Unlocking Cotton’s Potential with Foliar Potassium (K)

Our agronomist discusses the importance of foliar K applications (and supporting micronutrients) at early stages of peak bloom.

May 21, 2024
4 mins
Dr. AJ Foster
Agronomy Technical Services Manager, Southern US

Unlocking Cotton’s Potential: The Importance of Nutrient Application at Early Bloom

As cotton growers gear up for the summer months, it’s important to consider the significance of timely nutrient application and how it can maximize yield potential. During the bloom stage, cotton plants undergo rapid growth and development. Supporting cotton during this stage helps support the plant’s physiological processes and ensure optimal reproductive success. Let’s dig into why foliar nutrition is critical to optimizing yields and the role essential nutrients like potassium, magnesium, sulfur, and boron play in achieving optimal growth and development.

Foliar – Understanding the Timing and Method of Application

What we love about foliar fertilization is that we can adjust nutrients based on what the plant needs and what is happening in the environment. Research from the University of Georgia (UGA) has underscored the importance of foliar fertilization (specifically foliar-applied potassium) during peak bloom or the first four weeks of bloom for cotton. This critical period coincides with the plant’s heightened demand for essential nutrients like potassium, magnesium, sulfur, and boron, which are crucial for fostering flower development and boll formation. Because foliar fertilizers can deliver nutrients directly to the leaves, nutrient efficiency is improved, and deficiencies can quickly be addressed. Foliar application is emerging as one of the most effective fertilization methods during this stage, facilitating the cotton plant’s rapid nutrient uptake and utilization.

Reserach shows foliar K increases cotton yields and should be applied during the reproductive stages of cotton, particularly from first bloom to peak bloom. Nova FLOW™ as a foliar K source applied with Polysulphate®, increased yield by more than 38% compared to the non-foliar control (muriate of potash).

The Nova FLOW™ Advantage

Nova FLOW™ (5-10-20 +9Mg 11.7S 0.5B) is a standout choice for cotton growers seeking to meet the nutrient demands of their crop during peak bloom. It is a highly soluble alternative to magnesium and potassium nitrate loaded with N-P-K, plus sulfur, magnesium, and boron. What makes Nova FLOW stand out?

  1. High Solubility and Comprehensive Nutrition: Nova FLOW™ is a premium water-soluble fertilizer containing essential nutrients such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S), and boron (B). This unique formulation ensures rapid nutrient uptake by the cotton plants, promoting robust growth and development.
  2. Optimized Application Rate: We recommend a low application rate of 3 to 10 lbs. per acre. However, it’s important to note that higher application rates may be necessary for regions with water limitations, such as our trial site in West Texas, to meet the plant’s increased nutrient demands during peak growth periods.
  3. Supports Reproductive Growth: Nova FLOW™ provides a high-quality source of potassium, magnesium, sulfur, and boron, which are essential for supporting reproductive growth in cotton. By ensuring optimal nutrient availability during critical growth stages, Nova FLOW™ facilitates healthy flower development and sugar movement and ultimately leads to increased yield potential.
  4. Compatible with Other Products: Nova FLOW™ seamlessly integrates with other fertilizers and crop inputs such as Nova PULSE™, Nova ELEVATE™, BIOZ Diamond, and Polysulphate®. This compatibility allows for flexible and customizable nutrient management strategies tailored to specific growing conditions and requirements.

The Role of Potassium, Magnesium, Sulfur, and Boron

While we know potassium (K), alongside nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), play crucial roles in a plant’s growth and development, we can’t forget about key secondary macros and micros. By providing a balanced and adequate supply of nutrients through fertilization practices, we can support the plant’s physiological processes and set the stage for a successful harvest.

  1. Potassium (K): Potassium supports photosynthesis and is particularly critical during reproductive stages, such as flowering and boll development. It also supports flower initiation and pollen germination, regulates water movement, and enhances stress tolerance. Thus, potassium ultimately influences yield potential and crop productivity.
  2. Magnesium (Mg): Magnesium plays a vital role in chlorophyll production and is also essential for photosynthesis and translocation of carbohydrates from source to sink organs. During peak bloom, the cotton plant experiences a surge in energy demand to support flower development and boll formation. Magnesium deficiency can hinder chlorophyll synthesis, reducing photosynthetic activity and impacting yield potential.
  3. Sulfur (S): Sulfur is a key component of various amino acids and proteins essential for plant growth and development. During peak bloom, sulfur plays a crucial role in enzyme activation and protein synthesis, contributing to flower formation and reproductive success. Adequate sulfur availability ensures optimal nutrient uptake and utilization, improving cotton fiber yield and quality.
  4. Boron (B): Boron is involved in numerous physiological processes within the plant, including cell wall formation, pollen germination, and fruit development. During peak bloom, boron deficiency can impair pollen tube elongation and fertilization, leading to poor fruit set and reduced yield.

The Bottom Line

As cotton growers prepare for the critical peak bloom period, we can’t overstate the importance of timely and targeted foliar nutrient application. This method enhances nutrient efficiency and promptly addresses deficiencies, promoting robust growth and development. Nova FLOW™ is an excellent option to meet the nutritional demands of cotton during this crucial stage. Foliar application allows for the direct delivery of essential nutrients like potassium, magnesium, sulfur, and boron precisely when they’re needed most. When we can provide cotton plants with the nutrients they need during peak bloom, we can maximize yield potential and, ultimately, achieve greater profitability for growers!