How Sap Analysis Can Help Growers Better Manage Nitrogen Cycles

How Sap Analysis Can Help Growers Better Manage Nitrogen Cycles

A main reason Rick de Jong says he’s a “huge fan” of NovaCropControl’s sap analysis is because the tool can help growers manage the nitrogen cycles of their crops more efficiently. de Jong, the International Business Development Manager for Agro-K Corp., talked about the benefits of the technology during a recent webinar, “Understanding Sap Analysis: The Targeted Approach to Efficient Crop Nutrition,” which was sponsored by Agro-K.

NovaCropControl is based in the Netherlands, and the company has provided sap testing since 2003. As part of its plant health portfolio, Agro-K offers the NovaCropControl technology, which provides a different approach to nutrient management – that being real time nutrient evaluation of growers’ crops. Here’s how it works: A sap analysis is taken from a plant’s leaves, and the nutrient content is measured from within that sap. The sap analysis delivers accurate data about nutrient uptake by plants — much like a blood test — compared against crop-specific target levels to help growers identify and correct imbalances that can have an effect on yield on and quality.

Managing the Plant’s Nitrogen Cycle

de Jong says the nitrogen cycle in the soil is often the subject in crop-talk fertility circles, but he notes there’s also a nitrogen cycle in the plant that growers should be aware of and manage correctly. When nitrate comes into the plant, the plant converts it to ammonium before it converts it to amino acids and proteins for metabolization and utilization. “It’s that nitrogen cycle that the sap analysis has now given us a bigger picture into,” de Jong says.

So, with a sap analysis growers get measurements for the ammonium and the nitrate in the sap, de Jong adds. The sap analysis also provides growers a measurement of the actual amount of nitrogen in the plant without the oxygen.

“So, [growers] are looking at the pure amount of nitrogen coming from the nitrate form, because that needs to be managed,” de Jong explains. “A lot of the nitrogen issues we see in crops are related to excessive nitrogen in the crop. And when we see excessive nitrogen in the crop, whether it’s because it was over-applied or there’s a problem preventing that nitrogen from metabolizing, that leads to more disease and insect pressure – and not that balanced diet.”

The nitrogen amount is then compared to the number in the sap analysis of the total nitrogen, which is a combination of the ammonium, the nitrate in the urea, and the organic nitrogen sources [amino acids and proteins in the sap]. “So, we now have a tool that shows the total nitrogen within the crop – organic and inorganic – and we can manage that nitrogen cycle completely,” de Jong says. “[The sap analysis] is a valuable tool and the only tool I’m aware of that gives that complete picture.”

Jeff Glass, Agro-K’s Southern Business Development Manager, points out that a sap analysis is the key to gaining inventory balance. “With the sap analysis report, growers get 23 plant nutritional indicators,” he says. “This gives growers the ability to make real-time decisions and not wait until after something’s already become deficient or excessive. It’s this balance that leads to maximizing yield quality and improving the bottom line.”

Glass stresses that making nutritional adjustments in real time and managing plant sap inventory is the science-driven approach to plant nutrition. NovaCropControl has developed optimum ranges for its sap analysis in more than 200 crops. The turnaround time from when the sample is sent to the lab until the farmer receives the report is roughly five to seven days.

de Jong adds that sap analysis is a targeted approach to efficient crop nutrition and notes that Agro-K is working to bring the science-driven tool to growers across North America.

“We’re here to help growers interpret and understand their data,” de Jong adds. “The better we can apply the five 5 Rs of plant nutrition – right nutrient, right time, right form, right mix and right place – the better the outcomes are going to be.”

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