Micronutrients Face Uncertain 2015
Growing up during the prosperous 1990s, toys and video games tend to shape many of my earliest memories. One such toy was Stretch Armstrong.
Stretch was essentially a doll for boys, but what made it cool (and not at all girlie) was that it was filled with corn syrup, so its latex-coated arms and legs could be stretched and pulled in all directions before gravity intervened and shrunk Stretch back to his normal size. In classic little boy fashion, I recall my brother and I ruining ours within the first week by pulling it so far apart it reached the point of no return. Poor Stretch.
In many ways micronutrients will likely find themselves, just like that Stretch Armstrong doll, pulled in all sorts of directions over the course of 2015.
On one hand, there’s the ongoing-bearish commodity situation in domestic corn and soybean markets, yet on the other hand U.S. growers harvested a bumper crop that almost certainly removed a significantly higher amount of nutrients from soils than in seasons past.
Recently publicized data from WinField’s Nutrisolutions tissue sampling platform seems to back the latter notion, painting the picture of a soil nutrient bank in slow decline.
Recently published 2014 season national data shows that approximately 75% of all corn samples had a zinc deficiency; more than 60% of soybean samples had a copper deficiency; approximately 85% of alfalfa samples had a calcium deficiency and approximately 75% of wheat samples had a boron deficiency. Broken down further, the data shows that out of 20,400 samples taken from what WinField deems the Eastern Region of the U.S., 74% of corn samples showed a boron deficiency, according to a November WinField press release.
“Due to excessive rainfall and sustained wet soils this spring, both nitrogen and sulfur were also flagged deficient at much higher frequencies than what we’ve seen in recent years,” adds Todd Cardwell, Wisconsin-based senior agronomist, WinField. “Growers that acted on our sampling information and applied missing nutrients did a much better job of achieving targeted yields and had fewer standability or stalk quality issues.”
Cardwell’s colleague, director of plant nutrition Josh Krenz, agrees that 2014’s prolific fibrous output could result in increased micronutrient application.
“Absolutely,” responds Krenz when asked whether the bumper crop could be considered a boon for the micronutrient market. “Anytime we see higher, in some cases record yields, the use and importance of a diverse micronutrient package increases as well.”
Micros Merging, Use Caution
While not much in the way of new micronutrient product launches took place over the past year, there was quite a bit of consolidation in the market as suppliers looked to diversify their offerings via competitor acquisitions.
It began in April with Compass Minerals’ purchase of well-known plant nutrition company Wolf Trax.
“We are extremely pleased to be adding the leading products and strong pipeline of innovations from Wolf Trax to our Compass Minerals portfolio,” said Keith Espelien, senior VP specialty fertilizer/Compass Minerals. “Compass Minerals will become a one-stop shop for growers and retailers seeking premium plant nutrition products.”
Then in September Verdesian Life Sciences snapped up QC Corp., which it described as “a producer and supplier of granular and dry micronutrients and ferrous sulfate products.”
“We are excited to welcome QC and its micronutrient platform, including its unique Nutripaction compaction granulation technology, to Verdesian,” said JJ Grow, CEO, Verdesian. “The Gordon family and the rest of QC’s employees share our commitment to researching and developing innovative and proven yield enhancing plant-health products.”
Additionally, Stoller Group announced a headquarters expansion project outside Houston, TX, to consolidate employees of its various entities into one address, and H.J. Baker announced planned expansion of its popular Tiger-Sul line of nutrients.