Assessing Nutrient Needs

X-Ray Tool Helps Determine Plants’ Nutrient Needs

   “We’re always actively evaluating our nitrogen recommendations for multiple soil types across our upland and alluvial soils,” said  Dr. Beatrix Haggard, Louisiana University Ag Center’s northeast regional soil specialist.
   Showing a plot of a field with zero pounds of nitrogen applied, she said the low nitrogen really is  apparent in the lower leaves of the plant. Using a new piece of technology, the Field Portable X-ray Fluorescence (PXRF), Haggard showed how nutrient rates can be assessed. The Field Portable X-ray Fluorescence tool can scan many different items, including soil, metals, leaf materials.

Dr. Beatrix Haggard, Louisiana University Ag Center’s northeast regional soil specialist explains the evaluation of nitrogen needs for different soil types and a new piece of technology the Field Portable X-ray Flourescence.
Photo by John LaRose, Jr.

   “Also, we’re beginning to assess the other nutrients that are there. We’re asking just what is the optimum rate depending on whether you have a sharkey clay or an upland Gigger,” she explained.
   Things like potassium, zinc and sulfur are among the other nutrients the tool will assess. Basically, the technician scans the plant sample, not typically in hand, because it is emitting x-rays; then after about a minute some elemental data will be recorded. “That’s where we can start to assess if this could be a useful tool in a field to learn if you should send a sample down to a laboratory for further analysis.
   “By the end of the 2013 growing season we hope to gain some further knowledge about where the nitrogen recommendations should be across our different soil types in the northeast as well as central Louisiana,” Haggard summed. The PXRF is a four-year study and this is the first year of it, so we’re looking forward to seeing what happens in the next three years.”∆
BETTY VALLE GEGG-NAEGER: Senior Staff Writer, MidAmerica Farmer Grower

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