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 wolftrax.com.

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

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
MicronutrientsHelena Launching Two New Products
May 11, 2015
Helena Chemical Co. is helping agricultural producers maximize yields and efficiency by introducing two new products: Receptor and MicroMerge 55441SP, designed Read More
Top 100 Articles
Crop InputsLand ‘O Lakes, United Suppliers Finalize Merger
August 24, 2015
According to a press release on August 24, owners of United Suppliers, Inc. and members of Land O’Lakes, Inc. “have Read More
West Central Cooperative, Jefferson, IA
CropLife 100Iowa Cooperatives To Explore Unification
August 19, 2015
The boards of directors at two of Iowa’s leading farmer-owned cooperatives yesterday signed a letter of intent to study the Read More
CropLife 100Southern States Coop Hosting Drone Flight This Friday
August 3, 2015
Southern States Cooperative — No. 9 on the CropLife 100 — is hosting an FAA-approved drone demonstration at Grandview Farms Read More
CropLife 100Aligned Ag Distributors Adds Four New Owners
July 30, 2015
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC has announced the addition of four new customer/owners to Franklin Holding Co. LLC. They are: The Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Purchases California-Based Specialty Crops Retailer
July 20, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings has successfully acquired California-based NH3 Service Co.  Operating as part of Pinnacle’s Performance Agriculture brand, the new locations Read More
Asmus Farm Supply liquid fertilizer facility features 20,000 square feet
CropLife 100Slideshow: Asmus Farm Supply Shows Off Its New Liquid Fertilizer Facility
July 15, 2015
Asmus Farm Supply, Rake, IA, recently added a new liquid fertilizer facility to its company operations. The new liquid fertilizer Read More
Latest News
StewardshipOgallala Aquifer At Risk
September 4, 2015
The Ogallala Aquifer, with total water storage capacity about equal to that of Lake Huron in the Midwest, is the Read More
Valley Irrigation variable rate irrigation
StewardshipNebraska Getting Water Conservation Right
September 4, 2015
A precipitation map of Nebraska looks startlingly like a rainbow, with each colored band marking a different level of rainfall. Read More
Crop InputsBayer CropScience: A Decade Of Innovation
September 3, 2015
BLAMS! It’s not a sound effect from the pages of a Superhero comic book. Instead this nifty acronym is used Read More
ManagementReviewing MAGIE 2015
September 2, 2015
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj talks what he saw at the recent Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) show. Read More
Melissa Olds Dow AgroSciences
Crop InputsDow AgroSciences: Highlighting The Past, Present & …
September 2, 2015
In general, media events held by large agricultural suppliers tend to focus primarily on what plans the company has in Read More
Mobile tablet
OpinionTaking Data Head On
September 2, 2015
As you read this column, I’m hoping that if you picked up the phone and gave me a call, you’d Read More
Young soybean field
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Announces New Business Unit Head For…
September 1, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America announces the addition of Rico Christensen, Business Unit Head, North America. Christensen will have responsibility for Read More
Wilbur Ellis Pink Soybean Seed Treatment
Crop InputsWilbur-Ellis Goes Pink With Soybean Seed Treatments For…
September 1, 2015
This past year, proceeds of pink-dyed soybeans treated and sold to Wilbur-Ellis seed customers in Chester, SD, went to two Read More
SprayersNORAC Active Wing Roll Slated For More Sprayers
September 1, 2015
NORAC Systems, a member of the Topcon Positioning Group, announces the release of Active Wing Roll for RoGator, Apache, New Read More
Syngenta Sign
FungicidesSyngenta’s Newest Fungicide Receives EPA Approval
September 1, 2015
Syngenta announced today that its newest succinate dehydrogenase inhibitor (SDHI) fungicide – Solatenol – has received registration from EPA and Read More
Flooded corn in Indiana
Crop InputsDelaying The Fertilizer Decision
September 1, 2015
Comments gathered from several retailers recently evidenced a classic good-news-bad-news scenario. Good news is prices and supplies of nitrogen, phosphate, Read More
StewardshipBee Buffer Strip Initiative Seeks 100 Ohio Farmers
August 31, 2015
The U.S. Bee Buffer Project, an initiative of the Pollinator Partnership (P2), Burt’s Bees and The Burt’s Bees Greater Good Read More
2015 ShowStopper Award, MAGIE
EquipmentA ShowStopper From Case IH: The Patriot 2250
August 31, 2015
For nine years now, visitors to the yearly Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) show have been tasked with not only Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto, FMC Expand Roundup Ready PLUS Platform
August 31, 2015
FMC Corp. and Monsanto Co. announced today an expanded agreement to continue their participation in the Roundup Ready PLUS Crop Read More
Deere Nutrient Applicator
Eric SfiligojThe Good & Bad News From MAGIE
August 31, 2015
As I write this column, I’ve just returned from the annual Midwest AG Industries (MAGIE) trade show in Bloomington, IL. Read More
CPS Morenci receiving its 4R certification
StewardshipCPS Morenci Becomes First Michigan Facility Certified I…
August 31, 2015
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that Crop Production Services, Inc.’s facility located in Morenci, MI, has been Read More
EquipmentDeere Announces Soucy Track Distribution Alliance
August 28, 2015
John Deere announces an alliance with Soucy Track to sell and distribute products through the John Deere dealer channel. “This Read More
FertilizerFall-Applied Phosphorus: A Rooted Investment
August 28, 2015
As commodity prices decrease and input prices continue to rise, farmers are seeking more efficient strategies for meeting a high Read More