Foliar feeding involves applying fertilizer (nutrients and micronutrients) directly to the leaves of plants, as opposed to relying completely on the soil as a source for nutrients. Foliar feeding is particularly popular in the organic agriculture industry, but is also effective in other types of cultivation. There are several reasons a gardener or farmer would want to utilize foliar feeding, but perhaps the most compelling one is its effectiveness in critical gardening situations, when a crop is in immediate danger of failure due to insufficient nutrition.
Foliar Feeding for Crisis Management
There are critical times when plants are in immediate danger of starvation or stunted growth. Low levels of soil nutrients can literally starve a plant. It may be that something wasn’t detected initially at the time of planting, but has now become evident and threatens the overall health and yield of the crop.
So, how do you address this situation and save the garden or crop?
According to a study conducted at Michigan State University, foliar feeding proved to be 8-10 times more effective than traditional soil-to-root nutrient absorption. Perhaps the most amazing part of study was that foliar feeding actually increased the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients from the soil as well, making it doubly effective. This indicates that in situations where there is a critical shortage of soil nutrients, foliar feeding can not only rectify a problem quickly through the leaves, it can actually improve the plant’s interaction with the soil. For this reason, plants that receive regular foliar feeding are more robust and healthy. They not only yield more, but are heartier, making them less susceptible to environmental stresses.
A Faster Solution to Nutrient-Scarce Soil
When it comes to gardening, one of the most important things is ensuring your plants have access to sufficient nutrients, so plants can do what they do best – grow. While most crops absorb “the big three” nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) from the soil, it is a relatively slow process and some of the microonutrients do not travel up from the roots. If plants are in immediate danger from deficiencies in the soil, foliar feeding will supply the plants with sustenance much more quickly. In the end, this can be the best way to avert disaster.
Prevent the Crisis to Begin With!
It should also be noted that foliar feeding can also be used to routinely augment your normal fertilization in order to grow a more vigorous plant that produces a more abundant yield. Therefore, it would be a good idea to investigate the benefits of foliar feeding without waiting for a nutritional emergency to develop. Adding in microbial inoculants will also increase the feedings effectiveness and can also be applied directly to the soil as an amendment, ensuring healthy crops for many years to come.
You can make a custom mix for your plants if you know what the plants need. The best way to do this is to take several cuttings from plants and submit them to a lab for a tissue analysis. They will send you back an analysis and recommendations. You can then mix what is suggested into a sprayer, add a little Activated EM-1 (3-5 gallons per acre), some humate (about 1/2 gallon per acre), and a wetting agent such as liquid yucca or calcium lignosulfonate (about 1 pint per acre). Spray the plants in the early evening once per week, starting at sprouting. When you spray you want a fine mist that just wets the surface of the leaves. A typical farmer will send in 5 plant tissue samples over the course of a growing season and will adjust their foliar mix accordingly.