Fertilizer – young beds

Fertilizer applications have begun; it really must be spring!

The amount of fertilizer we apply to each bed is determined by variety, soil conditions, and past practices, requiring constant evaluation of current conditions, history, and trends. Nutritional needs are also different for young vines as opposed to established plantings. Additional nutrition is necessary because while cranberries have adapted (and thrive) in their native sandy soil, nutrients are taken from the bog through the harvest of fruit.

The three main elements usually added for nutrition are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, and the team based their decisions on tissue samples, and last year’s yield. According to cranberries.org: “Cranberry plant demand for nitrogen is highest during three stages of the lifecycle critical to cranberry development–early growth, fruit set and bud set. Early growth is when the plant grows vegetatively through vining and root growth and produces a flush of new leaves. Fruit set is when the flower becomes pollinated and fruit begin to form. Soon after fruit set comes bud set when nitrogen is needed for both fruit development and production of the next year’s flower bud.”

“We’re definitely trying new stuff all the time,” Mike Haines says. “Lately, we’ve been planting in pure sand and there’s not as much organic material in there, if any; there aren’t as many nutrients in the soil, if any. So we’re actually upping how much fertilizer we’re putting on; we’re going to see how it goes and then modify as needed. Our main concern is nitrogen; we’ve doubled our starting numbers on that and then we’ll see where we end up. Hopefully it grows too much; I’d rather that than too little!”

These early applications (and indeed, most of our fertilizer application) are all done by air (thank you, Downstown!), but Mike expects to do some work with some land methods next week.

Downstown fertilizer trials

This week some Pine Island team members went to Downstown Aero Crop Service for an application clinic. This clinic is recommended for aviation crop services in order to give the operators and their pilots the opportunity to test their equipment with a trained analyst to help interpret the information and to recommend changes to improve performance.

The main intent of this program, which was sponsored in part by the National Agricultural Aviation Association, is to improve “economy of operation and application, as well as an increase in safety and reduced health and environmental concerns.” As we are in the middle of our growing season and thus concerned with applying the correct amount of nutrients via fertilizer application, this is highly beneficial to Pine Island’s Integrated Crop Management program: one of the keys to our PIICM program is giving vines the nutrients they need, when they need it. The amount of fertilizer to be applied is determined by variety, soil conditions, and past practices, requiring constant evaluation of current conditions, history, and trends, and we are always searching for ways to become even better.

The morning was spent testing calibration for both accuracy and drift. “The control of the droplet size is the best thing we have to combat drift,” says Dennis Gardisser of WRK Services of Arkansas. “In the workshops, we show applicators how to configure aircrafts so they develop precise droplet sizes.” Droplets that are too fine can drift or evaporate, and droplets that are too large may reduce the coverage, in turn reducing crop yields by a significant amount.

Downstown is a great outfit to work with, and our team was impressed by their willingness to basically audit themselves in front of an audience mainly composed of their clients. “They put themselves under review to show us how they can do things even better,” says COO Bryan vonHahmann. “It’s ultimately about efficiency. When they’re more efficient, we’re more efficient, and ultimately that helps us to become better growers.”