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Boron deficiency is one of the most widespread micronutrient deficiencies in the world, but it can be hard to visually identify these deficiencies in row crops.
Boron assists with plant development, including seed, cell-wall and protein formation, sugar translocation, germination of pollen grains and growth of pollen tubes. Deficiencies can lead to incomplete pollination in corn or decreased podset in soybeans.
While research is limited, boron seems to protect plant health, especially during stressful conditions such as drought or increased plant populations.
“Boron plays a role in stabilization of the cell membranes, controlling what goes in and out of the cell walls,” says University of Illinois plant physiologist Fred Below. “There’s empirical evidence that stable membranes help with overall plant health.”
Unlike many micronutrients, boron is an anion that is mobile in the soil and can easily leach outside of the root zone. Plants absorb boron through the soil in the form of borate. Once within the plant, boron is relatively immobile.
Soil organic matter binds tightly with boron. It is released into the soil as organic matter decays, although some may leach outside of the root zone. Below suspects that the increased organic matter in no-till practices may help keep boron available throughout the season.
“We’ve measured the pattern of boron uptake in corn and soybeans and we can speculate that boron plays a key role in flowering, pollen development and the pollination process,” he says. “It seems to impact the viability of the pollen, especially…