Growth Management not Growth Regulation

Engage Crop Solutions, leading fruit nutrition innovators are focusing their attention on growth management for tree fruit crops seasons.

For years the fruit team at Engage have been reinforcing the benefits of their regenerative nutrient management programme to optimise and support fruit load and quality with consistency in yielding from season to season. This approach has now been extended to cover extension growth management and the removal for the requirement of expensive inhibitory growth regulants.

Work in this area began with Engage’s Spanish team in 2017 where the use of nutrient management is more widespread due to the level of control offered by irrigation and foliar supplements.

Working in tree fruit crops of peaches, apples, citrus and even vegetable fruits such as tomatoes, yielded very promising results in naturally reducing extension growth by shortening internode length and increasing stem width to support more fruit per square metre of canopy.

The work centered around nitrogen management to not only tailor nitrogen load to rootstock but also to focus more closely on nitrogen application via roots and foliar application to accurately time the nitrogen level and source to naturally stimulate specific phytohormone levels to reduce extension growth without the need for chemical regulation.

This work eventually became more foliar focused as tree fruit species responded favourably to this approach and by early 2019 a programme was developed with the development of a new nitrogen technology known as VerdeNT.

Engage have been working with several UK fruit partners to further tailor the approach to the UK climate. To date, results have been very positive and shown to replicate the southern European data.

So how does the approach work?

Well according to Mike Stoker, technical fruit lead in the UK ‘by careful management and measurement of nutrient levels throughout the season’

As with all things nutrition, management starts in the soil. A thorough essay of the nutrient bank is made and base applications, if required, are then tailored to the soil type, rootstock and nutrient load. ‘Traditionally tree fruit growers have sampled their soils every 3-5 years and many apply the same base applications as a matter of course without realising that they may be creating or compounding issues that may affect fruit load or tree growth’ says Mike.

‘The programme moves this to an annual approach with nutrients accurately applied via both base and foliar applications to manage and support the trees. Nutrients are managed in and ‘out’ of the rootzone and applications are more targeted during growth stages to support individual processes.

Bio-Chel Ca

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MAS-Power Fruit

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The regenerative programme encompasses many of Engage’s cornerstone products such as their market leading calcium chelate, Bio-Chel Ca, with some of the latest technological developments of MAS-Power Fruit and the newly arrived VerdeNT nitrogen.

‘By careful management of nitrogen sources we are playing with its most important growth regulator, nitrogen itself. We know that growth regulator use has developed through a lack of understanding of nutrient management, especially that of nitrogen balance and with a little more care we can both optimise growth and fruit support and remove the need to apply growth regulators which inhibit nutrient transport through a vital developmental period’ states Mike.

So how does the new VerdeNT nitrogen fit into the programme? According to Mike the VerdeNT technology manages the sources of nitrogen applied to trees to change growth habit and naturally stimulates the production of differing levels of phytohormones by the tree.

Mike says:
‘We know that the application of nitrates during early extension growth either by calcium application or by potassium/magnesium application we stimulate apical growth and extend internode length which results in long leaders which not only creates work for the grower going forward but also diverts essential nutrients from supporting leaf and fruit development.

‘VerdeNT does two things; it delivers nitrogen in forms which stimulate a shorter growth habit and removes apical dominance and also extends the period of availability so its efficiency in vastly increased’

‘In 2020 the data so far has been excellent especially with the challenging season it has been so we are looking forward to cementing the data in 2021 ahead of a full commercial release of the programme and supporting technologies’.

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