All posts by Nutifafa Adotey, Soil and Nutrient Management Extension Specialist

Visual Symptoms: A Handy Tool in Identifying Nutrient Deficiency in Row Crops

Generally, a nutrient deficiency occurs as a result of low soil nutrient levels. However, prevailing environmental conditions, soil properties, and growth conditions may restrict nutrient uptake and induce deficiencies in crops even if soil nutrient levels are deemed sufficient for optimum yield. For example, low or high soil pH, soil compaction, and excessively wet or dry soil may prevent nutrient uptake. A handy diagnostic tool to identify nutrient deficiency in crops is via visual symptoms. In some instances, this tool may not provide a definite diagnosis of the nutrient status of the plant. Keep in mind that there are other conditions that are cable of inducing symptoms that closely resemble those of nutrient deficiencies. Visual symptoms should be corroborated with tissue and/or soil testing. Adequate knowledge of visual symptoms and tissue testing may help guide corrective actions in-season or preventive action in the following season to avoid yield loss.

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Does boron fertilizer use increase corn and soybean yields?

Boron is associated with cell wall biosynthesis, cell wall structure, membrane function, pollen germination, pollen tube growth, and carbohydrate metabolism; hence, insufficient supply can severely impair crop performance, and ultimately result in sub-optimal yields.
Boron deficiency symptoms vary among crops, but, are often noticed on the youngest leaves or terminal buds since boron is not very mobile within the plant. In some crops, deficiency symptoms appear as misshaped leaf blades (Fig. 1). Failure of seed and fruit set has been observed on boron deficient soils (Fig. 2). Deficiency in boron during flowering and fruit may reduce the retention of bud flowers and developing fruits. Some boron deficient crops tend to have short internodes and swollen nodes giving the crops a bush appearance.

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Soil fertility and nutrient management practices survey

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I am Nutifafa Adotey, University of Tennessee’s Soil and Nutrient Management Extension Specialist. A thriving and productive land for subsequent generation is of uttermost importance to every farmer, rancher, or grower. This survey is designed to gather brief but valuable information on some basic production practices in Tennessee. This information will help with the accurate delivery of innovations or interventions on soil fertility that caters to the needs of producers in Tennessee.

Kindly take a few minutes to fill out this survey if you are a producer or share this information with other producers in Tennessee. The survey can also be taken on mobile devices such as the smartphone or tablet. I have contracted with QuestionPro, an independent research firm, to field your confidential survey responses. I would appreciate your feedback in our online survey. Your survey responses will remain confidential and secure. Data will only be used to help build a robust soil and nutrient management extension and research program.

The survey is available at https://utk.questionpro.com/t/AQQL2ZgzJA

I appreciate your trust and look forward to serving you in the future.

Please contact nadotey@utk.edu with any questions.


Minimizing Nitrogen Loss in Row Crop Production Using Nitrogen Stabilizers

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Nitrogen (N) fertilization is a costly operation for most row crop producers. Consequently, it is important to implement best management practices (BMP) available for N fertilizer application in order to be profitable. The problem with N fertilizers is their potential to be lost through different N loss pathways: ammonia volatilization, denitrification, and leaching. Spring of 2020 has been generally wet and if this weather pattern continues, farmers should have no problem receiving incorporating rain, minimizing risk for ammonia volatilization from surface-applied at planting N. In TN, most row crop producers split-apply N, with the majority of N fertilizer applied as a sidedress which is closer to the period of high N demand. Since a large portion of N is applied as sidedress, there is the greatest risk for N loss depending on management practice as well as soil and environmental conditions. Continued wet weather might support the use of nitrification inhibitor type products in wetter soils. This blog addresses N stabilizers as a tool to minimize the risk of N loss and ensure that N is available for crops during the period of high demand. Continue reading


Soil sampling and testing

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Planning to get the most out of your crop next spring? Soil testing after post-harvest is a valuable step in accomplishing this goal. While soil testing is the only practical means to adequately evaluate the nutritional needs in a field to prescribe appropriate lime and fertilizer recommendations, the reliability of soil test results depends on the quality of the sample submitted to the soil testing laboratory. Poor sampling can result in inaccurate soil test results and produce unreliable lime and fertilizer recommendations. Some helpful soil sampling information:

  •  Soil samples can be collected at any time, but some soil properties (soil pH, phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), for example) can vary depending on the time of sampling.
  • While soil test results from University of Tennessee Soil, Plant, & Pest Center come back within 3 to 5 days, it is best to sample months ahead of planting to allow for planning and getting prices on lime or fertilizer.
  • A good rule of thumb for soil sampling is to collect samples in a way that adequately represents the soil in that field. A well represented sample will consist of 10 – 20 core samples taken at the appropriate depth within a 5/10-acre grid.
  • University of Tennessee Soil, Plant, & Pest Center as well as commercial soil testing laboratories in Tennessee recommend taking soil samples to a depth of 6 inches.
  • The frequency of soil testing depends on cropping intensities, soil types, fertilization rate, tillage methods, and weather conditions; however, fields should be tested every two to three year to estimate the residual nutrient levels. For high-value cash crops (tobacco, vegetables, etc.) soils should be tested annually.
  • Soil testing is also recommended any time a nutrient deficiency problem is suspected or at the beginning of different crop rotation system.
  • Soil samples and a completed soil information sheet can be taken to your county Extension office or directly sent to University of Tennessee Soil, Plant, & Pest Center, Nashville.•
  • Addition information about UT Soil, Plant & Pest Center can be obtained from your County UT Extension Offices or at https://ag.tennessee.edu/spp