The Run On Micros

Tiger Micronutrients

It’s real: The prospect of a boom season with high crop prices and stable input costs. And micronutrient suppliers see their products playing a key role in yield successes.

“With the crash of fertilizer prices two years ago, there’s been trepidation in buying,” says Kipp Smallwood, national sales manager with Tetra Micronutrients. “But dealers now feel like the crop prices are real and the fertilizer demand is going to be there.”

With 23 years in the fertilizer business, Smallwood should know — and he’s never seen excitement for micronutrients like the industry is starting to show now. Why? He believes many advances in chemicals and genetics have already been explored, including glyphosate resistance. “People are asking what is limiting the yield of this crop, what do I have to do to get higher yields? They’re coming around to micros,” he says.

That “coming around” may be turning into a stampede this year. Opinions vary on whether the demand can be met.

“I feel there’s a potential for extreme tightness,” says Smallwood. “With what happened in mid-January’s grain markets, I think I’m ready to start accepting that we’re entering into a ‘shortage,’ a word that’s not usually in my vocabulary. There may very well be a shortage of some elements that simply cannot be made in time for spring application.”

Mike Powell, brand manager of bio­science and nutritionals at Helena Chemical Co., confirms raw material supplies have been tight and prices for the high quality stocks the company uses in its products reflect that.

Though not a classic micronutrient, sulfur is feeling the pinch as well. Jeff Ivan, manager of marketing and business development with Tiger-Sul Products, says phosphate production is the largest consumer of elemental sulfur and demand has been strong, with many fertilizers either running short or being placed on allocation. Ammonium sulfate supply is tight globally as well.

Also placing pressure on supplies will be the huge corn crop estimated at 90 million acres, plus large increases in canola acreage in Canada. Ivan would caution growers not to let sulfur slip from their fertility programs. He says TSI (The Sulfur Institute) studies and Arise Research in Illinois show that having sulfur in the blend could reduce nitrogen utilization by as much as 30%.

“Tiger-Sul has three North Amer­ican sulfur production facilities with the world’s largest production capacity for sulfur-based fertilizers,” Ivan says. “Our plants will be producing sulfur fertilizers around the clock to supply the requirements of our customers.”

Kerry Green, managing director of Wolf Trax, Inc., indicates that as a response to very strong market signals this fall from key customers, the company has ramped up manufacturing and will have very good supplies of DDP micronutrients to meet the anticipated increase in fertilizer demand. “Our ability to replace truckloads of granular micronutrients with a few pallets of DDP also allows quick and efficient transport,” he adds.

Lessons From Last Season

Where ever supplies may stand, last season provided some additional insights as to how to handle product this year. For instance, weather jeopardized fertilizer accessibility, including micronutrient availability. “Last year some areas were dry and very hot, and growers who didn’t manage their fertility well didn’t have the root system to support the heat stress,” describes Ivan.

Excessive rains also hit many states, resulting in significant leaching of mobile nutrients — such as nitrogen and sulfur — below the root zone and out of reach of crops, says Dan Froehlich, manager of new product development for The Mosaic Co. In fact, Mosaic agronomists saw white, vertical striping of leaves in the western Corn Belt and believe them to be symptoms of nutrient deficiency and soil moisture conditions. In addition, wet soils, compaction, and cool temperatures restricted root growth and nutrient uptake, causing plants to grow slower, limiting yield potential.

“Our research found a higher net return using our balanced crop nutrition high yield system than with a traditional program,” Froehlich adds. “These results are a good reminder that under stress conditions, providing optimum plant nutrition can increase a grower’s profitability.”

Timed release products helped here. Ivan says TIGER 90CR Sulphur released throughout the season, improving nutrient utilization — and with less nutrients lost.

“We saw a fair amount of micronutrients go out with fall fertilizer, but growers also included specific micronutrient products, like TraFix Zn and KickStand Zn, with starter fertilizers at planting,” says Helena’s Powell. He says that the company is able to assist growers in monitoring crops with its MegaLab, a plant tissue analysis tool that provides prescription recommendations based on the specific needs of crops.

“This avoids a ‘shotgun’ approach to micronutrient recommendations, which is an advantage for our customers,” he explains. Last summer, when heavy rains leached nitrogen, they recommended foliar applications of CoRoN controlled-release nitrogen.

“To provide lost N and micronutrients, we saw a lot of ENC (Ele-Max Nutrient Concentrate) go out, which gave growers N, P, and K, plus a healthy load of micronutrients,” adds Powell. That load included boron, iron, manganese, copper, zinc, cobalt, and molybdenum in a foliar application.

Smallwood also notes that recent years’ tissue tests are revealing that boron is coming up short in plants. This nutrient is important for cell wall structure, membranes, and metabolism, and deficiencies can affect crop yield and quality. He says the easiest way to combat low boron levels is application of granular boron to dry fertilizer, then a foliar application could be used later if needed. Many boron products are compatible with fungicides, for instance, and could be applied at the same time.

Increased cotton acres will result in a need for boron, says Green. “Boron DDP is really flexible,” as it can be used in starter fertilizer, in soil application as a coating on fertilizer, and in a foliar application that mixes quickly and easily, he says. In fact, almost all Wolf Trax DDP Micronutrients can be applied multiple ways. “Because of this flexibility, growers can address their crop’s micronutrient needs, even if they applied fertilizer last fall,” he explains.

The Season Ahead

Froehlich points to the 2010 soil test summary completed by the Interna­tional Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) as reason for concern in 2011. This work reveals there are still many areas of the country where nutrient application is not keeping pace with crop removal of nutrients. For instance, soil test phosphorus levels are very close to thresholds critical for optimum yield.

Froehlich also references recent research at the University of Illinois-Champaign showing that corn rootworm resistant hybrids removed significantly more nutrients (N, P, K, S, and Zn) from the soil than their non-resistant counterparts. “It’s a challenge for retailers to continue to counsel their growers on the fact that updated fertilizer plans are needed to keep pace with the advancements in seed technology,” he says.

Green says the new higher-yielding genetics can require 14% to 27% more zinc, for example. He believes Wolf Trax Zinc DDP is a highly efficient way to deliver zinc to a young corn plant. The product has a unique ability to coat dry fertilizer and offers better placement closer to the seedling for earlier uptake. Green says the coating technology in all DDP products offers “more consistent blends and a nice, even blanket-like coverage across a field.”

Froehlich also emphasizes the need for uniform distribution of readily available nutrients. He says Mosaic’s MicroEssentials provides the crop with nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur and zinc in a single granule, while K-Mag supplies potassium, magnesium, and sulfur, all in the highly available water-soluble sulfate form.

Also for feeding demanding hybrids this year, Tiger-Sul is introducing Tiger Micronutrient Zn 4%, a low analysis zinc formulation combined with sulfur that Ivan says provides a much improved distribution of zinc in the soil. “Fifty pounds of our 4% Zn will result in 42 pounds actual sulfur with two pounds actual zinc,” Ivan describes.

A huge aid in managing fertilizer efficacy is soil testing, say all the manufacturers we contacted. “Mic­ronutrients can be very site-specific in a field, varying from deficient to sufficient in a small area,” says Ivan. Site-specific management and application will improve outcomes. “New spreading technology such as the New Leader Multi Bin system has multiple bin hoppers that allow for different fertilizers, including micronutrients,” he points out.

In-season, plant tissue testing can provide an indication of micronutrient deficiencies, but often once a problem is spotted in a field, some of the negative impact on yield has already taken place, says Froehlich. “In years like this one, where there is a significant incentive to maximize yield results, it’s important to make certain both primary and micronutrients are available to the crop throughout the season.”

Manufacturers and dealers can step in to help growers assess their micronutrient needs. For instance, Wolf Trax has rate recommendations based on soil and tissue test data, available at

Froehlich adds that dealers can help growers watch out for pitfalls. One situation to mention: In some high calcium soils, soil tests may show high levels of nutrients, but the calcium locks them up, keeping them from getting to the crop. “In these cases, products that contain nutrients in the readily available sulfate form, like K-Mag, are especially valuable,” he says.

Leave a Reply

Micronutrients Stories

Dry Blend of Micronutrients
Crop InputsMicronutrients 2015: Making Hay In A Down Market
September 5, 2015
Going into 2015, downward trending commodity prices were identified as a possible threat to sales revenues of micronutrient fertilizer products, Read More
Corn Field
MicronutrientsHuma Gro Introduces New Boron Liquid Nutrient Formulation For Crops
August 28, 2015
BORO-MAX, a new boron (B) 10% liquid nutrient formulation, has been added to the Huma Gro product line. This new Read More
Crop InputsWinField: Here’s What We’re Seeing So Far This Season
June 25, 2015
One of the most important things you can do throughout the season to help increase yield potential is to ensure Read More
MicronutrientsVerdesian Life Sciences Invests In People, Agricultural Technology
June 22, 2015
In mid-February, the USDA released its new 10-year agriculture projections. While the numbers are new, the theme was consistent. The Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100United Cooperative Acquires Four ADM Wisconsin Facilities
November 12, 2015
United Cooperative, based out of Beaver Dam, WI, recently acquired four grain and agronomy locations from Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Car Makes NASCAR Xfinity Series
October 29, 2015
BRANDT will join JR Motorsports with driver, Justin Allgaier, for the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity (NXS) Series season. Allgaier will pilot Read More
CHS Building exterior
CropLife 100CHS Leaders Help Shape Succession Report
October 22, 2015
Succession planning was listed as a main concern of cooperative leaders at this summer’s 15 regional CHS owner town hall Read More
Fall Harvest
CropLife 100Pinnacle Purchases Eight Regional Seed Companies
October 12, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings has announced the purchase of eight regional seed companies to advance its seed business. Pinnacle has acquired: Read More
MRM Agricultural Service
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires CropLife 100 Ag Retailer
October 8, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC has successfully acquired the Missouri-based agronomy business of MRM Agricultural Service, LLC and its affiliates (MRM). Operating Read More
Eric Jenks, Wilbur-Ellis
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Opens Dry Fertilizer Storage And Blending Facility In Washington
October 8, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co., ranked No. 4 on the CropLife 100, has constructed and opened a 22,000-ton dry fertilizer storage and blending Read More
Latest News
HerbicidesBREAKING: EPA Pulls Registration On Dow’s Enlist …
November 25, 2015
EPA on Wednesday withdrew approval of a controversial new weed killer to be used on genetically modified corn and soybeans, Read More
FertilizerYara Tampa Ammonia Terminal Garners ResponsibleAg Honor…
November 25, 2015
Yara has received its first ResponsibleAg Certification for its Tampa, FL, Ammonia terminal location. This achievement demonstrates Yara’s commitment to Read More
ManagementReviewing The Top Ag Stories For 2015
November 24, 2015
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Paul Schrimpf discuss the most noteworthy events from this past year in agriculture. Read More
EmployeesAgriculture Jobs May Be Plentiful, But New Grads Are Sc…
November 24, 2015
Close to 60,000 jobs are set to open up in agriculture each year for the next five years, but there's not enough grads to fill them. Read More
Radish cover crop
StewardshipCover Crops Guide Helps Growers Improve Water Quality
November 23, 2015
A publication that teaches growers the advantages of using cover crops to improve soil health and crop yields has won Read More
Crop InputsThe Andersons’ Products Receive California Organi…
November 23, 2015
The Plant Nutrient Group of The Andersons, Inc. announced today that its Humic DG and Black Gypsum DG products are Read More
Eric SfiligojNew European Study Seems To Support Glyphosate Safety
November 23, 2015
Looking at any international news over the past few years, it might seem as if the European Union (EU) is Read More
Toggle Biostimulant corn roots
Crop InputsTwo New Biostimulants Added To United Suppliers’ …
November 20, 2015
Winfield US announces the launch of two new products in the United Suppliers portfolio for the 2016 crop season, Optify Read More
StewardshipNRDC Report: Cover Crops Contain Vast Benefits
November 19, 2015
As harvest season ends and farmers in the United States ready themselves for winter, one small change could make a Read More
Fall Harvest
Seed/BiotechArysta Launches New Seed Protectant
November 19, 2015
As spring wheat growers begin planning for a strong start to their season, Arysta LifeScience North America announces RANCONA V Read More
Crop InputsInocucor Receives U.S. Patent For Microbials
November 19, 2015
Inocucor Technologies Inc., the Montreal-based agriculture biotech company, was issued patent No. 9,175,258 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to protect Read More
ManagementSyngenta Rumors and ARA 2015 Preview
November 19, 2015
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj looks at the latest rumors involving Syngenta selling its crop protection business and talks about events Read More
EquipmentAGCO Announces Finalists For Operator Of The Year Honor
November 19, 2015
AGCO Corp. has announced the four top operators chosen as finalists for AGCO’s 10th Annual Operator of the Year program, Read More
High Plains Aquifer
StewardshipStudy: High Plains Aquifer Overall Usage In Decline
November 18, 2015
A new Kansas State University study finds that the over-tapping of the High Plains Aquifer’s groundwater beyond the aquifer’s recharge Read More
Golden Harvest Corn healthy leaves
FungicidesArysta Launches New Corn And Soybean Fungicide
November 17, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America has recently launched ZOLERA FX Fungicide. The highly systemic, powerful fungicide delivers broad-spectrum disease control with Read More
Young corn plants in soil
Crop InputsBioAg Alliance: Microbials Targeted For 250-500 million…
November 17, 2015
Monsanto and Novozymes have announced a new 2025 acreage target that will guide the companies’ microbials business for the next Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsSyngenta Still Being Eyed For China Takeover
November 16, 2015
China National Chemical Corp. approached sovereign wealth funds including China Investment Corp. to help pay for a potential acquisition of Read More
Cedar Country Cooperative
Eric SfiligojCooperative Consolidation Continues
November 16, 2015
As I put this enewsletter column together, we’ve just put the finishing touches on our magazine’s annual CropLife 100 report. Read More