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Plants need around 12 essential mineral nutrients to grow: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), Potassium (K), Magnesium (Mg), Sulphur (S), Calcium (Ca), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Zinc (Zn), Copper (Cu), Boron (B) and Molybdenum (Mo).

Crop requirements differ hugely between elements, from 100s kg/ha of N & K, 10s kg/ha P, S, & Ca, 100s g/ha Fe, Mn, Zn & Cu, to 1s g/ha B & Mo.  Crops also differ inherently in these requirements due both to their genetics and their growing conditions.  Crops need these nutrients primarily to form and operate the photosynthetic tissues that convert solar energy and water into edible (or otherwise useful) energy.  Subsequently crops redistribute some nutrients from their leaves and stems to their generative organs, according to the nutritional requirements of crop re-establishment e.g. the nutrient needs of seedlings.  Depending on which crop components are harvested and removed, crop nutrients are either exported and used in feeds or foods, or are returned to the soil to form soil organic matter.   

Effective management of nutrients is important both to achieve commercially optimal yields and quality characteristics of crops, and to minimise any negative environmental impacts from their use, especially of N & P.  Nutrients are all invisible so assessments of crop nutrient sufficiencies depend on chemical analyses of crop tissues, and also of soils, manures and fertilisers.  Crop foliage shows specific visible symptoms of some nutrient deficiencies. However, sub-clinical nutrient shortages are common and difficult to discern, so must be proven by empirical analyses and experiments.  Applications of manures and fertilisers to avoid shortages of any nutrient are usually guided by decision rules (or recommendations) derived from such experiments and analyses, and from experiences of crop responses observed after previous nutrient applications.

Formal research into crop nutrition began in the 19th century and has proliferated globally ever since.  Issues studied are far less dynamic than issues relating to, say, crop protection, hence a large literature exists relevant to the nutrition of modern crops.  

Share here your ideas and innovations for monitoring and improving crop nutrition

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Foliar sprays can be more efficient than feeding crops via the soil: they can be more targeted, cheaper, and less environmentally damaging than soil-mediated crop nutrition.    But this is not always so: can foliar nutrition be made reliable ... to support sustainable crop nutrition?

Nitrogen is required annually by most crops (except pulses) to achieve yield and quality. Judging how much N to apply is a key part of nutrient management.

Nitrogen Use Efficiency is a widely used term increasingly discussed across industry and between farmers. However it can mean different things to different people, and is best defined with care.

Biostimulants are increasingly available and are now widely marketed to farmers. While the jury is still out on a definitive definition, most definitions of biostimulants explain that they should stimulate plant nutrition processes independently of the product’s nutrient content with the aim of improving one or more of the following characteristics: nutrient efficiency, tolerance to abiotic stress, and/or quality.

ADAS are planning a Nutrition Challenge to compare the effect of different nutrition programmes on winter feed wheat yield, N uptake and gross margin, in the 2022/23 season. This is particularly timely following the recent dramatic rise in nitrogen fertiliser prices, which has forced the industry to re-examine nutrition strategies. Objectives of the project are to showcase good nutrition products and practices so that farmers are equipped and encouraged to use fertiliser better, for the benefit of the environment and their own gross margins.

The major commodity crops in the UK are wheat, barley, oilseed rape, field beans, sugar beet and potatoes, but around half of agricultural land grows grass.   

Phosphorus (P) is an essential nutrient for both plants and animals, playing a key role in energy transfer as a major component of ATP. It is also vital in DNA. For full capture & conversion of solar energy, crop canopies need 30-40 kg/ha P. Crop species redistribute most of this P (~85%; more than for any other nutrient) to their seeds during canopy senescence, where it is stored as phytate. Plants appear to do this because, until their roots proliferate, plant seedlings are highly sensitive to P shortages.

Farmers, advisors and researchers working together to understand and improve crop nutrition on-farm

Analysing grain for all 12 nutrients can be an effective tool to improve nutrient management, providing information on crop nutrient status and nutrient offtakes.  It can indicate whether your crops are getting hold of the nutrients they need, or whether you can save on future fertiliser use.

Review conducted by ADAS and funded by AHDB into how farmers should respond to the high fertiliser (& grain) prices experienced in 2022.

Potash Development Association (PDA) is an independent organisation, formed in 1984, to provide technical information and advice in the UK and Ireland. It is supported by ICL UK Sales & Cleveland Potash Ltd who supply the fertiliser market with potash products.

Boron is an important micronutrient for plant growth.

Share information, knowledge, resources and experience on how we can improve crop perfomance (yield, quality and profitability) whilst reducing reliance on input, reducing impacts and improving environmental performance.

A range of products are commercially available that claim to enable more efficient nutrient uptake, allowing less nutrient to be applied as fertiliser.

YEN Nutrition brings together those wanting to achieve more precise crop nutrition.  High fertiliser prices now make this vital.  Assuming that 'crops know best' engagement in YEN Nutrition starts by benchmarking grain nutrients to show those that were limiting (or excessive) for each crop.

Share your ideas and experience of how to improve nutrient efficiency and reduce dependence on artificial fertilisers

Mercury Environmental Systems Ltd. is a commercial organisation developing value-added applications from space-based data. The company’s core offering is the provision of data to aid farming, ecological and environmental decision-making, which is produced via a crop model that is constrained by satellite data. 

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Compost tea is water in which compost has been steeped under either aerobic or anaerobic conditions.  Controversially, it is claimed to have beneficial effects when sprayed on crops, including enhanced growth and reduced pest and disease injury. 

Potassium is an important macro-nutrient for plant growth

Iron is an important micronutrient for plant growth.  

Calcium is an important micronutrient for plant growth.

Sulphur is an essential nutrient required for protein formation and a number of enzyme reactions within plant cells which are required for satisfactory crop growth.

Magnesium is an important macro-nutrient for plant growth.

The NUTRI-CHECK NETwork aims to maximise site-specific precision in managing the nutrition of European arable crops.

Annual conference of International Society Fertiliser at Robinson College, Cambridge, on 7-9 December 2022

Our expertise in plant nutrition enables us to meet customer needs in crop health, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Having been established for over 25 years, our bespoke range of products includes seed treatments, nutritional supplements, biostimulants and phosphites, which can be tailored to customer specifications. 

Article on

AHDB Research Review 97 This is Part One of a two-part study to help cereal and oilseed

This review investigates the importance of non-NPKS nutrients within cereal and oilseed rape prod

Scientific paper in New Phytologist by scientists at China Agriculture University and James H

Anonymised example Benchmarking report from YEN Nutrition

Links to the AHDB reviews which informed the 2016 major review of RB209 nutrient management guida

Our experience at Morley shows there isn't much of a relationship between measured SMN and measur

Managing nutrients effectively is crucial for our soils, crops, livestock and environment. There are many resources and initiatives available to help. 

We aim to provide sugar beet growers and wider industry with the resources required to grow a healthy and profitable sugar beet crop in the UK.

With the high prices of synthetic N fertiliser there have been suggestions that more nutrients could be utilised from manures.  Indeed George Eustice suggested that there was enough organic manure available to totally displace the use of mineral fertilisers. This page discusses the realities and the opportunities - Join the Group to edit and add to the page, or comment below.

Organic materials, including livestock manures, biosolids, compost and digestate contain valuable plant nutrients which can save farmers money on their fertiliser bills, and organic matter which can help improve soil quality.

PLANET and MANNER-NPK are nutrient management software tools that are freely available for use by farmers and their advisers.  

This Topic doesn't yet have a Stewarded summary, but connected groups, content and organisations show below. Click the 'Ask to Join' button if you would like to be a Steward for this Topic and provide a summary of current knowledge and recommend useful resources, organisations, networks and projects. "Like" this Topic if you would like to see it prioritised for providing a wikipedia style summary.

To facilitate discussion at ACI European Mineral Fertiliser Summit

Are you interested in Crop Monitoring?  Join this club to share ideas and experiences with the tools that are out there, and perhaps develop proposals and projects.

Farmer Innovation Group as part of YEN Yield Testing EIP Agri project testing spring potassium fertiliser applications

AHDB has developed a spreadsheet tool to help you calculate the impact of changing fertiliser and grain prices.

Oats nitrogen and sulphur recommendations

Manganese is an important micronutrient for plant growth.

Copper is an important micronutrient for plant growth.

Molybdenum is an important micronutrient for plant growth.

Zinc is an important micronutrient for plant growth.

How we manage our farms and fields is not only important for the nutrition of crops and livestock, but also for the quality and nutritive value of the food we eat.

In this Issue Brief, we delve into the central role of nutrient use efficiency in achieving the five aims of responsible plant nutrition and we present the major indicators to use for different purposes.

The delicate balance between food production and biodiversity preservation is one of the most critical challenges facing humanity. As the global population keeps growing, demands for food have increased substantially, leading to intensifying agricultural practices to boost yields. However, as we outline in this Issue Brief, this intensification can massively impact biodiversity and the environment - negatively and positively.

Choosing practical and impactful integrated pest management (IPM) approaches and tools is essential. However, putting IPM research into practice in a commercial farm situation can be challenging.

HGCA Topic Sheet following the SNS Best Practice project 2012

The Nutrient Management Guide (RB209) helps you make the most of organic materials and balance the benefits of fertiliser use against the costs – both economic and environmental.

Guide produced by Roger Sylvester-Bradley for AHDB in 2009, setting out the best practice approac

Lots of people are claiming that better crop nutrition can improve plant resilience and allow red

From Crop Action Feb 2022: Sulphur is an essential plant nutrient and

This list of R&D projects relevant to nutrient recycling and nutrient management is published

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