Every crop has a yield-limiting factor. Whether it’s water, nitrogen or another nutrient, crop yield can be diminished due to a deficiency of some necessary component. However, some deficiencies can be corrected, particularly if they are nutrient deficiencies.
“Farmers spend a lot of time and dollars putting crops into the ground, and in order for yields to reach their maximum potential and to be profitable, we have to find out if the limiting factor for a crop is something we have the ability to correct,” says Jordan Steen, Sales Agronomist with Agtegra. “The most common micronutrients you hear talked about in corn and soybeans are zinc, manganese, boron, molybdenum, copper and iron. We use tissue samples to analyze all of those micronutrients and determine the health of the crops.”
Importance of Micronutrients
It might be tempting to just brush off micronutrients, since they are only needed in small amounts. However, Steen says that would be a mistake.
“These micronutrients are absolutely necessary for the full development of a corn or soybean crop just in trace amounts,” he says. “A lot of the time, growers don’t consider these micronutrients until there is an issue with the crop. Micronutrients typically aren’t applied to the crop every year.”
To make sure that your crops have sufficient micronutrient levels to be successful, Steen recommends ensuring that growers have a nutrient plan developed for each field. Long-term management requires a planned program of crop nutrition.  Another tool is to keep a pulse on plant and soil health by conducting tissue sampling.  This sampling gives an immediate, up-to-the-date view of the nutrient status of the crop.
“By taking a tissue sample in-season, we can better assess what the yield-limiting factor is for that crop,” Steen adds. “You may not even notice that the crop is deficient, but without a good tissue sample, we are never going to know for sure.”
Ins & Outs of Tissue Sampling
Steen advises for soybean growers to pull a tissue sample from both good and poorer spots in a field, and the sample should be the first fully developed leaves on top of the soybean plant. For corn, Steen says that the tissue sample should be the newest fully collared leaf. An agronomist can assist with tissue sample collection.
“The tissue sample is then sent to a lab, which analyzes the sample for nutrient levels,” says Steen. “There are tables available for growers to review what nutrient levels are considered sufficient or deficient.
If a crop is found to be deficient of a micronutrient, often it’s not too late to correct the deficiency. Steen says that an in-season foliar application of the micronutrient can be made. However, there can be other reasons why a crop isn’t getting the nutrients it needs, and those may require management beyond foliar crop nutrition.
“There may be another factor tying up those nutrients and making them unavailable to the plant,” Steen adds. “Getting a full view of crop nutrition requires looking at soil tests, environmental conditions, cropping plans, and field history, then working with a professional agronomist to develop a plan to correct any issues found and apply the correct nutrients to maximize the potential of the crop.”

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