As growers prepare for the 2012 growing season, they should think of more than just traditional nutrients – N, P and K – when considering their fertilizer strategy. With better and more efficient micronutrient technology now available, growers can see benefits of applying micronutrients to their crops, such as zinc in corn. 

More than ever before, paying attention to zinc in corn is important because:

1. With high commodity prices and input costs, the opportunities and risks are great. Growers need to get the most from every input dollar. Micronutrients are needed in small amounts, but they are needed for optimized potential yield.

2. Insufficient access to just one nutrient can limit the plant’s overall performance. For example, if not enough zinc is available to the plant, it will not make efficient use of other nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and sulfur, and yield will be limited.

3. Today’s high-producing corn hybrids need more plant-available zinc than older hybrids needed. The better hybrids develop bigger root structures that can remove more nutrients from the soil, including zinc. Farmers across the Midwest are seeing yield response to zinc in areas that traditionally did not need zinc applications.

4. Fertilizer balance needs to stay intact. Often when a field needs more phosphorus, the field needs more zinc, too. Growers need to consider their fields’ zinc levels if they increase their NPK fertilizer rate to help boost yield or if fields test high in P.

5. Zinc deficiencies occur most often when young plants experience cold, wet soil conditions. As growers feel more confident planting earlier with modern seed technologies, early-season zinc availability grows in importance. Reduced tillage systems also induce cooler soils with more moisture, leading to higher zinc needs.

6. Early micronutrient availability is important. Many components of corn yield are established early in the crop’s development, so early access to vital elements, like zinc, is important to ensure maximum yield potential.