Feeding a growing population while coping with the implications of climate change are becoming increasingly important issues in agriculture. Longer dry periods and the need to save water are some of the challenges that farmers need to solve to sustain yields, whilst deploying fertilizing strategies that have a low environmental impact.
Water use efficiency
With the drier climate, water use efficiency is becoming more and more crucial. One way for farmers to improve water saving is to utilize drip irrigation instead of sprinkling and thus provide water directly to the plant rather than allowing water to evaporate from the surroundings. Drip irrigation systems can be utilized for a double purpose by providing plant nutrients through the water solution. However, salts may crystallize in the pipe system leading to unwanted clogging. To manage this, fertilizers with high solubility should be used for optimal through put.
Optimal plant nutrients
With fertilization strategies, farmers manage the required nutrients for optimal crop growth. For example potassium is a macronutrient that plays an important role in photosynthesis, fruit formation and enzyme control efficiency. Conventionally chloride based macronutrients have been used. However, plant tolerance for chloride is low, so demand for chloride-free potassium sources has grown in the past years. This applies particularly for sensitive crops, and for farming areas with high salinity. High salinity levels of soil is an increasing problem in arid and semi-arid regions. In dry conditions, salt stress in plants is a common problem which leads to seed germination issues causing young plants to grow slowly, or even die. Chloride-free nutrients are not only optimal for plants but also to avoid adding to soil salinity.
High uptake to high yield
To maximize plant growth with efficient irrigation and optimal nutrients, farmers also need to find the strategy that allows for best nutrient uptake. Nutrients need to be abundantly available during the lifecycle and demand differs from crop type and growth stage. In dry conditions, the uptake is dependent on the nutrients deliquescence point. This describes at what relative humidity a salt liquefies and hence how available it is for the plant to absorb it. In dry periods the nutrient – for example potassium - uptake through soil by the root system can be prohibited due to solubility limitations of the nutrients as water is not available. Providing plants with a nutrient source that has a high solubility and low deliquescence point allows for optimal uptake and high yields.