Micronutrients Weather Season Well

Wolf Trax Prontius Seed Nutrition

Micronutrient makers could list a number of surprises that popped up this season. In fact, Jerry Stoller, president of Stoller USA, was shocked. “I have been in the fertilizer industry for 45 years. There has never been a spring where there was not a fertilizer season. I would never have believed that this could happen.” He describes farmers planting into very cold soils, plantings being interrupted by rainy periods.

On a scale of one to 10, where five is a surprise and 10 is hit by lightning, Dirk Lohry, president of Nulex, Inc., characterizes market behavior as a seven. “We went from irrational exuberance in July of ’08 to soul-searching introspection in November ’08,” he says. “The good thing about the micro market is that it did not drop more than the broader fertilizer market: Prices held and volumes were comparable.” He notes that in past downturns, micronutrients were the first inputs cut because they’ve been considered luxury items — but now, they can be applied at more cost-effective, scientifically determined rates.

“Micronutrient sales were surprisingly good compared to nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash (NPK) sales, which were down from 30% to 50%, by the sound of it,” says Jeff Ivan, manager of marketing and business development with Tiger-Sul Products. Dan Froehlich, director of agronomic marketing at The Mosaic Co., saw sales of his firm’s products containing micronutrients grow significantly. “More growers understood that high yields require more than just N, P, and K,” he says.

Questioning Growers’ Choices

Growers also made fertilizer application decisions based on the nutrient price instead of crop needs and simply lowered expectations, says Froehlich. “In many cases, nitrogen levels were kept high while P and K levels were drastically reduced.” He predicts there will be disappointed growers at harvest who may realize lower yields were not all weather-related.

Rod Riech, sales and marketing coordinator, specialty formulations division at Brandt Consolidated, was also surprised at “the continued increase in foliar micronutrients and the decline in commodity fertilizer, due to weather-related issues and lower P and K applications.”

In fact, Lohry says dramatically lower P and K applications, as well as some nutrient-washing rains, caused some yellow corn, unfilled ears, and purple striped leaves. He is concerned that growers may actually see as-good or better yields at 30% less P and K plus micronutrients — then conclude they didn’t need those inputs anyway and continue with the lower rates, even at lower input costs. The real objective results of nutrient return should be calculated scientifically and not anecdotally, he warns.

Froehlich adds that growers with good fertility programs, including micros, saw better early growth in the cool, wet conditions, as soil nutrient availability was delayed. “Faster, early growth produced stronger, deeper-rooted plants that tolerated heat and drought better — and should translate into much higher yields come final harvest,” he says. “Micronutrients are designed to deliver early uptake and sustained feeding over time,” summarizes Kerry Green, managing director at Wolf Trax. “This dual-action availability is ideal in those years where we experience variable and suboptimal growing conditions.”

Tiger-Sul’s Ivan agrees that products with “season-long release” performed very well under wet conditions where many nutrients could be leached out of the rooting zone.

Retailers’ Role

Micronutrients may be proving their worth, but it’s not been without the help of efforts at both the manufacturer and dealer levels. Riech says Brandt was able to add to its sales staff for the ’09 season, which helped the company gain additional support in existing markets and expand sales into new territories.

Says Nulex’s Lohry: “Retailers all over are getting back to promoting and educating growers about the importance of a complete balanced fertility program. For next season in particular, dealers need to put on their selling hats and get back to selling the basics of profit by fertilizer.” Skeptical growers, burned by high prices, may make this year’s cuts in application rates long-term — or permanent, he warns. “Watch for growers’ response this year. It may not be rational.”

Green says, “It’s clear that even in a down year, retailers are more interested than ever in new technologies and products that provide value to their growers and provide them with an opportunity to differentiate.” Dealers could tap into supporting information from Wolf Trax via the company’s Web site, webinars, and retailer bulletins.

Tiger-Sul has been assisting retailers by providing technical papers on the importance of micronutrients in balanced fertility, says Ivan. One company campaign in the Midwest alerted customers that sulfur deficiencies in the region are becoming a concern — and that sulfur will dramatically improve NPK use efficiency. He encourages dealers to start with a soil test for growers.

Stoller admits that thanks to concern about limiting losses on early purchased fertilizer materials, dealers did not have a lot of time to concentrate on educating growers. He says both retailers and growers need to be taught how to look at a plant and determine any nutrient insufficiencies. “More nutrient deficiencies and diseases appear during the reproductive stage of growth of any plant. This needs to be taught,” says Stoller.

Froehlich has found that growers want to know more about the benefits and downsides of new fertility programs before they commit, and that retailers are responding with more field days and off-season meetings that include general fertility and the use of micros as topics. He believes dealers need to do more side-by-side trials on growers’ fields to demonstrate the value of using micronutrients in a program compared to their current practice. Solid sales in a leaner fertilizer buying year prove how much growers have come to value these products.

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

Trending Articles

Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More
EquipmentNew Holland Acquires Miller-St. Nazianz
September 3, 2014
The assets of Miller acquired as part of the transaction will become part of New Holland Agriculture, a CNH Industrial brand, building on a successful four-year partnership between the two companies. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires East Kansas Chemical
September 2, 2014
Ranked 82nd on the CropLife 100, East Kansas Chemical will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More

Latest News

FertilizerFertilizer Outlook And Technology Conference Set For No…
September 30, 2014
Conference participants can expect to gain perspective on the outlook for agriculture and major fertilizer materials and inputs from industry experts. Read More
MicronutrientsVerdesian Acquires Micronutrient Supplier
September 30, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has acquired QC Corp., a producer and supplier of granular and dry micronutrients and ferrous sulfate products. Read More
Eric SfiligojHearing From Young Ag Voices
September 30, 2014
Potential future leaders in ag retail had the chance to shine at the recent Mid America CropLife Association meeting. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
September 30, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Appoints New Chief Operating Officer
September 29, 2014
Jon Parr will succeed retiring COO John Atkin at the end of the year. Read More
CropLife 100South Dakota Wheat Growers To Add Grain-Agronomy Facili…
September 26, 2014
Planned to be constructed in Kennebec, the facility will be located along the soon-to-be rehabilitated line of heavy-rail service from Chamberlain to Presho. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Vice President Appointments
September 25, 2014
Two individuals have been appointed Vice President positions on the GROWMARK executive team. Read More
FertilizerFertilizer Industry Organizations Join Global Alliance …
September 25, 2014
The Fertilizer Institute, the International Plant Nutrition Institute and the International Fertilizer Industry Association are encouraging the industry to promote the proper use of fertilizer products to minimize their environmental impact. Read More
Precision AgARA Organized Precision Forum Hits Capitol Hill
September 24, 2014
The Coalition for the Advancement of Precision Agriculture (CAPA) hosted its inaugural Precision Ag Forum, Sept. 18, in Washington, D.C. Read More
FertilizerFactors To Consider When Placing Fertilizer With Seed
September 24, 2014
The type of crop, fertilizer source, row spacing and soil environment all affect how much fertilizer can be safely applied with seed. Read More
FertilizerSidedressing Manure Into Corn Has Promising Results
September 24, 2014
Applying manure to growing crops can boost yields, reduce nutrient losses and give livestock producers another window of time to apply manure to farm fields. Read More
FertilizerWhen To Sample Manure For Analysis
September 24, 2014
Because the goal is to collect a sample that represents the manure actually being applied, the best time to sample is during loading or field application. Here's why. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Faces Second Lawsuit Over Agrisure Viptera Cor…
September 23, 2014
A second company has sued Syngenta AG over sales of genetically modified corn seed not approved by China. Read More
StewardshipCover Crops Field Guide For Farmers Expanded
September 23, 2014
Farmers interested in planting cover crops to improve soil health now have an updated and expanded resource in the second edition of the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide. Read More
HerbicidesArysta LifeScience Launches Contest For Wheat Growers
September 23, 2014
The Flush after Flush Photo Finish contest encourages farmers across the U.S. to participate through Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #FlushAfterFlush. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Confirms Merger Of Equals Discussions Wit…
September 23, 2014
CF Industries Holdings, Inc. has confirmed that it is in preliminary discussions with Yara International regarding a potential merger of equals transaction. Read More
StewardshipProgram To Examine Ag-Related Practices, Policies To Pr…
September 22, 2014
A panel discussion on October 14 will include a significant discussion on key issues and solutions related to all aspects of harmful algal blooms. Read More
Eric SfiligojIt’s Product Of The Year Voting Season
September 22, 2014
Readers of CropLife IRON will choose 2014’s best new product over the next month. Read More