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Technology out of Los Alamos National Laboratory Boosts Nitrogen Use Efficiency in Crops

Take-Off in Nutri-Phite® triggers natural metabolic process to enhance utilization of applied nutrients. TM

The efficient use of nitrogen has important economic and environmental implications for California growers. Take-Off , a new active ingredient in NutriPhite® fertilizers from Biagro Western, triggers physiological responses in plants that improve fertilizer-use efficiency to increase yields with equal or lower rates of applied nitrogen. Pat Unkefer, biochemist with Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, led the research team that developed the Take-Off compound in the 1990s. The team was looking at how nitrogen fertilizer was metabolized to stimulate plant growth and yield impact. “We found that plants can moderate their nitrogen status to reflect how much nitrogen is available,” she says. Unkefer’s team was able to isolate a naturally occurring plant compound that is also used as a humectant in cosmetics. Biagro Western is marketing this compound under the trade name Take-Off. Take-Off triggers plants to fix more carbon through photosynthetic activity and turn on nitrogen uptake mechanisms. The end result is improved nitrogen use efficiency, she said, leading to enhanced physiological properties in the plant and improved production per unit of applied nitrogen. Multiple-year laboratory and greenhouse trials at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a public research facility, showed consistent results across a number of different applications. “We conducted multiple replicated, well controlled scientific trials which showed large, statistically significant differences in performance and physiological characteristics that are related to crop performance,” Unkefer says. “What we discovered in greenhouse trials is high vigor, fast growth, good flowering, high protein content, increased rates of N uptake per gram of plant and increased rates of carbon fixation.” Biagro Western’s Nigel Grech, director of research, says commercial field trials of Take-Off, whether applied as a seed, foliar or soil treatment, have shown similar benefits on a larger commercial scale across all crops grown in the Western United States. “The active ingredient in Take-Off acts as a signaling molecule for key biosynthetic pathways in plants and most commercial crops are impacted by this technology,” Grech says. TM

A side-by-side comparison of potato fields seed treated with Nutri-Phite® Take-Off™ P Foliar MZ, at right, versus untreated. Treated fields yielded 18.8 tons per acre, compared to yields under the grower’s standard of 14.4 tons per acre.

Field trials in California and the Pacific Northwest on cereal, vegetable and tree and vine crops are showing significant improvement in yield and fruit quality with the same or even reduced N inputs. Grech says, “On average, replicated data over three years on three varieties of wheat showed we can reduce N inputs by 15 to 20 percent with no losses in yield.” The same large scale, replicated wheat trials produced yield increases of a half-ton per acre with the addition of Nutri-Phite Take-Off P Foliar MZ to the grower’s standard fertility program. Similar data is also coming out of large-scale trials on tomatoes, peppers, green vegetables and citrus. Nutri-Phite Take-Off Applications to Bell Peppers Dr. Gerald Durst, University of Maryland 75 110 Lb N+NP Nutri-Phite Take-Off


140 Lb N 110 Lb N


• Statistically different • from the control (P=0.05)

60 55 50 Yield Lbs/Plot

Replicated trials at the University of Maryland show significant yield differences in peppers treated under various rates of nitrogen alone and Nitrogen plus Nutri-Phite® Take-Off™ P Foliar MZ.

“We’re looking at 8- to 9-percent improvements in yield through one application of Nutri-Phite Take-Off P Foliar MZ compared to standard fertility treatments in wheat, canola, peppers, lettuce and many other crops,” Grech adds. Grech says Nutri-Phite Take-Off P Foliar MZ is cost-effective, with a return on investment of 7:1 to 15:1 or greater, depending on the cropping system, market and fertilizer prices. Scott Tullis, a Pacific Northwest sales rep for Biagro, says Nutri-Phite Take-Off P Foliar MZ is an especially good fit for crops in his region that are poor root feeders, such as potatoes, onions and sugar beets. “When you bring Nutri-Phite Take-Off P Foliar MZ into the plant it increases Photosynthesis and energy utilization. In our potato fields where we typically apply about 300 units of N

annually per acre, we can reduce our N inputs by at least 15 percent and still maintain equal or better yields,” Tullis explains. In potatoes, Tullis recommends a furrow treatment over the top of seed pieces at planting, followed by a one-quart per acre application when plants reach the size of a basketball, and a second foliar or water-run application about three weeks later. Growers on that program are seeing yield increases from three to six tons per acre, with plants that tend to be healthier and produce more consistent tuber-size structure. “The other nice thing about Nutri-Phite Take-Off P Foliar MZ is that it is very stable and can be tank-mixed with fertilizers, herbicides or other inputs so there is no added application cost,” Tullis noted. Tullis is also in his second year conducting large-scale side-by-side trials on dryland wheat. “Across all the crops we have seen similar benefits, increased yields with reduced nitrogen applications, stronger plants and better root development,” he said. Biagro sales rep Gary Morrow, PCA, notes that the best benefits from the Take-Off technology come with a good fertility program to optimize the efficient use of applied macroand micronutrients. “Take-Off is complementary with NutriPhite because the liquid phosphite formulation in Nutri-Phite stimulates root growth and nutrient uptake, while the metabolic processes stimulated by Take-Off lead to more photosynthetic conversion of applied nitrogen to proteins in the form of fruiting bodies and plant structure,” says Morrow, whose region covers Northern California. “One to two applications per season of Nutri-Phite Take-Off P Foliar MZ are showing consistent results across a number of crops,” he adds. “In melons we’ve seen yield increases of 10 to 15 percent, corn yields have increased as much as 15 percent and tomatoes have shown a 5- to 10-percent yield increase, while maintaining or even reducing rates of applied nitrogen. With these consistent results, we’re getting a tremendous amount of interest in this product.” Take-Off is a trademark of Biagro Western Sales, Inc. Nutri-Phite is a registered trademark of Biagro Western Sales, Inc.

December CAPCA Adviser  

December CAPCA Adviser