Micronutrients: Entering The Mainstream

Ranco Boron MixerFor many years, the fortunes of micronutrients in a given crop season tended to rise or fall depending upon one factor: Money. In years when commodity prices were high and grower-customers were flush with cash, micronutrient sales would also be up. In years when commodity prices stayed low, cutting into grower cash-flow, usage would drop.

In more recent years, however, there has been somewhat of a change in this cycle for micronutrients, say market watchers. Instead, micronutrient usage has become as important to grower-customers as using the proper macronutrients.

“As growers continue to strive for higher yields, they recognize the limitations of focusing solely on nitrogen, phosphorous and potash,” says Kerry Green, managing director for Wolf Trax Inc. “Many growers are realizing that micronutrients play a key role in optimizing yields.”

Jerry Stoller, president of Stoller Enterprises, Inc., agrees that micronutrients are now more mainstream in their usage than ever. “The use of micronutrients is no longer ‘new technology,’” says Stoller. “Farmers have a greater understanding for the needs of micronutrient use for improving production on most crops. The early adaptors have already adapted such practice, with many of the later adaptors practicing such. They are also looking for something new and something that will give them an advantage over other growers.”

Ag retailers have also noted this trend — at least based upon their sales experiences with micronutrients in 2012. In its annual CropLife 100 survey of the nation’s top dealerships and cooperatives, CropLife® magazine found that 87% of those polled had micronutrient sales increases of 1% to more than 5% year-over-year in 2012. Better still, only 3% of respondents saw any kind of sales decline in 2012 for the segment.

A Dry Land

Of course, points out Stoller, these numbers could have been even stronger if it wasn’t for one very huge elephant in the agricultural room during much of 2012 — the drought. Starting with a modest heat wave in late May, much of the nation found itself struggling with severe drought conditions throughout the rest of the year. In the end, millions of acres of crops were lost, particularly corn, and many growers were forced to take crop insurance money rather than harvest their wilted plants.

“The effects of drought during 2012 significantly curtailed micronutrient use,” says Stoller. “This drought significantly curtailed the use of strobilurin fungicide to enhance yields at the end of the season. When farmers are faced with droughts, they will not spend money. This is just a fact.”

Worse still, he adds, the drought after-effects continues to be felt across much of the country. This has already dampened some predictions for micronutrient usage in 2013. “The area outlets for sales of micronutrients in 2013 have a little less enthusiasm than the outlets of 2012,” says Stoller. “The farmers’ enthusiasm is less than in 2012 for all fertilizer materials due to the drought conditions that existed during 2012. I believe that all nutrient use will be curtailed on a per acre basis during 2013.”

Still, if there was a silver lining in the drought cloud for micronutrients, it might have been how they did perform when they were present in a field. “Even during the drought and heat last summer, farmers noticed that crops stood up better to stress where micronutrients had been applied,” says Mike Powell, brand manager, BioScience & Nutritional Products, Helena Chemical Co. “Yields were still reduced, but where micronutrients were not used, overall yields were reduced more.”

In 2013, both Stoller and Powell agree that the two overriding trends driving micronutrient sales in 2012 — money and weather — will again come into play. “Weather is the No. 1 factor,” says Powell. “If the season looks promising, farmers will invest more in micronutrients to get a stronger return from their crops. Water availability in the west could be a factor, but with the high pH soils there, micronutrients are almost always included in most recommendations. Plus, strong commodity prices certainly will play a role.”

This is the same view Stoller holds. “The use of micronutrients in 2013 will primarily be determined by two factors,” he says. “One, the amount of available moisture and the weather outlook at the time of planting during the month of April. Second, the price of corn and soybean commodities for the future market for November 2013.”

Boosting Nutrients

With this in mind, Stoller expects the micronutrients that will do best this year will have the ability to “play nice” with other ingredients. “Micronutrients which will gain the greatest amount of use in 2013 are those that can be mixed with glyphosate and applied along with glyphosate applications without causing precipitation in spray tanks and negatively affecting the weed control of the glyphosate,” he says. “Farmers do not want problems when they apply herbicides. Dealers do not want problems when farmers have problems applying herbicides with various micronutrient mixtures.”

Helena’s Powell also foresees the ability to mix with other products as a key driver in micronutrient usage in 2013. “The lines we offer include 100% EDTA-chelated products and highly soluble products that mix fast and enter the plant quickly,” he says. “Mixability with other tank mix components is critical. Our lines — Axilo, Ele-Max and others — are designed to deliver the product quickly to the crop and they mix well with other components. Two other products that mix well and deliver nutrients efficiently are KickStand Zinc 7 and Ferrilene (iron).”

Powell also anticipates that regional differences will ultimately play a role in how certain micronutrients perform during the upcoming growing season. “In the west, zinc and boron are important, as well as manganese and iron,” he says. “That’s also true for other regions, but copper is also important as you get further east. Regardless of the region, we always recommend soil analysis to correct soil deficiencies and tissue analysis to help correct any in-season deficiencies.”

Drought concerns will also play a part in 2013’s micronutrients decisions, says Wolf Trax’s Green. “With last year’s drought still fresh in their minds, growers are continuing to look for tools to help mitigate early-season growing stress,” he says. “We expect to see high levels of interest in Wolf Trax technology, especially Zinc DPP and PROTINUS Seed Nutrition in corn because both products deliver early uptake of important nutrients. PROTINUS delivers nutrients directly to the growing seed, which helps with earlier, more even emergence and bigger seedlings with longer, more developed root systems. This helps the young plants search for nutrients and water. In a year like this, that early nutrient boost can really make a big difference right through the growing season.”

In addition, Green expects there to be healthy demand for two other Wolf Trax products as well: Boron DDP and Magnesium DDP. “Magnesium is an important, and often overlooked, nutrient for crops,” he says. “As the central element in a chlorophyll molecule, magnesium powers photosynthesis. It is vital to overall healthy plant development and growth as it plays an important role in moving sugars from the leaf to phloem. Magnesium DDP provides plants with early access to the nutrient, as well as extending feeding potential.”

Ultimately, however, the micronutrients that perform best in 2013 will come down to performance, says Stoller. “It is the micronutrients that cause greater sugar transport from the mother plant to the seed that will increase in sales,” he says. “The micronutrients that inhibit flower and kernel abortion will increase in sales. The micronutrients that cause the plants to create more energy for storage to be transferred to the seed during the period of seed filling will increase in sales. All other micronutrients will be static in their growth characteristics.”

The Next Steps

Further down the line, many in the micronutrients market expect their products will continue to evolve, in both the ways they interact with other key agricultural products and how they are used by growers. “It is our opinion that future sales will come from products that can combine nutritional values with yield enhancing qualities,” says Stoller. “It is the category of  ‘yield enhancers’ that will be the next generation of growth amongst nutrition in small molecule use by the progressive grower. Seed treatments will be the greatest area of growth for the use of yield enhancers, as well as micronutrients. Farmers can easily observe early and vigorous root growth. Most farmers are becoming educated to understand that ‘plants grow from the roots up and plants die from the roots up.’”

In addition, Stoller expects the drought of 2012 to continue to shape how grower-customers use micronutrients in their operations. “In the future, farmers are going to be concerned about overcoming the effects of drought and high temperatures,” he says.

“As of now, it is difficult for them to understand how to do so,” says Stoller. “It is going to take a lot of education in order to encourage farmers to invest with the attitude that significant yield results can be obtained by enabling the plant to withstand droughts in high temperatures. The future of micronutrient sales depends upon the companies that can produce a product and teach the growers what micronutrients should be used, the proper time to use them and the reasons for the use. This information is going to depend upon research, not just testimonials. Science will lead the direction forward.”

Leave a Reply

Micronutrients Stories
MicronutrientsMicronutrients Going Macro
September 9, 2014
Between 2014’s fantastic growing conditions and a heightened awareness on plant nutrition, the major players in micronutrients are gearing up for another big year. Read More
MicronutrientsReport: Demand For Zinc As Micronutrient In Agriculture Grows
May 12, 2014
Zinc is becoming more important to increasing crop yields as global population and food consumption continue to rise. Read More
Sulfur Deficiency In Corn
Micronutrients3 Key Questions For Sulfur Application
February 3, 2014
Match sulfur supply to corn crop’s needs to maximize yields and fertilizer dollars. Read More
Micronutrients11 Tips For Effective Fall Application Of Gypsum
September 26, 2013
Spreading gypsum – which often occurs in late fall, after harvest – is simple if you follow these basic steps from GYPSOIL. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Acquires Missouri Refined Fuels Terminal
April 2, 2015
Bloomington, IL-based GROWMARK and Magellan Pipeline Co. have entered into an agreement in which GROWMARK will acquire the refined fuels Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires South Dakota Retailer
April 2, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co.’s Agribusiness Division, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed Read More
CropLife 100The McGregor Co. Closes Smith-Kem Acquisition
April 2, 2015
The McGregor Co. — ranked No. 16 on the CropLife 100 list of largest U.S. ag retailers — has completed Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Latest News
StewardshipTFI Announces Renewed Financial Commitment To Fertilize…
April 24, 2015
Today, The Fertilizer Institute’s (TFI) President Chris Jahn announced that TFI and over 100 partners will more than double existing Read More
Industry NewsMACA Names New Ambassador Coordinator
April 23, 2015
The Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) has named Michelle Kilper as its new Ambassador Coordinator. Michelle is a graduate of Read More
ManagementAg Retailer’s Role In Local Policy Making; Raising The …
April 23, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj review their recent travels, precision ag efforts in Washington, DC, and the role of Read More
TMX-2050 In-Cab Display Launch Run Screen
Precision AgIn-Cab Computing 2015: Connectivity, Compatibility Take…
April 23, 2015
In terms of in-cab computing solutions for the agriculture market, companies like Case IH, Topcon, Trimble, John Deere and Raven Read More
USDA
StewardshipUSDA Outlines Building Blocks For Climate Smart Agricul…
April 23, 2015
Today, the USDA has announced a comprehensive and detailed approach to support farmers, ranchers, and forest land owners in their Read More
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Welcomes New Territory Sales Manager
April 23, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the addition of Kaitlyn Acaster to the Canadian sales team. Acaster will fill the Read More
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Opens New Research Greenhouse
April 23, 2015
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. (MBI), a leading provider of bio-based pest management and plant health products for the agriculture, turf Read More
Crop InputsDuPont Acquires Taxon Biosciences
April 23, 2015
DuPont has agreed to acquire Taxon Biosciences, Inc., a leading microbiome discovery company. This acquisition will build on DuPont’s in-house capabilities Read More
Farmer on tablet
ManagementStudy: Consumers Don’t Care If U.S. Farmers Feed …
April 23, 2015
“We’re feeding the world” is a mantra often used by those involved in farming and food to build support for Read More
Industry NewsCorporate Responsibility Magazine Names Monsanto One Of…
April 22, 2015
Corporate Responsibility Magazine (CR Magazine) named Monsanto Co. to its 100 Best Corporate Citizens List for 2015. This is the Read More
FertilizerSpring Nitrogen Management: Form And Timing
April 22, 2015
Most corn producers have planned their spring nitrogen program for 2015, and many have already started to implement their program. Read More
FMC 3Rive 3D
Industry NewsFMC Corp. Completes Acquisition Of Cheminova
April 22, 2015
FMC Corp. has completed the closing of its acquisition of Cheminova A/S, a multinational crop protection company based in Denmark Read More
SoftwareSyngenta Expands AgriEdge Excelsior Nationwide For 2015
April 22, 2015
Growers across the country can now take the guesswork out of improving their farm’s production, land value, farm stewardship and Read More
Cornfield near Sioux City Iowa
HerbicidesU.S. Regulators May Start Testing Food For Glyphosate R…
April 21, 2015
U.S. regulators may start testing food products for residues of the world’s most widely used herbicide, EPA told Reuters’ Carey Read More
FungicidesBRANDT Adds Zonix Biofungicide To Portfolio
April 21, 2015
BRANDT has added Zonix biofungicide to its rapidly expanding line of organic and sustainable products. Zonix is a contact fungicide that Read More
ManagementMissouri Experts: Spring Planting Slow Start Won’…
April 20, 2015
In the first of the agronomy teleconferences with Extension specialists, University of Missouri Extension climatologist Pat Guinan said the slow Read More
Carl Casale of CHS
Industry NewsCooperative CHS Reports Net Income Of $471.5 Million Fo…
April 20, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, has announced company net income Read More
Industry NewsCHS Insurance Names New Director Of Sales
April 17, 2015
Bryan Lewis has been named director of sales for CHS Insurance, the nation’s largest agribusiness insurance broker and full-service insurance Read More