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Nitrogen is important for high cane yields. Nitrogen is needed in large quantities and helps to maximize DM (dry matter) production and yield. Nitrogen is one of the main building blocks of proteins and essential for photosynthesis and sugar production. Plant crops usually benefit from freshly mineralized supplies of nitrogen from the cultivated soil. However, fertilizer N also helps increase yields in the higher yielding plant crop. Yield responses are also seen in ratoon crops which also respond to N supply.
Phosphorus is particularly important for root development, early shoot growth and tillering. Poor phosphorus supply reduces tillering, internodal length and root area. Thus it is important in supporting stronger stalk development, more tillers and quicker canopy closure. Yield responses in trials have been documented, even on high fixing P soils.
Potassium aids photosynthesis and so is important to productive growth, stronger stalk development with less lodging. Thus like nitrogen, K also boosts strong cane development, long internode growth, wider cane girths and sugarcane yield. Potassium and nitrogen need to be in balance. While N responses can be small, use of potassium alongside N ensures better yields of cane.
Magnesium is involved in transpiration. Unlike calcium, magnesium is more mobile in plants and can also be translocated from mature leaves to new, active growth. Low levels of magnesium during peak periods of growth result in poor cane growth.
Calcium is responsible for the physiological stability of plant tissue. It helps forming strong cell walls and is vital to cell membrane integrity. Good calcium supply maintains good plant structure and health, minimizing stem and leaf cracking and helping reduce disease ingress. Calcium ensures good plant strength, protecting root, leaf and stalk production, maintaining early sugarcane architecture and yield.
Micronutrients play an important role in increasing yield. While much lower levels of micronutrients are needed to satisfy crop growth and boost yield, all play a role in early growth.