Don’t Discount Micronutrients


One misconception we often hear in the field is that micronutrients aren’t as important to crop development as the macronutrients, including nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. The terms “micro” and “macro” refer to the quantity of nutrients that a particular crop requires for development. Deficiencies in micronutrients can be just as detrimental to crop development as a macronutrient deficiency. Don’t let the terminology undercut the importance of micronutrients to your fertilization plan. Micronutrient deficiencies can cause macro-sized problems in your crop.
Why are micronutrients deficient?

You’d think that since micronutrients are only required in small amounts they’d rarely be limiting. The truth is, changes in field conditions and soil composition can impact micronutrient availability to plants. Zinc, boron and manganese are three common nutrients that farmers may find deficient in their crops. Here are some things to keep in mind as you manage these micronutrients.

  • Cool, wet springs lead to zinc deficiencies. Zinc assists with chlorophyll production in plants, so it’s an important nutrient for harnessing energy for grain production. Deficiencies are common in cold, wet soils and in soils with high pH, free calcium, and low organic matter. Supplemental zinc can be applied a number of ways, including as a seed treatment, included with starter fertilizer at planting or as a foliar application later in the season.


  • Glyphosate applications can tie up manganese. Glyphosate has the ability to tie-up manganese in the plant leaf (such as soybeans), making it unavailable. This is more common when crops are grown in organic soils with low pH that are deficient in manganese to begin with. Supplemental manganese can be applied as a foliar application along with glyphosate.

Be Proactive with Tissue Samples

By the time plants show symptoms of micronutrient deficiency, it’s often too late for corrective action. Having a pulse on the nutrient status of your crop throughout the season can allow for fertilization adjustments to mitigate deficiencies. Soil testing, done in conjunction with tissue testing, can provide a comprehensive set of data that can help you better understand nutrient availability to your crops.
Soil testing is a good starting point to determine how much of a specific nutrient is available in the ground. It provides a baseline, but we don’t recommend using soil test results alone as an end-all decision-maker for fertilizer applications.
Tissue testing can provide even more specific insights on nutrient availability. Think of is as taking a plant sample to the doctor for a check up. You’ll get a real-time snapshot of how plants are taking up nutrients from the soil. By tissue-testing plants in the same location as soil tests were done, you’re able to contrast nutrient availability in the soil with nutrient uptake in the plant.
A guided tissue test is another way to better understand nutrient uptake, specifically in areas of the field that may be showing deficiency. Technology tools like satellite imagery can help you to target areas in a field that appear stressed in order to take a deeper look with tissue sampling. Trenton Moore, Precision Agronomist at Mid-West Fertilizer, says, “For our crops to reach their full potential, we must reduce as many of the limiting factors as possible. One way to address limiting factors is to know and understand how our nutrients are being utilized by our growing crops.” Tissue sampling used in tandem with soil data helps measure your plants ability to take up nutrients.
No “easy button” for Fertilization

Unfortunately, there’s no one fertilizer recommendation that works for every situation. In order to evaluate your crop’s nutrient status, you’ll need to get in the field to soil and tissue sample. Moore also mentions, “Tissue Analysis allows us to make in-season decisions to addresses nutritional needs that if not corrected, could limit the crop’s ability to reach its full yield potential.” Here at Mid-West Fertilizer, we offer scouting programs that can help you keep a close eye on your crops and provide timely recommendations when needed. Our precision programs also offer technologies to help you scout more efficiently and make more intelligent application decisions.
For more information on tissue sample services or micronutrient products, contact your nearest Mid-West location today to speak with one of our agronomists!

2019 Insights

In 2019, more than 85% of corn sampled at stages V4-V6 lacked sufficient Potassium levels to meet plant health needs. Roughly 98% were deficient in Boron and about 85% in Zinc. A majority of corn samples were also low in Phosphorus, Nitrogen, and Manganese.