Given rising wheat prices, it’s important that producers pay close attention to micronutrient nutrition so that the often-overlooked input of copper doesn’t get in the way of capitalizing on a very profitable opportunity.

Low copper levels have been found in about 35 percent of samples taken from indicator species grown on soils throughout a broad geographic band extending from North Dakota/Montana all the way south to Texas, notes the Wolf Trax micronutrients company. (Cereals grown in the coastal areas extending from North Carolina, South Carolina through to Georgia also are in general “need” areas, too.)

What is particularly worrying about copper deficiency is that it doesn’t always show up in vegetative growth of a producer’s wheat, but it can devastate the reproductive structures to the point where otherwise healthy plants simply don’t set seed—or set a reduced amount of seed. Wheat needs copper in order to “build” the pollen structures that are essential in setting seed. If a crop is deficient or moderately deficient in copper, the pollination process will be impaired and yield will suffer, Wolf Trax representatives explain.

Here are some rules of thumb that can be used to determine whether fields are at risk of a copper deficiency and if you should be recommending copper to your grower customers:

1) If a soil test reads less than 0.2 ppm DTPA-extractable copper, there may be a moderate to severe deficiency, and copper should be looked at for inclusion in fertility recommendations.

2) If, in the past, tissues tests have shown up as copper deficient, as defined by a testing lab, there likely is a need to start using copper in a fertility program

3) If copper deficiencies have been identified in the field in the past, there likely will be a need to begin a copper program.

In the past, producers have tried to take care of their copper deficiencies by applying granular copper.  Uneven blends with granules have been a common concern, and the copper doesn’t travel far from where it lands to help with soil fertility, according to Wolf Trax.  

In an experiment, copper movement off a 12 percent copper oxysulphate was “tracked” by measuring DTPA-extractable copper at various distances from the granule over time. The results were that as little as four inches away from the point where the granular copper had fallen, no copper was available. The bulk of the DTPA-extractable copper stayed right adjacent to the granule.

If farmer customers need copper to maximize their wheat profits this year, Wolf Trax says ag retailers should consider Wolf Trax Copper DDP in fertilizer blends with the biggest reason being that the Copper DDP coats the fertilizer prills for even coverage across fields.