Q&A With Compass Minerals’ Paul Reising
Paul Reising has worked in the agriculture and crop nutrition industry for more than 25 years. He comes to Compass Minerals from the Wolf Trax Inc. acquisition, and he now oversees a sales team for Wolf Trax-branded products in the U.S.
Reising earned a master’s degree in agriculture from Purdue University and has used his strong technical background to author three technical review papers and register a patent. He is currently based in Evansville, IN. CropLife caught up with Reising and asked him about some trends and happenings in the micronutrient market going into 2016.
CropLife: With no end in sight to the depressed row crop commodity prices in the U.S., is Wolf Trax seeing a pull back from retailers ordering micro products inventory for 2016?
Paul Reising: “Right now we are seeing the low side of what has always been a cyclical pricing process, but we have not seen substantial pullback on our Wolf Trax products from our retail partners. I think there are several reasons for
First, I think farmers see the value in our EvenCoat delivery system and have seen crop responses from our products. And secondly, we focus on agricultural areas that know they need micronutrients to be able to obtain economical yields.
I know there are temptations to trim a fertilizer program but when you have seen yield increases from zinc applications when corn was $6.50/bu., you still need that yield increase when corn is $3.70. Wolf Trax products provide both retailers and growers good value, so many farmers see the benefit and continue to see a good return on investment.”
CL: Assuming an ideal spring planting season in 2016 (dry and mild temps), what nutrient deficiencies might growers need to be ready to address with micronutrient applications?
PR: “I have a saying, ‘all agronomy is local,’ so farmers should be looking at their soil and/or tissue analysis to help guide their fertilizer plans. One key area would be fields that have had deficiency issues in the past, may they be manganese, zinc, or other nutrients. Once a field has had signs of deficiency, regardless of crop, farmers should be managing that issue.
There are several crop and nutrient factors that farmers should be aware of for guidance. Cold soils create challenges for young crops to find and use the micronutrients already found in the soil; therefore zinc applications in corn planted in cold soils can be beneficial.
We’ve been talking with some experts that have been summarizing soil and tissue analysis reports over several years. They are saying that zinc and boron tissue levels are trending downward. This is something to consider. I think we are seeing more hidden hungers — medium or low tissue levels — and that will have an impact on yields.
Other areas that farmers might need to address are sandy soils or soils with low organic matter. For many soils the organic matter is the primary source of micronutrients so as organic matter levels decrease, so do zinc and other micronutrients.
Another factor is soil pH. As soil pH levels exceed 6.8 into the 7’s, the soil reserves of micronutrients become less crop available so fertilizer supplementation is important. The negative effect of high pH on micronutrients is especially true for zinc, boron, copper, and iron.”
CL: What role should ag retailers be playing in positioning micronutrients with growers in 2016 and beyond?
PR: “Ag retailers play a critical role in working with farmers to develop an effective and proactive fertilizer program. I think for many in the industry, a good fertility program has expanded from the “big three” of N-P-K to the now “big five” with the two additional nutrients being sulfur and zinc. Ag retailers play a critical role in working with farmers to identify the real nutrient needs that will provide the best returns for the season. Ag retailers can educate and work with farmers to analyze soil and tissue results and determine if any nutrient falls into this ‘hidden hunger’ zone I spoke of earlier to develop the most effective nutrient plan.
” With low crop prices, there is a temptation to cut fertilizer simply to reduce budgets, but retailers can talk with farmers about the return on investment (ROI) of all fertilizer inputs. Farmers still need to strive for high yields and positive returns.”
CL: With the new dicamba and 2,4-D tolerant genetics hitting the market in 2016, are there any enhanced micronutrient requirements that these new technologies require to push yields higher?
PR: “We are not aware of specific nutrient requirements driven by these new herbicide tolerant traits. We do want to remind both growers and dealers that the insecticide traits in corn remove higher levels of zinc and phosphorus from the field. These insecticide traits are widely used in the industry and should make farmers consider adding zinc and slightly more phosphorus to the soil to offset these increased crop removal levels. Micronutrients can also assist a crop in weathering stress, may that be low or high temperatures, water stress or stress from other inputs — which may be important when considering early planting windows.”
CL: Anything else around micronutrients that we haven’t discussed that you’d like to talk about?
PR: “We’ve touched on a number of different aspects of managing micronutrients. I would conclude with two points: Micronutrients are like other fertilizers. If the plant needs the nutrient, you will see a response. In many cases, micronutrients are relatively low-cost inputs on a per acre basis — but skipping them if they’re needed can have a big impact on the bottom line. Ag retailers play a critical role in working with farmers to determine the right approach for each field.
The second point is that retailers and farmers should remember that not all micronutrients are created equal. And consideration for the 4Rs of Nutrient Stewardship is a smart way to manage micronutrients. In many cases, a soil application is the more proactive way to prevent yield losses due to hidden hunger — rather than waiting for a foliar application. Wolf Trax products align well with the 4Rs, and I feel, offer growers and dealers excellent value regardless of commodity price.