Putting micronutrients to work in your operation

September 26, 2023
Anna Adams, a senior commodities trader with CHS, discusses micronutrient strategies for this fall and the current supply situation.

With so many inputs to consider as a part of cropping and soil health plans, it can be tough to determine nutrient needs. Anna Adams, a senior commodities trader with CHS, says micronutrients shouldn’t be overlooked.

“Micronutrients are used in small amounts, so people assume that they are not important. In reality, micronutrients are tiny keys that unlock soil fertility,” says Adams.

Preventive Testing Is Key

By the time a farmer sees signs of micronutrient deficiencies or sulfur deficiencies in their crops, it can be too late to correct the problem, Adams says. That’s why she recommends an approach based on prevention.

“Consistent testing throughout the year creates a good micronutrient application strategy for farmers and allows them to notice changes in their environment they otherwise might not see,” Adams says.

She points to the change in sulfur available in the atmosphere as an example.

“In 1970, President Nixon signed the Clean Air Act. As a result, we’re getting significantly less sulfur from the atmosphere,” Adams explains. “In 1970, we would get 27 pounds of free sulfur, on average, from the atmosphere. Now, we only get 13 pounds, on average. A lot of farmers are not aware of this, so consistent and proper soil testing is one way to help address this issue.”

What soil test is right to determine micronutrient needs?

“Micronutrient needs can vary greatly depending on region and soil type. The best way to determine deficiencies is to have a consultation with a certified agronomist in your area,” Adams says. “They’ll likely recommend soil testing, deep soil testing or tissue sampling to find the answer.”

The most common micronutrient deficiencies are boron, zinc, manganese and magnesium, according to Adams.

Micronutrient Supply and Price Outlook

Although micronutrient supply is significantly better this fall than in 2021 and 2022, Adams says should plan ahead to ensure they have what they need. She recommends growers contact their local retailers and fertilizer dealers to make sure they have needed micronutrients. She also advises placing an order now to avoid the risk of rising prices.

Yellow tractor adding micronutrients to a harvested corn field