Phosphorus Equals Horsepower for Crops

Phosphorus Equals Horsepower for Crops

Sunlight into energy means fuel for plant growth – the crucial role of phosphorous in crop fields. Cell elongation and division may be the proper scientific description, but a simplified explanation is a better fit: Phosphorus cranks up plant horsepower.

In soil, phosphorus drives the microbial system, creating energy needed by microbes to process organic matter and send it back into the nutrient pool, said Farm Journal field agronomist Ken Ferrie, at Corn College 2015, in Heyworth, Ill.

“Farmers often don’t realize that only a small portion of applied phosphorus makes it into the crop. Somewhere in the 15 percent to 30 percent range would be a high number. The rest isn’t lost or tied up, but it means the phosphorus goes into the biological system – feeding microbes and everything else. It’s part of the whole process of keeping microbes alive. Microbes supply the big portion of phosphorus needed by crops, because most of the phosphorus in soil is held in organic form and microbes convert it to an inorganic form.”

Phosphorus is vital to building a crop and supplies chemical energy needed for growth. Crops certainly need additional nutrients, but without phosphorus, a corn crop will suffer stunting and purpling.

“Farmland that’s low in phosphorus – either it doesn’t have it or might be severely acidic – may lack the horsepower to maneuver through tough or compacted ground. Phosphorus is crucial in giving plants strength to push through tough soil.”

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