If you are aware of the research relating to the efficacy of foliar fertilising, then you will understand that this method of nutrient delivery is 12 to 15 times more efficient than soil-based fertilising. Not only do you bypass soil-based lock-ups and mineral antagonism (where excesses of one mineral limit the uptake of another), but you also achieve a secondary effect, which can sometimes deliver more than the primary effect. The primary effect, of course, is the super-efficient delivery of the mineral you have applied to the leaves. The secondary effect is related to the fast tracking of chlorophyll management.
Chlorophyll is the green pigment in the leaf where all the action happens. Chlorophyll contains the sugar factories where glucose is produced through photosynthesis. This glucose is the building block for everything that happens within the plant and you would imagine that, as a consequence, the plant would fiercely cling to this precious substance. However, this is not how it works. In a classic case of the universal law, “give and you will receive”, the plant pumps 50% of the sugar it produces in the leaf, down to the roots each evening and then spews out 60% of that (30% of its total sugar production) into the soil surrounding the roots. In that soil is a massive army of microbe workers waiting for their feed. In return for their sustenance they offer up a power pack of positives to support and stimulate their host. They render minerals from the soil more plant available while protecting their host from pathogens and stimulating the plant with a suite of hormones and plant growth promoters.
The plant and the microbes understand their interdependency. Perhaps it is time that we developed a similar understanding. If we work with nature rather than against her – if we can look after the microbe workforce then it will look after us. Foliar fertilising offers a rapid route to chlorophyll density, which in turn means more food for the bugs and more benefits delivered to the plant.
If you use a good foliar product, and tissue test soon afterwards, you will usually see gains beyond that which you applied. For example, if leaf testing reveals a need for manganese and zinc and you foliar apply chelated forms of these minerals (and then re-check the leaf), you will often see a rise and re-distribution of several other minerals within the plant. This generalised rise is a result of more food for the microbes. The re-distribution (where excesses can diminish) is linked to the correction of key deficiencies, which seems to sponsor a self-balancing mechanism within the plant. So, foliar fertilising is a great mineral and biological tool in all crops – but how is this strategy best utilised?
Full Package Nutrition
Leaf analysis is an indispensible tool in all crops. This allows a little more precision in your program. You need to identify yield-limiting deficiencies or you are effectively driving blind. We believe that NTS Plant Therapy™ offers the most comprehensive leaf testing and analysis system in the country. This service is based upon well researched, crop specific “ideal” levels that we have developed for over 120 horticultural and broadacre crops.
It is pretty simple when you have access to the right guidelines. You just replace what is missing! However, there is a second strategy that we have found particularly productive during 16 years of working with diverse crops, in many countries around the globe. This involves the regular application of foliar fertilisers that contain a balanced formulation of all minerals, along with a suite of bio-stimulants and natural plant growth promoters. Unfortunately, this cannot be achieved in a single formulation, as some minerals are incompatible with others. Consequently, we have designed a twin pack solution. The two products involved must be applied separately, but together they supply full package nutrition.
Triple Ten™ and Trio™
The mineral compatibility problem is centered on phosphorus. This mineral is part of the phosphate ion that has a triple negative charge, which means it is strongly attracted to double positively charged minerals like calcium and magnesium. When these minerals are combined in liquid form, the end result of this attraction is the formation of calcium phosphate and magnesium phosphate, both of which are insoluble. You have effectively lost three of what we call the “big four” from your spray solution. The “big four” include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and boron. We see these as critically important minerals as they are the most important minerals in the most important process in crop production – they are the nutrients most intimately linked to photosynthesis. It is not a good thing to remove calcium, magnesium and phosphorus from the equation, so consequently, these minerals should not be combined in a single spray solution.
The two largest selling NTS liquid fertilisers in 42 countries are Triple Ten™ and Trio (CMB)™, as they represent complete nutrition when they are applied separately but in conjunction with each other. We have found the most productive application rate for these two fertilisers is once a week in small crops like vegetables, tomatoes and strawberries, once every three weeks for vine crops and once a month for all orchard crops. Due to the economic limitations in broadacre crops we find the biggest benefit is derived from a single application before flowering.
Triple Ten™ Triumphs
Triple Ten™ was one of the first major foliar products developed by NTS. It was a long and rigorous developmental project as we were trying to get so much into the formula. Our goal was eventually achieved through recognition of a precise order in the addition of ingredients. Any variation from this exact recipe spelt failure. This revolutionary formulation has gone on to become the flagship of the large NTS Liquid Fertiliser range. If you have yet to try Triple Ten™, I promise you that a trial will impress. Just try it on some lettuce seedlings, treated and untreated, and you will witness the growth explosion!
Triple Ten™, as the name suggests, features a base N (10) P (10) K (10) blend, but it is not just a typical mix of urea and muriate of potash that has been used to create this analysis. Instead we have become one of the few companies in the world to utilise what is called “hot mix technology”. This involves the combination of high-grade sources of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that are not chemically compatible. When combined they generate immediate heat, to the point that when combined in the vat they simmer and growl in protest. We use a “dangerous goods” manufacturer to produce this base concentrate as it is a bit dicey to attempt in our own facility (and it is certainly not recommended to try this one at home!). When this mix eventually cools it has become a very different compound. Hot Mix N-P-K™ is a gentle, pH neutral source of these key growth minerals. We find that it outperforms any conventional 10-10-10 NPK formulas when it is used on the leaf.
A more sustainable, better performing NPK was the first step in the Triple Ten™ formula. Next came the chelated trace minerals. We decided to include our unique Shuttle® technology to supply seven chelated trace elements, including cobalt and molybdenum. More recently we recognised that selenium should also be included, as it is seriously deficient in Australian soils, animals and people. Triple Ten™ contains a healthy 250 ppm of selenium and is, to my knowledge, the only selenium-boosted fertiliser in the marketplace.
Around half of this nutrient-dense formulation comprises NPK, sulfur and key trace minerals and we decided to jam pack the other half with cutting edge organics, bio-stimulants and plant growth promoters. These include a substantial component of amino acids, kelp, fulvic acid, liquid worm castings, B group vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin E. Recent research has demonstrated that these vitamins play a similar role in plants as they do in animals and humans.
Triacontanol is the other key component in Triple Ten™. Triacontanol is a natural plant growth promoter derived from the waxy outer coating of the lucerne plant and bees wax. It is the first time a fatty acid has been shown to act as a Plant Growth Promoter but I suspect it won’t be the last. This natural acid enhances photosynthesis. In fact, researchers have reported a 37% increase in chlorophyll following foliar applications of small amounts of triacontanol. This fatty acid has been used successfully in NZ for several years to supply the extra kick factor in a popular liquid fertiliser for dairy pasture.
Trio™ Completes the Package
Calcium and magnesium are the two missing minerals in Triple Ten™ due to the incompatibilities with phosphorus already discussed. Trio™ supplies luxury levels of these two minerals in chelated form, along with some extra boron, as we are seeking luxury levels of this mineral in the plant (and most tissue tests reveal boron shortages). There is also a significant nitrogen component in Trio™ and we have used large inputs of kelp and fulvic acid in this formulation to magnify mineral response.
The idea is to spray Trio™ in conjunction with Triple Ten™ to achieve complete mineral coverage and substantial soil life activation. They need to always be applied separately, however, to achieve maximum results and to avoid “fallout” in the spray tank.
Foliar fertilising is an incredibly efficient nutrient delivery strategy that should form part of every nutrition program. Sometimes, when excesses in the soil are impacting the uptake of other minerals, there is simply no other option but the foliar route. We have found there to be considerable benefit in adopting a foliar program where every nutrient is addressed on a regular basis. This involves the separate application of two different products due to the incompatibilities between phosphorus and calcium/magnesium. The twin pack solution is Triple Ten™ and Trio™, which together offer total cover from a mineral, metabolic and microbial perspective. If you have never used these products before, then please trial this combination on your crop and you will discover a potent new strategy.
If you have any queries or wish to place an order, please feel free to contact NTS on +61 7 5472 9900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.