Even with the increased focus on micronutrients and their importance to crop health and yields, basing a solid nutrient management plan on macronutrients is still critical. While macronutrients and micronutrients certainly work best together to create a balanced approach to crop nutrition, the key difference between them is the amount needed for proper plant growth.
There are 17 essential plant nutrients that are required for optimal plant growth and development. Macronutrients — phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen — are measured as a percentage of the plant. Conversely, micronutrients — such as zinc or boron — are measured in parts per million.
As we continue to push for higher yields, we also continue to push the capabilities of the soil. With increased yields comes increased uptake of all nutrients, which translates to an increased response to micronutrient applications. With more nutrients being removed from the soil and used by the plant, there are often not enough micronutrients remaining in the soil to support the nutritional requirements of each plant. Assessing the supply of and demand for micronutrients and adding micronutrients to your crop nutrition plan when needed is the best way to optimize plant health and yields.
Additionally, some macronutrients and micronutrients have natural relationships. For instance, there is a synergy between phosphorus and zinc. Meaning, a deficiency in one nutrient can be induced by an overapplication of the other. That's why balanced crop nutrition, and balanced products like MicroEssentials® SZ® have been proven to maximize yields. In fact, recent research shows that MicroEssentials® SZ® increased yields by an average of 7.1 bu/ac over MAP and 7.5 bu/ac over DAP.
From a planning and economic perspective, macronutrients are still the foundation of a balanced crop nutrition plan, because they are required in higher amounts and will provide more return on each investment. The beauty of fertilizer technology today, though, is that macronutrients can be applied with the added benefit of micronutrients to give crops the most balanced nutrition available. Using these premium fertilizer products that combine a macronutrient and micronutrient will ultimately provide the best yields and best return on investment.