Going to Extremes

:: Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Whether it’s drought, flooding, or heavier than usual snowfall, extreme weather presents many challenges to farmers. What you might not have considered is the impact extreme weather has on the amount of boron in your soil—and the positive impact applied boron can have on plants affected by extreme weather.
Boron is one of the most important soil micronutrients. It’s crucial to healthy plant growth, photosynthesis, flowering, and fruiting. Researchers have long known that maintaining healthy boron levels is important to maximizing crop health and yield. More recent research shows that applying boron can also help fortify plants through periods of both drought and flooding.

Weather effects on boron levels

How does weather affect the amount of boron in your soil?
  • High moisture content from high rainfall, flooding, or heavy snow can cause boron to leach from the top soil at faster rates.
  • Cold, wet conditions and hot, dry conditions hinder the breakdown of organic matter, a major source of available boron in soil.
In periods of high rainfall, it may be necessary to apply boron more frequently to make up for boron leaching. It’s also important to supplement with boron during dry spells. During drought periods, the nutrient-rich topsoil dries out and plants send their roots deeper into the subsoil, where there is typically less available boron. Additionally, the decreased water flow overall during a drought means less boron is transported into plant roots.
(Note that in some drought scenarios, plants may find boron in the subsoil that has leached from the topsoil. It’s important to have your soil assessed to determine the right amount of boron to apply.)

Drought or flood: Applied boron can boost yields in affected plants

Plants always need boron for optimal health and yield. In periods of drought and flooding, boron application has also been found to reduce the negative effects of extreme weather conditions.
A 1998 study examined the impact of boron application on waterlogged maize. According to the research, waterlogged maize plants tend to have lower chlorophyll, soluble sugars, total amino acids, and soluble protein content and lower rates of plant growth and photosynthesis.
The researchers found that applying boron alleviated these negative effects. They experimented with both root application and foliar application of boron and found that, overall, foliar boron application had the biggest positive impact on waterlogged plants.  
Similarly, several research studies have shown that foliar boron application during drought conditions can alleviate the negative effects of drought. Drought can reduce plant height and yield, and applying boron can significantly improve these traits in water-deprived plants.
A study on water deficient wheat at King Saud University also found that foliar boron application reduced the levels of two stress markers, proline and hydrogen peroxide, suggesting that boron application provides relief from stress typically caused by drought. 

Create a boron application plan

When it comes to choosing a product for boron application, it’s important to look for a product that provides consistent, high-quality results. U.S. Borax’s borate fertilizers have been refined to remove all of the impurities and contaminants and have the most highly available, consistent levels of boron. Our Granubor granular borate is optimized for bulk blending, while Fertibor is a fine crystalline product designed for suspension fertilizers. Solubor has high solubility and rapid dissolution that make it ideal for foliar application.
As extreme weather events increase, even regions and farms that previously had adequate levels of boron in their soil may find they are now boron deficient. As conditions continue to change, it’s important to continually assess your micronutrient needs.
The best way to determine your boron application needs is to consult with an expert. Contact us for help finding a crop consultant.


 soil science

U.S. Borax, part of Rio Tinto, is a global leader in the supply and science of borates—naturally-occurring minerals containing boron and other elements. We are 1,000 people serving 650 customers with more than 1,800 delivery locations globally. We supply around 30% of the world’s need for refined borates from our world-class mine in Boron, California, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Learn more about Rio Tinto.

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