The 10 Benefits of Foliar Nutrition … and How to Make the Most of Them

The 10 Benefits of Foliar Nutrition … and How to Make the Most of Them

In recent times, foliar feeding has become accepted as an essential aspect of crop production, particularly on horticultural plants. Although its use is not as widespread in agronomic crops, the multiple benefits of foliar feeding have been well-documented. Like any input, achieving the maximum benefit from foliar feeding requires a tailored approach. 

It is most important to note that foliar applications are a useful mechanism to maximise yield and quality but must not be regarded as a substitute to soil-applied fertiliser, the requirement of which would be determined from a soil sample.

What is foliar feeding?

Foliar feeding is the application of essential plant nutrients to above-ground parts of the plant. This is done by spraying soluble minerals as a fine mist on the leaves.

Did you know?

Foliar feeding was first documented over 100 years ago, when farmers used iron sprays to correct leaf chlorosis. 

The benefits of foliar feeding 

A major benefit from foliar applications of essential nutrients, amino acids and metabolites, is the increased rate of photosynthesis, which includes a greater volume of exudates via the root system, stimulating microbes associated with solubilising soil nutrients and making them available to the plant.

Ten other benefits of foliar feeding are:

  1. Efficiency: Foliar fertilisation is less dependent on the soil and doesn’t rely on specific soil conditions. It circumvents problems such as dilution, penetration and fixation.
  2. Stimulates root development: Foliar nutrition has been shown to improve root growth, enabling the plant to absorb more water and nutrients. 
  3. Practicality: In some instances, foliar sprays are the only practical means of correction and control. 
  4. Eliminates common deficiencies: Foliar applications compensate for the erratic and irregular soil absorption which exacerbates plant deficiencies.
  5. Rapid intervention: Foliar inputs ‘get to work’ much faster than nutrition via soil applications. Nutrients applied externally are absorbed almost immediately. 
  6. Control the growth of your crop: Applying certain elements at specific moments allows you to stimulate certain processes in the plant and take control of your crop development. 
  7. Increase plant resistance: Well-fed plants are healthier, stronger and more resistant to disease. 
  8. Improve the quality of your yield: Ensure that your crops get the right nutrients at the right time, independent of their availability in the soil. 
  9. Save time: Many foliar applications offer more than one specific nutrient or benefit, allowing you to effectively input multiple applications at once. 
  10. Save money: More efficient nutrition for the plant with foliar fertilisation reduces the need for soil fertilisation, when soil conditions are not conducive to nutrient uptake. 

Despite the numerous benefits of foliar feeding, it is far from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. For example, there are many documented instances in which negative results from foliar fertilisation have been reported in crops such as soybeans, corn, wheat, oats and alfalfa. 

The most favourable results from foliar feeding are most likely to occur in plants that have a good leaf area to allow for maximum nutrient uptake.

In addition …

Timing is everything 

Deriving the maximum benefit from foliar feeding relies on proper timing of application, which includes both the plant’s stage in the growth cycle, as well as meteorological conditions.  

  • Proper growth stage: Foliar applications should be timed to meet the current nutritional needs of the plant during its development. For this reason, it’s important to monitor the crop’s growth stage frequently. For example, foliar feeding can be more effective on agronomic crops when they are flowering and fruit setting. 
  • Proper crop condition: The best responses to foliar feeding are seen in crops that are nutritionally sound due to better tissue quality that allows for maximum nutrient absorption and translocation. 
  • Proper meteorological conditions: Time of day, temperature, humidity and wind speed will influence the physical and biological aspects of foliar application. For example, calm, warm, moist conditions favour high plant tissue permeability, and thus nutrient absorption. 

Other factors to take into consideration when evaluating the potential benefits of foliar fertilisation in specific circumstances include: 

  • Crop type
  • Leaf area and morphology
  • Soil moisture
  • Soil nutrient level
  • The nature of the applied substance. 

Foliar feeding from Zylem  

Foliar feeding is rapidly being standardised as an ‘insurance’ against specific plant deficiencies and the hazards of unpredictable weather. In some cases, it is the only practical means to supply specific nutrients to a plant. 

Zylem’s plant nutrition is renowned for benefits associated with organic raw materials such as fish hydrolysate, Amino K, kelp and so on. The main product delivering these ingredients is Sea Brix™ but it must be applied in conjunction with the higher nutrient loading of products such as Nutri-Tech Triple Ten™, Micros Z, Nutri-Key Calcium Shuttle™ and Nutri-Key Shuttle Seven™. All our products are distributed via an extensive distributor network. Learn more at

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