Fertilizers are necessary for crop growth, but improper usage may result in fertilizer burns and considerable production losses. This is why farmers should understand how chemical burn from fertilizer appears and what causes it in order to prevent misapplications. If you know how to cure fertilizer burns, you may rescue your crops if the issue is detected in time.

What Is Fertilizer Burn And What Are Its Causes?

Fertilizer plant burn is an aberrant vegetative condition characterized by twisted and losing yellow or brownish leaves. Excessive fertilization at any crop phenological stage is the cause of fertilizer burn on crops. Furthermore, when fertilization is applied, there is a considerable chance of plant damage:

  • close to seeds while planting (in-furrow);
  • to dry soil;
  • to wet leaves;
  • at direct sunlight;
  • in hot weather;
  • to crops under heat stress;
  • in incompatible combinations.
fertilizer application to young green corn field

Why does fertilizer burn plants? Essentially, most chemical fertilizers are highly soluble salts that, although beneficial in moderation, may also remove water from crops and dry them. This is why. When soil moisture reaches the crop, the right osmotic pressure conditions water uptake. Excessive salt buildup (particularly after fertilization) causes water flow to reverse causing plants to suffer from osmotic stress.

Crops lose moisture when water flows out of cells (areas with lower salt concentrations) and into the soil. (areas with higher salt concentration). Crops often deal with extreme temperatures by evaporating water from their leaves. Plants burn from fertilizer because they can’t cool themselves off without moisture.

Fertilizer burn on crops is an ultimate effect of nutrient toxicity , most usually as a result of an overabundance of nitrogen. Nitrogen fertilizer salt burn, on the other hand, might be mistaken with nitrogen deficit, an opposite vegetative condition with comparable symptoms. In reality, wilting, curling, burning, or defoliation might indicate a lack of nitrogen, magnesium, calcium, or other nutrients.Identifying Nutrient Deficiencies. Plant Sciences Division, University of Missouri. Leaf damage may also be caused by illnesses or insect infestations.

Also, leaf fertilizer burn can be mistaken for pesticide or herbicide injuries owing to unnecessary chemical use in insect or weed management. Pesticide burns are often caused by poor meteorological circumstances (either too hot or too damp).Pesticide or fertilizer burns on vegetable leaves. Extension at the University of Marylan.

As a consequence, comparable symptoms might arise from a variety of sources. As a result, thorough diagnostics is always the key to making sound decisions.

organic fertilization

Can Organic Fertilizer Burn Plants?

Crop burn is less common with organic (non-chemical) fertilizers than with chemical treatments. Apart from other organic agricultural advantages, this is because non-chemical nutrients breakdown and release more slowly than chemical ones. Furthermore, organic fertilizers do not need extra irrigation, resulting in less leaching underground and into surrounding water bodies.

Nonetheless, organic fertilizer burn may occur when used incorrectly, particularly on sensitive crops.

Examples of organic sources of nutrients include:

  • corn gluten;
  • seaweed emulsions;
  • fish, bone or blood meal;
  • alfalfa or cottonseed meal;
  • dried poultry manure, and more.

Can you burn roots with organic fertilizer? The term “low risk” refers to ready-to-use industrial organic formulations. Fresh chicken or animal manures, on the other hand, severely harm crop roots and need thorough decomposition before application.

visible signs of chemical burn of crop

How To Spot Fertilizer Burn?

Because the issue is caused by over-fertilization, indications of fertilizer burn are expressions of crop incapacity to digest excessively high nutrient concentrations.

Fertilizer Burn Symptoms

Excessive fertilization alters crop leaves and roots, causing the following changes:

  • impaired growth;
  • brown leaf margins and tips;
  • leaf curling and scorching;
  • defoliation;
  • root discoloration (from brown to black);
  • root rots;
  • The evaporation of fertilizer solutions causes a salt crust on the soil.

How long until you see signs of fertilizer burn? It is determined by the concentration of the drug and the period of release. Several days later, signs of fertilizer burn will be seen on the leaves. fast-release fertilizers are applied. The damage from slow-release ones becomes clear after a couple of weeks.

What Makes The Situation Worse?

Certain medical issues exacerbate the intensity of symptoms. For example, the risk is high when the following unfavorable elements are present.

  • Soil salinization Excessive soil salinity increases osmotic pressure, which causes water flows between the soil and the crop to reverse. Furthermore, because of salt, crops are unable to absorb water even when it is available in the soil and become parched.
  • Insufficient irrigation Soil moisture deficiency cannot totally sustain plant water demands. In other words, crops cannot restore moisture lost via evaporation and transpiration while soluble salts accumulate in the foliage, resulting in fertilizer burn on a leaf. The danger is reduced in chilly overcast weather because moisture loss is slower than on hot dry days.
  • Droughts Hot, dry weather raises the salt content of the soil, which may cause crop roots to burn. Because roots are underground, their damage is not immediately evident, but it may be recognized by observing the signs of leaf fertilizer burn.
  • Plant sensitivity If plant resistance to salts is limited, the effect is significant. Furthermore, certain crops are prone to in-furrow fertilization. soybeans, sorghum, corn, and some others .

Can fertilizer burn kill my plants? In truth, it may if the situation is serious and no corrective actions are performed. It is also dependent on:

  • The most difficult plant portion to recover is the roots.
  • The greater the dosage, the greater the danger;
  • crop type: some crops are extremely vulnerable.

An oil palm stem, for example, has just one growing bud or tip. (apical meristem). When a bud is wounded, the plant typically dies since it is unable to develop. As a result, fertilizer burns of growth buds in oil palm farming are often irreversible).

How To Treat Fertilizer Burn?

Here’s a quick checklist for dealing with fertilizer burn. When things go wrong, it is critical to respond quickly and take appropriate steps. The success is also determined by the root health. If the plant roots are significantly injured, the odds of reviving the crop are slim.

  1. Fix fertilizer burn by washing away extra nutrients with water for a week. Excess nutrients will leak below the root zone, making the soil condition more conducive to crop growth. Remember that waterlogging is also detrimental to crops. As a result, this approach is only effective in the presence of significant soil infiltration.
  2. Help plants recover quicker from fertilizer burn by removing damaged and dead leaves to save energy. This allows the afflicted plant to develop new leaf more quickly.
  3. After treating burn patches with fertilizer, wait a few weeks to see the benefits. Crops will turn green again if rehabilitation is effective.
  4. If all efforts to repair burn areas caused by fertilizer have failed, remove the old plants and resow the field. However, keep in mind that extra nutrients must be flushed out first.

Fields monitoring tool that uses high-resolution satellite photos to detect and respond to changes remotely!

strawberry leaves burned with chemicals

Can You Prevent Fertilizer Burn?

Of certainly, and that is the most effective method to handle the matter. It is usually preferable to prevent an issue rather than cope with its repercussions. Here are some general suggestions for avoiding fertilizer burn.

  • Strictly follow the label instructions.
  • Separate applications. In terms of frequency, it is preferable to fertilize in tiny doses at regular intervals rather than large amounts all at once.
  • Select slow-release nutrients. (preferably organic ones). This method allows crops to absorb nutrients gradually.
  • Irrigate liberally to allow nutrients to distribute evenly throughout the soil.
  • To minimize plant shock and burns, use drip fertigation using liquid fertilizing solutions.
  • Fertilizer should not come into touch with moist vegetation.
  • Check for and remove any chemical granules from the plant.
  • Don’t fertilize when transplanting or replanting. The danger of burning vegetables with fertilizer is significant in this circumstance since the disturbed roots are delicate and easily harmed.
  • Fertilize only when the weather is dry to avoid excess salt concentrations in the soil.
  • Examine the next weather forecast for potential droughts or heavy rains.
  • Consider crop requirements and supply fertilizers accordingly using variable-rate technology.

Some of these efforts may be aided by online farming platforms. The EOSDA Crop Monitoring system has many capabilities for detecting and preventing fertilizer burns. As a result, 14-day weather predictions enable selecting the ideal fertilization period. Furthermore, the Field Activity Log assists in avoiding accidentally repeating operations in the same area.

weather forecast on EOSDA Crop Monitoring for planning ag operations To plan agricultural activities, use the weather prediction on EOSDA Crop Monitoring.

Furthermore, the EOSDA Crop Monitoring smart Field Zoning tool enables differing field sections based on crop nutrient demands. This feature encourages precise fertilization with little waste and pollution of land and water resources.

field zoning for precision application of fertilizers EOSDA Crop Monitoring field zoning for precise fertilizer application.

Prevention Mitigates Losses

Fertilization is an essential farming procedure. However, excessive nutrient concentrations induce crop fertilizer burns. The repercussions are often reversible, but occasionally the harm is irreversible. This is why preventing fertilizer burn is preferable than repairing it.

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