Bigger Yields May Demand More Micronutrients

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Among crop producers, harvesting a high-yielding crop is a benchmark for success. Various practices and tools are evaluated based on whether they maximize yields and improve profitability potential.

At BigYield.us, we view supplementing micronutrient levels as one -- in many cases, untapped -- strategy to maximize yields. Appreciating the role of micronutrients involves understanding the limiting factor concept. In other words, a crop will only yield as well as provided by the nutrient or other factor in lowest supply relative to needs, according to Purdue University.

Growing high-yielding crops can increase nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium needs, and producers are typically aware of this relationship. Micronutrient needs may increase, too, especially if yields maintain an upward trajectory and too little micronutrient supply is available.

To ensure that micronutrient levels don't become a factor that inhibits producers from realizing big yield goals, BigYield.us offers the Yield Booster product. It blends the three macronutrients -- nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium -- with seven micronutrients: boron, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, sodium molybate and zinc.

Collectively, the micronutrients can benefit plant health and improve the likelihood that crops yield as well as their genetic potential allows. Each micronutrient contributes to this goal by performing specific functions. Take zinc as an example. Because some enzymes include zinc as a component, the micronutrient is thought to support crop metabolic processes, growth and development, according to University of Minnesota Extension.

In research conducted at Purdue University, corn tended to remove significant zinc when highly plant-dense areas were fertilized at high nitrogen rates. University of Minnesota Extension describes that corn experiencing a zinc deficiency may have stunted growth. During the growing season, deficiency symptoms are usually noticeable early.

Manganese is another component of the Yield Booster micronutrient blend. According Cornell University, crops require manganese to form chloroplasts, conduct photosynthesis, metabolize nitrogen and generate several enzymes. Soybeans and wheat tend to need more manganese than corn. Soils prone to manganese deficiencies or availability issues may have high pH levels, high organic matter content, poor moisture levels or cold and wet characteristics.

To determine whether a manganese deficiency has become an issue, Cornell University advises scouting for young leaves that display dark green veins that diffuse to a yellow color between the veins. Such symptoms are otherwise known as interveinal chlorosis.

With respect to copper, it has three key functions, according to research findings summarized by the University of Minnesota. First, it influences a plant's ability to produce and form seeds. Second, copper supports chlorophyll development. Third, it can be a building block for proteins that appear in enzymes. As such, copper plays a role in enabling those enzymes to function and conduct plant-based biochemical reactions. In addition to these three factors, we at BigYield.us have found that copper possesses fungicidal properties.

Relative to some crops, wheat tends to have more sensitivity to low copper levels. Other small grains, however, may also exhibit deficiency symptoms depending on the growing conditions. The University of Minnesota reports that signs of a copper deficiency include light green or yellow leaves. Leaf tips may also twist and look as if they have died back.

For more about the other micronutrients found in Yield Booster -- boron, cobalt, iron and sodium molybate -- look to next month's column.

Yield Booster application recommendations vary by crop. For best results in corn, BigYield.us suggests applying 1 pint to 1 quart per acre during the V3-V4 growth stages. In soybeans, we recommend using Yield Booster at 1 quart to 2 quarts per acre also during the V3-V4 growth stages. Wheat benefits from 1 quart of Yield Booster per acre during the 4-5 growth stages.

In all cases, consider arranging a soil test or plant tissue analysis to determine whether micronutrient deficiencies present a problem for your operation. The results can inform any adjustments to the operation's fertility program.

To learn more about using Yield Booster or identifying and correcting micronutrient deficiencies, call me at 816-773-6018.