Pay Closer Attention to Micros to Preserve Higher No-Till Yields

Soil lab tests indicate many growers are mining their soils and neglecting micronutrient levels, which could hurt crop yields and profits in the long run.

EVEN THOUGH micronutrients play a crucial role in plant development, some recently publicized analyses of soil and tissue tests across several states show a large percentage of growers are running a deficit with some micros.

Most growers and retailers are aware of the need for zinc and boron, for example. But regional trends noted by soil test labs suggest micronutrient levels are being disregarded.

A recent blog post by plant nutrient manufacturer Wolf Trax noted:

  • In Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, AgVise Laboratories reports more than 80% of fall 2014 soil samples in some of the soil test lab’s regions had zinc levels at less than 1.0 ppm.
  • In a five-state area, including Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, 50% of the soil samples analyzed by A&L Great Lakes Laboratories of Fort Wayne, Ind., in 2013 were rated low in zinc, and 73% rated low to very low in boron.
  • United Suppliers’ Nutra-Links tissue sampling program this year found 48% of samples to be deficient in zinc, about 72% were deficient in boron and 51% were deficient in magnesium.

Think Twice

Joe Nester, an agronomist and owner of Bryan, Ohio-based Nester Ag, says growers who don’t request micronutrient levels in their soil tests run the risk of leaving yield and profits on the table.

When economics are not strong, micronutrients are typically the first thing to be culled by farmers when they’re cutting back inputs, followed by sulfur and then other products, he says. Ramping up visual scouting to…

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John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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