Home » How to Reduce Stress Factors with Calcium Nutrition and Plant-based Amino Acids

How to Reduce Stress Factors with Calcium Nutrition and Plant-based Amino Acids

Matt Brill |Director of Marketing, Ferticell USA
Steve Trotter | Agronomist
Sponsored by Ferticell®


Growers are constantly faced with an ever-changing dynamic of soil nutrient availability, but one element stands out for its ability to negatively impact both yield size and quality: Calcium. Yet, when applied with amino acids, calcium uptake is accelerated, allowing it to do its job while reducing plant stress.

There are 20 essential amino acids that play unique roles during a plant’s lifecycle, some of which can and will help facilitate the availability and transportation of calcium. Since calcium is phloem immobile — meaning it only travels up the plant to leaf and fruit tissue — the growth cycle of a plant and its fruit’s needs are dependent largely upon cell wall development and strength and the availability of calcium.

In-season plant stress is inevitable. To get ahead of that stress, growers should aim for building hardy plant cells with optimal calcium levels that show up in tissue analysis. This is a critical requirement for plants to manage stress events and healthy fruit development. To drive calcium availability, amino acids should be considered to assist uptake and phloem mobility, as they are well documented natural chelators.

Without amino acids, calcium uptake can be difficult to gauge. Many a soil report will list total calcium in conjunction with plant needs, but reports will still show a deficiency. This is because calcium uptake will be dependent upon plant available calcium, not total soil calcium.  Bicarbonates in the rhizosphere attach to calcium ions, preventing uptake, which is where amino acids create a solution. As the second-most exuded compound by plant roots, amino acids are easily transferred through the xylem and phloem. This VIP access essentially makes them an Uber driver for nutrients in the HOV lane. To prevent a calcium deficiency from developing, growers should plant to incorporate calcium applications at key intervals with a side of L-amino acids.

It is important to note that once a calcium deficiency has shown itself via necrosis or leaf change, the damage has already begun and harvest will continue to suffer from browning of the fruit tip or other cell degradation responses, especially in tomatoes and pepper production. This is extrapolated under abiotic stress conditions.

So, if you are short on calcium, how do you increase tissue levels quickly? And how much do you apply? Calcium applications should be calculated based on soil and water reports, along with historical tissue analysis. Quality soil applications of a low-micron calcium carbonate is ideal for the best uptake. By filling leaf and stem tissue with proper levels of calcium, allocation to new tissue will save plant energy.

During abiotic stress conditions where plants shut down to save energy, amino acids will facilitate the distribution of both calcium and nitrogen (Arginine) where it is needed and restart plant growth.

In fields where soil applications of calcium are limited or difficult, it is possible to foliar apply calcium when combined with an L-amino acid. The chelation effect amino acids have on calcium can allocate calcium to both leaf and fruit tissue.

Need proof? The ideal relationship between amino acids and calcium was proven through trial work in a replicated study in Colusa County, California, in 2014 and 2016.using two timed applications of calcium along with an L-amino Acid package at flowering yielded 12.61 net tons more cannery tomatoes in 2014 (Figure A) and 11.46 net tons in 2016 (Figure B).

Figure A: Application of L-Amino Acids to cannery tomatoes at harvest yielded a 26% increase in Net Tons.

The science demonstrates the vital factor amino acids play in the movement of calcium in tomato weight. When added to calcium applications, amino acids will fully correct necrosis of tomatoes versus any stand-alone calcium source. Glycine and glutamic acid are tied directly to this mode of action by opening calcium ion channels much faster than normal osmosis.

Figure B: Application of L-Amino Acids to cannery tomatoes at harvest yielded a 17% increase in Net Tons/acre.

In 2018, the trials were tested against a foliar calcium with 3% soy protein nitrogen (Figure C). This trial indicated that an excess of amino acids and calcium did not increase yield past the results of the smaller program, but did outperform the calcium without added soy protein. This was shown on the lower yield increase in from 2014, with the higher L-amino acid application at flowering in 2016.

Figure C: 2018 results showcase an increase with calculated applications of soy with calcium and the L-amino acid package.

The results, literature and in-field success indicate growers should always consider amino acid applications in conjunction with their calcium program. It is very important to note that not all amino acid products are created equal. Applications of L-amino acids showcase a natural chelation effect that assists in mitigating stress factors that limit fruit production correlated to plant stress like drought conditions, salinity stress, and other abiotic stressors. That does not mean that all amino acids are the same.

Plant-based amino acids are produced from an enzymatic hydrolysis process with low temperatures and no chemically strong acids that protect the higher peptides and L-amino acids. Alternative amino acids that are animal-derived take a long time to convert for plant uptake and must use higher temperatures during hydrolysis and strong acids that will result in loss of some acids or produce only the D-form as inert.

Sponsor Message

Calcium products like Calcium 880Plus™ or ProCal™ 3-0-0Plus20 in the mentioned trials benefit from the addition of L-amino Acids in Nutri-Plus™. With high concentrations of 19 of the 20 essential amino acids needed for growth, calcium and amino acids will provide greater shelf life and fruit quality, especially for fruiting crops.

Learn more about the trials conducted and the products mentioned at www.ferticellusa.com/.