June 20, 2023

Using Biologicals to Help with Environmental Stress

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Crops have numerous stress events throughout their life during our erratic Canadian summers. We never know if a year will bring droughts or floods, but we do know that every year some fields will win (or, more accurately, lose) the hail lottery. Biologicals have been found to help plants recover from these environmental stressors, however, long-term stress is a more complicated issue. Hail is more acute stress that ranges from mild to severe, and biologicals can help injured crops recover. It is unlikely that the crop can fully recover, so management practices should be directed at mitigating yield loss.

The emergence of a new crop emerge brings all the opportunities of a new season. Early scouting is key to determining stand establishment and monitoring the crop for any requirements to maximize production.

Rain is usually a happy sight on the Prairies, but unfortunately, sometimes storms bring hail. This canola field got hailed out early. When responding to hail damage, any applications to try to get a positive plant response and recovery needs to happen soon after the event. However, it does take time to assess the damage and to determine if the crop is worth trying to save.

These plants were damaged, but after some assessments – and the interest of the farmer to see if they could be nursed back into a healthy stand – it was determined that a foliar application could help. It is always a risk to try to recover a hail-damaged crop as stand loss and tissue damage can result in reduced yields and increased disease in the field. It is unlikely for yield to get back to 100% of what the potential was before the hail damage, so the intent is to try to limit as much loss as possible. A product that combined a foliar nutrition package and biostimulant was used to try and induce the plant’s own recovery, giving it a little boost to get growing again.

Keeping a close eye on the crop is required as reduced plant stands can allow weeds to grow and damaged stems and leaves can give diseases easier opportunity for infection.

Results will vary year to year in terms of responses to crop stress. Products that contain biostimulants have been shown to enhance the crop’s own ability to push through the stress events without losing as much yield. This, of course, will vary by crop, variety, stress type and severity. Targeting a crop with its roots in moist soil with a good fertilizer program after a hail can result in better improvements than a crop that was exposed to long-term drought stress. Finally, biologicals are not a “fix-all” application. Their main purpose is to be used in combination with other practices and products to help reduce the yield loss associated with stress events that your crop may experience.

For more information on biological products along with which products to use and when to use them, please contact your Richardson Pioneer Ag Business Centre.