SJB Chelates – What’s The Difference?

They say ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’, & at SJB we know all about that! In recent times we have had 3 or 4 opposition companies coming out with ‘identical’ products/ranges (ie. same analysis, lignosulphonate based) & of course always cheaper than the SJB original.

Firstly, this is a testament to the quality & success of SJB products in the market. We’ve been around since 1989 & established a strong brand & reputation in the Australian industry, so it’s not surprising that our competitors are trying to take advantage of that by producing cheaper copycat products. The usual sales pitch to growers is “Yeah it’s as good as SJB but cheaper”, and while this is incorrect, it’s still an admission by our competitors that SJB products are the benchmark when it comes to lignosulphonate (LS) chelates.

So are all lignosulphonate products created equal? Are the claims by our competitors actually true?

Over the years we have put these claims to the test (literally) comparing pH, nutrient analysis, specific gravity, colour, HPLC, viscosity & lignin content & funnily enough we’ve never found a product that’s the same as ours. In fact for several products we’ve found they contained no LS at all, but had substituted LS for inferior humic or fulvic acids.

In terms of the source of the LS, it’s important to realise that there are literally hundreds of different types available, most of which are not suitable for foliar absorption. The LS used in our products is exclusive to SJB & not available to other companies.

We also use significantly more chelate per unit of nutrient than our competitors. The difference in performance (& safety) between a partially chelated & fully chelated product is significant. The real value of a chelated product is the chelating agent (to state the obvious), not the nutrient. The higher the percentage of active chelating agent, the more effective & efficient the product will be at delivering nutrients into the plant. This is why SJB chelates have comparatively low nutrient analysis compared to many other ‘chelated’ products on the market. For example, the highest zinc sulphate liquid (non-chelated) available contains about 16% Zn, any higher and this solution will drop out. LIG-ZINC contains 8% Zn but this leaves us room in the solution to add significant amounts of active chelating agent. The reality is as you increase zinc concentration you have to reduce the percentage of chelate (it’s a fact of chemistry). So a ‘chelated’ product with 15% zinc for example is going to have very low levels of chelating agent & therefore a low level of nutrient chelation (eg. <10%).

There is also the important matter of formulation technology & the specific IP involved in this process. The complex nature of the LS compound & its interactions with various nutrients is a science all itself. The manufacturing process is a vital component of product quality to optimise efficacy & shelf life.

But the greatest value in SJB products is not actually the product, but rather the people behind the products! Yes we know we have great products, but so do other companies. We firmly believe chelates offer growers greater flexibility, safety & results, but non-chelated nutrients can also be quite effective & have their place in the market. Good products on their own don’t guarantee results, however the combination of good products with knowledge, experience & service does & that’s what SJB provides for all their growers.

Cucurbit Nutrition

Cucurbits (eg. melons, pumpkins, cucumbers) are a popular summer crop in many growing areas across Australia and are often seen as a low maintenance or ‘fill in’ crop. However to produce quality fruit an adequate nutrition program is essential.

ESTABLISHMENT – For early establishment & vine health, ensure your soil pH is not too acidic (ideally 6.0-7.0 water pH value). If your soil is too acidic it will lock out phosphorous which is required for root development and may have toxic levels of aluminium that kill root hairs & limit biological activity. Early LIG-POLYPHOS sprays are particularly effective for stimulating root growth & top development. Most low pH soils are also low in available calcium which is essential for general vine health and fruit quality. Lime or dolomite (if your soils are low in magnesium) applied at least 3 months prior to planting should correct any pH issues as long as you apply good quality lime with minimum ENV of 75%. However if you miss the boat you can go for a liquid lime option after planting which does work more quickly than bulk lime, though with less residual effects for following crops.

VINE DEVELOPMENT – The major challenge prior to fruit set is to establish an adequate vine or canopy area to support a crop while not promoting excessive vigour that will use up important nutrients needed for optimum reproduction. The key here as with all crops is a BALANCED nutrition program. Sure nitrogen will make things grow, however if it is not balanced with uptake of other essential nutrients (eg. P, K, Ca, Mg, Zn, B, Mo), plant health & fruit quality will be compromised at some point. The form of nitrogen is also a factor with nitrates and urea being immediately available and most likely to cause excessive growth compared to ammonium forms (eg. ammonium sulphate, MAP) that release soil nitrogen more slowly. Of course another option is to supplement conventional nitrogen fertilizers with SJB CR (control release) products such as CR NITROGEN, CR K-NIT & CR CAL-NIT + Boron. Trace elements such as zinc, iron, manganese and copper (see LIG-TRACE) are required for photosynthesis & vegetative growth and produce stronger plants with greater disease resistance characteristics. On sandy soils, magnesium is also likely to be an issue that can inhibit photosynthesis and vine development.

FLOWERING (REPRODUCTION) – Cucurbits are a bit different from most horticultural crops in that they have a high molybdenum (Mo) requirement for flowering. Molybdenum (see LIG-MOLY) is needed for pollen formation (boron plays a similar role in other crops) and a deficiency will result in low numbers of fruit set. Moly deficiency is most common in sandy acid soils and moly is the only essential trace element where availability increases as pH increases. This is another important reason why you need to correct low soil pH prior to planting. Thankfully molybdenum deficiency can be quickly corrected via foliar sprays and only requires a small amount of Mo/ha. Use of nitrate fertilizers will increase moly requirements and low moly in the vine can lead to high soluble nitrate levels that cause excessive vigour thus compromising flowering and fruit set. Other important nutrients for reproduction include phosphorous, calcium, zinc and boron.

FRUIT DEVELOPMENT – Critical nutrients for fruit sizing & filling include potassium, phosphorous & boron. Potassium literally fills up cells and also produces sugars while optimal boron allows more efficient movement of sugars to developing fruit. Both potassium and boron are anti-stress nutrients and help to maintain water uptake. Moisture stress is also the #1 cause of calcium deficiency in crops leading to fruit breakdown and shelf life issues. Phosphorous promotes sugar production and fruit ripening and can be used late in the season to enhance fruit colour where necessary. Nitrogen management is critical during this stage as you need to keep the vine healthy but not promote additional vegetative growth that diverts essential nutrients and sugars from fruit production. This is where foliar sprays such as VLP can be quite helpful for vine maintenance with less reliance on less predictable soil nitrogen.

Other products of interest for cucurbit production:

LIG-CALCIUM + B

LIG-K + BORON

LIG-MAGNESIUM

LIG-ZINC + BORON

PHOSIC 600 (Systemic Phosphonate Fungicide)

Cotton Foliar Sprays

The cotton season is in full swing so what nutrients should growers be looking at to maximise boll yield and quality? Well assuming major nutrient (NPK) inputs are adequate, growers should be looking to address any micro nutrient issues via foliar sprays. The most critical trace elements for cotton production that are likely to be low on many soil types are zinc and boron. If you are growing on alkaline soils, then iron, copper and manganese may also need to be addressed.

Zinc is the most limiting trace element in agricultural crops in Australia, and deficiencies are very common, particularly in the early growth period up to flowering. Zinc is essential for the production of the growth hormone auxin, and deficiencies lead to reduced vegetative growth as well as poor flowering and boll set. Boron is critical for flowering due to its role in pollen tube development & auxin regulation. It is also very important for fibre development so is required right through the growing period.

Foliar application of these nutrients is far more efficient than soil application, particularly in alkaline or high pH soils that tend to lock out trace elements & phosphorous. Also foliar sprays like LIG-ZINC + BORON can be easily applied via aeroplane if required. For maximum benefit it is important that zinc & boron are applied prior to flowering and usually first square is the optimal time to apply these nutrients.

In stress situations (eg. waterlogging) or where other trace elements are limiting SJB has a range of chelated foliar products (see below) to aid crop recovery or correct micro nutrient deficiencies. In cold soil conditions where development of young plants is restricted, foliar application of VLP can be used to stimulate crop growth.

Zinc deficiency in cotton – Interveinal chlorosis (yellowing) in the young leaves. Plants or leaves may also be stunted or small.

Products of interest for cotton production.

LIG-ZINC

LIG-ZINC + BORON

LIGNO-BORON

LIG-TRIPLE (waterlogged crops)

LIG-TRACE

LIG-K + BORON

VLP (slow or waterlogged crops)