When it comes to cobalt, most people think of lithium-ion batteries, not agriculture. In fact, cobalt isn’t typically included in the 17 elements essential for plant growth. However, cobalt is a critical element necessary for plants to reach maturity and for healthy enzymatic systems.
Roots absorb cobalt (Co) as Co2+, the ion form, and it can be moderately mobile in plants. It helps promote stem growth, elongating the coleoptiles – the rigid pieces of tissue that enclose the first few leaves during emergence – and expanding leaf discs.
In short, some scientists believe that cobalt helps plants live longer, stay healthier and reduce stress. It may not make anybody’s list of essential micronutrients, but what is known is that it’s an integral component for several enzymes and coenzymes that can affect the growth and metabolism of bacteria that support plant growth like rhizobia. Rhizobia are needed for nitrogen fixation and carry out the chemical process by which atmospheric nitrogen assimilates into organic compounds. Cobalt helps with the protein that binds the oxygen in the nodule, making it possible for the symbiotic bacteria to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into the legume nodule, delivering nitrogen to the plant.
Cobalt in Nutrient Uptake
Cobalt also serves as an activator to help with nutrient uptake, improving the delivery of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) and is involved in mitochondrial respiration. Some observed beneficial effects of cobalt include slowing leaf senescence, keeping leaves on the plants longer, helping the plant survive longer and increasing the resistance to drought.
Simply put, cobalt might not be considered an essential micronutrient. However, it is crucial to the microbes that make plant life possible.
Cobalt Deficiencies in Plants
Diagnosing a cobalt deficiency is generally done through soil testing. If confirmed, growers should adjust the soil pH to around 7 so that the affected plants can still take up the cobalt in the soil more easily.
Treating a Cobalt Deficiency
At Agnition, we know that cobalt has a crucial role in several plant health responses and as a cofactor in enzymes, proteins and metabolic processes. That’s why cobalt is in two of our separate seed treatment lines, Generate® and Commence®. Though the role of cobalt in plant growth is still under study, we know that microbes in the root zone need cobalt to activate enzymes. Agnition delivers cobalt using a patented Microbial Catalyst® technology that stimulates existing microbes by unlocking enzymes with the micronutrients they need in the form they can easily use, increasing the plant’s ability to take up nutrients and water to improve crop yield.