2022 game plan: Boost micronutrients

As we continue putting together our game plan for the 2022 growing season, an important item on the checklist is understanding the importance of micronutrients, and how best to unlock their benefits for your crop.

Micronutrients are key in a plant’s metabolism, ensuring proper cell division and hormone production.

According to soil fertility experts in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University, there are eight micronutrients among the 17 elements essential for plant growth: boron (B), chlorine (Cl), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), zinc (Zn) and nickel (Ni).

Researchers at Ohio State suggest there is growing interest in the agricultural community in micronutrient fertilization because soil erosion and long-term cropping have resulted in the removal of micronutrients from soils and because increasing crop yields have led to greater micronutrient removal rates in grain and other harvested products. Also, the widespread replacement of micronutrient-rich manures with mineral/synthetic fertilizers has created a need for micronutrients from other fertilizer sources.

“A lot of times people think about nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but micronutrients play a huge role in the overall health and wellbeing of a plant, said Bert Riggan, an agronomist with Concept AgriTek. “It’s crucial that micronutrients be available to the plant, whether we add them at the time of planting, apply in a foliar or we build the soil profile so the soil can hold onto them.”

Riggan said that when a plant, such as a corn plant, is starved of micronutrients, it will affect growth from the early stages.

“When it is determining the number of rounds on the cob, it’s usually early, around V3 or V4, and if that plant is starved for any type of micronutrient, then it can’t fully express its genetic potential,” Riggan said. “Not having micronutrients available to the plant could be the difference between a 14-round cob and an 18-round cob.

Determining micronutrients in your soil

Riggan said the first step in determining the presence of micronutrients in the soil is a complete soil test conducted by an experienced consultant who is qualified to interpret the findings.

“That will give them an idea of what they might have to add, whether in-furrow or in a 2X2. There are also some foliar options that you can use at an early stage,” Riggan said. “But knowing what you have to work with and knowing the availability of it is crucial. That way you don’t overbuy or overapply.”

Special care should be taken to not apply more micronutrients than are needed because doing so could have an adverse effect on the soil and on plant growth.

“As the name implies—micronutrients—you don’t need the same number of parts-per-million available to that plant that you would for something like nitrogen, phosphorous or potassium,” Riggan said.

Growers also need to be aware of how micronutrients interact with one another, because the wrong balance might also have an impact on plant health and, ultimately, yield.

“You need to find out what the micronutrient is and if it has some type of chelating agent,” Riggan said. “Because some micronutrients work very well in something like an EDTA chelation, but in other types of chelations you can’t stack those micronutrients because something will fall out. You also need to be aware if there is going to be any interaction if you’re putting it down with a starter or in a 2X2 with any phosphorus-containing starter that will interfere with the uptake of it. Not everything plays together perfectly.”

Sometimes, micronutrient applications are best split up, with some being delivered in-furrow and others in a 2X2 or Y-drop application. However, caution also needs to be taken when placing certain micronutrients in-furrow.

“For example, if you know you need boron, we generally don’t recommend that you place large amounts of boron in-furrow because it can be a detriment to germination and chlorophyll production. It can be a little too hot,” Riggan said. “We recommend placing it on the side in a 2X2 or in a Y-drop situation later on.”

Again, Riggan stressed the importance of reaching out to experts who can consider many factors in helping you determine the appropriate micronutrients for your specific soil conditions.

“Just because someone says ‘it’s great and you need it,’ doesn’t mean you should jump right in,” Riggan said. “Do your own homework. Contact people who are qualified to answer your questions so that when you do spend that dollar you spend it wisely and the micronutrients go down at the proper time and at the proper placement so you get the maximum benefit.”

How Concept AgriTek can help

Concept AgriTek offers a full suite of micronutrients, from single micronutrients to micronutrient packages, and various forms of chelation to respond to many different needs.

Those offerings include Concept-Z9, an EDTA chelated 9% zinc product, Concept-MN, high-quality EDTA chelated manganese, and Micro-Pak, a micronutrient package specifically formulated for early season nutrition. It includes manganese for increased potassium uptake, molybdenum for nitrogen fixation by rhizobia bacteria and cobalt, which assists in CO2 absorption.

“Our agronomy team would be happy to go over the results of your soil test and make recommendations based on what’s going on in the soil, the crop you’re growing, and what your yield-quality goals are, while at the same time being mindful of your budget,” Riggan said. “We want to make sure you get what you need, when you need it, and the best way to do that is to work with the agronomy team and allow us to develop a program that will fit in with your production plan and management style.”

To learn more about micronutrient offerings from Concept AgriTek, visit www.conceptagritek.com or contact the agronomy team at (888) 638-9984.