Micros 2016: Target Those Nutrients
Daniel Kaiser, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, Extension Soil Fertility Specialist, has headed up quite a few micronutrient yield response trials throughout the state prior to the programs unfortunate de funding back in 2014.
Over that time, Kaiser and his team have looked at nearly every micronutrient from A to zinc, across soil type and crop, concluding that the best approach for growers and their retail sales agronomists is to target areas where historically certain micronutrients have been low.
“Well, the main thing is going to be targeting soil-specific issues that are related to micronutrient deficiencies,” Kaiser says. “Looking at a lot of the information we have there’s not anything out there that says — even with our higher yield levels now — that micronutrients are becoming anymore deficient. So you can target specific nutrients and get the best impact, and with the low commodity prices I think that’s going to be the best way to go, trying to target those that are really going to make the most sense for the growers.”
Major Players Weigh In
At Maumee, OH-based The Andersons, Rodney Gilliland, Marketing/Sales Manager, says the No. 22 ranked CropLife 100 retailer is indeed seeing good adoption of zinc products among corn growers. Gilliland stressed that meeting the nutrient needs of both the crop, as well as the producer, is an ongoing focus at The Andersons.
“EDTAs, Nulex, Citrates, and blends including manganese and copper are all profit generating for the grower, and we have added accelerants such as fulvic acid and humic acid to our zinc for building more bushels and return on investment.”
Another ongoing focus, according to Gilliland, is a new formulation dubbed MicroCarb ZMB.
“We are excited with the replicated research trials on products including MicroCarb ZMB. This product may be used in-furrow or foliar applied,” explains Gilliland. “The combination of carbon sources and zinc, manganese and boron are demonstrating significant ROI. Foliar applied Phosfix accelerates the growing crop. Some of the Phosfix components include NPK, carbon sources, and micronutrients.
“We are also excited about a new web tool we developed called CropCoach, which helps growers plan an efficient nutrient program.”
Compass Minerals, the relatively-new owners of the reputable Wolf Trax brand of micronutrient products, didn’t release anything new to the market this past year, but the companies’ EvenCoat technology was a winner for retailers and growers alike, according to Paul Reising, Product Manager.
“For retailers, the EvenCoat Technology really makes adding micronutrients a very simple blending process, especially with the improvements we’ve made to the handling equipment,” says Reising, who came over to Compass with the Wolf Trax acquisition.
Additionally, Reising had some general tips for retailers going into the 2016 spring sales season.
“First of all, retailers need to seriously look at the trends of low zinc and boron levels in soil and tissue tests,” he says. “These trends are happening in areas that we typically didn’t see micronutrient use in the past. For the relatively low cost micronutrient applications are, the yield incentive can be positive.
“Secondly,” he continues, “we know margins continue to be tight for NPK, and retailers like to use our specialty fertilizer products to add more value to their granular fertilizer sales. By coating their NPK with our Wolf Trax micronutrients, a number of retailers are transforming their dry fertilizer into custom, innovative nutrient programs.”
Helena Chemical Co., (Collierville, TN) a national distributor, has a full line of single and multi-micronutrient packages.
“We’ve had success with growers using our Ele-Max Super Zn and ManZinc products for fertilizer impregnation,” says Mike Powell, Nutritional and Bioscience Brand Manager for Helena. “We use our EDTA Axilo line for adding micronutrients to starter fertilizers or for making foliar applications when a deficiency is picked up with tissue analysis.
“Our fertility programs start with soil analysis to see if deficiencies are present,” he continues. “Then as the crop grows we follow it with tissue testing and make recommendations using our Extractor program for the needed nutrient or micronutrient.”
He says growers have learned that the new transgenic varieties and hybrids perform better when micronutrients are part of the nutrient equation.
“Our focus at Helena is to help customers get the best return on their investment on a cost-per-bushel basis, using the principles of the 4R’s — right source, right rate, right time and right place. Micronutrients fit very well into that focus, and the results in our customers’ fields confirm the results that we see in our research data.”
Micros Goin’ Macro
Monty’s Plant Food, a privately-owned, Louisville, KY-based plant nutrition product manufacturer, has been moving its Humic-based technologies into row crop production for years now.
The company, which VP of Agronomy Joe Dedman describes as “focused entirely on soil health,” has had tremendous success with its product Microhance (chelated N, B, S, Fe, Manganese, Zinc) over the past four years.
“The beauty of the products we design is that we know farmers can’t afford to do a specific pass in the field just to put on micronutrients,” responds Dedman when asked why Microhance includes things like nitrogen and other macronutrients. “And all of our micronutrient products mix well and are tank compatible with insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, and most fertilizers.”
Dedman also points to the fact that all of Monty’s micronutrient blends are 100% EDTA Chelated formulations, which he says is the most-efficient form for getting micronutrients into the plant.
“That’s not in the raw state but it’s optimized so that the plant can recognize it and take it in and absorb as it needs the nutrients,” explains Dedman. “When a nutrient goes on that is not chelated either the environment (via precipitation) or the plant itself has to break down that nutrient before it can be absorbed.”
Going forward, Monty’s is looking at couple new micronutrient products for the market in the next year or so.
“The big one we’re working on right now is a coating that goes on dry fertilizer that also compliments the grower’s soil health,” says Dedman. “We hope to get that product to market this spring, and we’re also taking a look at soil microbes, so we’re hoping to have a soil micro biology package to offer our growers this spring as well.”
Meanwhile, West Central Distribution (Willmar, MN) recently announced its exclusive agreement with ATP Nutrition Limited to distribute the company’s proprietary micronutrient products stateside.
“ATP Nutrition’s products incorporate essential nutrients with proprietary biological activators to optimize plant health and maximize the genetic potential of the plant,” says Paul Gerdes, Proprietary Products Manager, West Central Distribution (WCD). “The technology and science behind these products are excellent additions to our plant nutrition product lineup and will give our retail customers more options to provide their farm customers.”
One West Central product that made headway in the U.S. retail market this past year was LEVESOL.
“Our customers have had such phenomenal success with Levesol, that we recently introduced Levesol DFC, a new dry fertilizer compatible format that will be available for this upcoming planting season,” says Gerdes. “Levesol DFC is the only chelating agent that can be impregnated on dry fertilizer and applied in-furrow or in a band.”
WinField witnessed two of its micronutrient solutions make it onto over 2 million acres in 2015, according to Adam Magnum, Marketing Manager in WinField’s Plant Nutrition group.
“Our agronomists have identified zinc deficiencies as a key yield limiter for a long time. MAX-IN ULTRA ZMB and our new MAX-IN ZINC continue to grow as growers become more aware of the agronomic importance of zinc.”
MAX-IN ZINC is ready for its first full season of use in 2016.
“It’s a great product when the grower is looking at addressing a specific and acute zinc deficiency,” Magnum says. “This new formulation is also more compatible with other micronutrients and common herbicides.”
And Magnum, despite the bearish commodity situation, still feels micronutrients are a worthwhile investment.
“Micronutrients still have a lot of life in them, despite weakening commodity prices. After growers have addressed macronutrient deficiencies and other top yield limiting factors, addressing key micronutrient deficiencies can be the next step to unlocking the seed’s full yield potential.”