.
- Previous Crops: Crops following non-mycorrhizal (brassica such as radishes and mustards) plants can experience reduced availability of zinc.
What Does Zinc Deficiency Look Like?
Since zinc plays such a significant role in plant development, some indicators of deficiency can be seen as early as the first 2 – 3 weeks of the growing season in corn crops. Here’s what to look for:
- Decrease in stem length and shortening of internodes (also known as stunting)
- Mottled leaves, interveinal chlorosis
- Striping or banding on corn leaves
- Reduced fruit bud formation
- Dieback of twigs after the first year on fruit and nut trees
How to Help Prevent a Zinc Deficiency
Early access to essential nutrients is critical to ensure a successful yield, especially when it comes to zinc. With WOLF TRAX® DDP® innovative nutrients, crops can access what they need when they need it. This means you’re able to prevent visible deficiencies and “hidden hunger” deficiencies that may not be visible yet but can lead to reduced yield. WOLF TRAX supports early uptake of nutrients as it can maximize interception points and roots for early season uptake.
To learn more about zinc and how to prevent zinc deficiencies, contact a Koch Agronomic Services (KAS) representative today or visit the KAS Knowledge Center for additional resource