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Why Plant Micronutrients Are Important for Crop Yield

May 30, 2023




Jared Dyson

30 May 2023
Farmers field of corn for plant micronutrient solutions to increase crop yield.

Plant Micronutrients for Crop Yield


Micronutrients are trace elements needed for the proper growth and development of crops. Plants require these elements in small amounts, but they hold a vital role in the uptake and use of other nutrients. A lack of micronutrients in crops can cause deficiency symptoms and reduce crop yields.


By providing crops with a balanced supply of essential plant nutrients, farmers can ensure they reach their full crop yield potential. They must use the right quantity of micronutrients to ensure that the soil does not become oversaturated with nutrients. Excess nutrients may negatively impact crop yield and the surrounding ecosystem. By prioritizing micronutrient management farmers can reduce fertilizer usage, lower their carbon footprint, and boost their profitability in the long run.


Micronutrients are a vital component for crop yields. Proper management can have a fundamental impact on plant health, crop yield, and the environment. Farmers must be aware of micronutrient deficiencies and take appropriate measures to ensure that crops receive the proper supply of these essential elements.


What are the Essential Plant Micronutrients?


The vital seven micronutrients for plant nutrition and crop growth include:


  • Zinc is required for the development of the plant's leaves, stems, and root systems, promoting successful growth.
  • Boron plays an important role in the movement of sugar, calcium, potassium, and nitrogen in the plant.
  • Copper is needed for the formation of the plant cells, cell walls, leaves, and roots.
  • Iron aids in the formation of chlorophyll and is required for photosynthesis.
  • Molybdenum is required for nitrogen fixation by bacteria found in the soil, which helps the plant in protein development.
  • Manganese is essential in the formation of certain enzymes, as well as protecting the plant from excessive light exposure.
  • Chlorine plays a critical role in the regulation of water balance within the plant.


Without these vital micronutrients, plants would not be able to grow to their full potential.


Are Plant Nutrients Bioavailable?


Plant nutrients are bioavailable, meaning they can be readily absorbed and available to plants. These essential elements are made by photosynthesis or obtained from the soil through plant roots. However, the bioavailability of plant micronutrients depends on various factors such as soil pH, soil temperature, and soil moisture.


The presence of other elements or compounds in the soil can also affect nutrient uptake by the roots. In alkaline or acidic soils, plants may face difficulty in taking up nutrients, leading to nutrient deficiencies. The solubility of elements and their compounds in the soil also can affect the bioavailability of nutrients.


Crop rotation, nutrient management, fertilizing, and maintaining healthy soil conditions can enhance nutrient availability. The use of organic fertilizers such as compost, manure, and green manure can increase the availability of nutrients. These methods improve the soil structure, enhance soil microbial activity, and increase nutrient retention in the soil. Replenishing the soil with essential minerals and organic matter can keep it healthy so plants grow better.


Why Are Plant Micronutrients Essential?


Micronutrients are essential for plants, their proper growth, and function. These essential elements are used by plants in small quantities, but their absence, or deficiency, can lead to serious health problems in plants. Micronutrient deficiencies can have a devastating effect on crop yields and the nutritional quality of the crop produced. Common micronutrient deficiencies include those of iron, boron, copper, manganese, zinc, and molybdenum.


The uptake of micronutrients by plants can be affected by various factors, including soil pH, temperature, and soil moisture. When plants are deficient in micronutrients they start showing deficiency symptoms which can include:


  • Yellowing of leaves
  • Stunted growth
  • Poor flowering or fruiting
  • Reduced enzyme activity
  • Reduced yields


Deficiencies need to be addressed promptly to prevent any further damage to the plant and plant needs. Micronutrients play vital roles in several functions of plants and aid in the creation of various enzymes and vitamins. It is vital to ensure that plants have adequate access to all essential micronutrients for proper growth and development. Regular soil testing can help to identify any potential shortages. Appropriate fertilization programs and soil amendments can be used to provide plants with the necessary micronutrients they require.


What is the Function of Plant Micronutrients


Micronutrients are essential elements for plant growth and the health of plants. Without these essential elements, plants would be unable to carry out critical biological processes, like photosynthesis, to survive. The importance of micronutrients cannot be overstated. Even a small deficiency can have major impacts on plant health.


When it comes to ensuring the health and growth of your crops, micronutrients are an absolutely critical consideration that should not be taken lightly. Without these tiny but mighty elements, your plants could be seriously deficient and struggle to reach their full potential. The more deficient your crops are, the more susceptible they are to environmental stressors. By ensuring proper uptake of micronutrients, farmers can improve plant health and productivity.


By creating a healthy soil environment, and providing important micronutrients that plants can use, comes with other positive environmental benefits for sustainable farming. By providing the essential nutrients for plants, farmers help their crop plants grow stronger roots which protect the land from soil erosion. As you might see, the proper management of micronutrients improves the health of both the soil and plant. Healthy soils have the nutrients needed mobile in the soil and available for plants use. In return, the plants can feed micronutrients back into the soil to support the microbiome which creates more soil organic matter to maintain healthy soil structure.


Do Crops Remove Micronutrients?


Micronutrient removal by crops is an essential aspect of soil management. Micronutrients such as boron, iron, manganese, zinc, copper, and molybdenum are needed in small quantities for crop's proper growth and development. Unlike macronutrients that are required in higher quantities, micronutrients are equally vital but require less amounts for maintaining optimal crop yields and improving the overall crop quality.


Secondary macronutrients like calcium and magnesium, along with primary macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, play a crucial role in plant growth and soil health. However, an imbalance in the availability of micronutrients can lead to losses in crop yields and affect soil productivity. A micronutrient deficient soil can cause stunted growth, premature leaf dropping, and reduced crop yield. To avoid such deficiencies, farmers often use fertilizers or management practices that replenish micronutrients in the soil.


By monitoring micronutrient levels in the soil, farmers can adjust nutrient inputs and maximize yields while ensuring the soil's long-term health. Micronutrient removal by crops presents a significant challenge to soil managers and farmers, but it also offers an opportunity to improve crop yields and quality while maintaining a sustainable production system.


What Are Common Plant Micronutrient Deficiencies?


Micronutrient deficiencies are a common occurrence in many parts of the world. Most soils do not contain adequate amounts of micronutrients. Soil conditions that can impact nutrient availability include:


  • High soil pH can reduce the availability of certain micronutrients like iron (Fe).
  • Low soil pH increases acidity and the risk for toxicity of other micronutrients. This can affect plant growth and soil microbial activity.
  • High levels of calcium and phosphorus can decrease the availability of copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), and zinc (Zn).
  • High levels of copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), and zinc (Zn) can decrease the availability of other minerals, such as iron (Fe).


Understanding the micronutrient requirements of different crops and soil types is essential for successful cultivation. Micronutrient deficiencies are a complex issue that can be influenced by several factors including soil types, soil conditions, and nutrient interactions. Farmers can take measures such as soil testing, fertilization, and soil pH adjustment to address micronutrient deficiencies.


Detecting Micronutrient Deficiencies: Soil Test, Tissue Analysis, and Observation


Plant analysis is a quick and effective way to detect the presence of certain micronutrient deficiencies. Several methods are available, including:


  • Soil analysis determines nutrient levels present in the soil. Soil tests are both affordable and necessary to ensure optimum crop yields.
  • Tissue analysis directly measures the concentration of micronutrients in plant tissues and is more accurate in detecting deficiencies.
  • Visual observation involves noting the appearance of the plant, such as yellowing of leaves.


Plant analysis helps farmers and agronomists make informed decisions about fertilization practices and nutritional management of crops. It is important to understand the role and function of each micronutrient within plant tissues and how deficiencies can affect the plant's development. Identifying and correcting nutrient deficiencies can improve crop yield and quality while avoiding the unnecessary addition of excess fertilizers that can harm the environment. Using these methods to detect micronutrient deficiencies early, farmers can ensure the health of their crops and maximize yields, subsequently leading to profitable farming.


How to Manage Plant Micronutrient Deficiencies


Micronutrient deficiencies are a major concern for crop production, leading to decreased yields and crop quality. There are several options available for managing micronutrient deficiencies, but they all work through three primary modes:


  • Soil application by applying micronutrient fertilizers to replace the depleted nutrients in the soil. Soil application of micronutrient fertilizers can be done using two primary methods: broadcast spreading or band placement.
  • Foliar application by applying micronutrient fertilizers to plant leaves to provide a quick and efficient correction of deficiencies.
  • Fertigation application by applying dissolved fertilizer to crops through an irrigation system.


It is important to have an understanding of the micronutrient requirements of specific crops to achieve optimal results. The timing and frequency of application will depend on the crop being grown, the soil type, and other factors such as weather conditions. Regular soil testing and proper nutrient management practices are therefore recommended to effectively manage micronutrient deficiencies and optimize crop yields.


Advantages of Foliar Sprays


Foliar sprays are a popular method of directly supplying nutrients to plants through the leaves. The advantages of foliar sprays include:


  • Quick action the nutrients are directly absorbed by the plant through the leaf's stomata.
  • Efficient use as foliar sprays provide an immediate boost to the plant's growth and development.
  • Economical application because they require a smaller amount of inputs compared to traditional soil-based fertilizers.
  • Convenience because they can be applied along with any normal NPK fertilizer program.


The reduced amount of inputs also benefits the environment, as there is less runoff and leaching of nutrients into the local ecosystem. Overall, the use of foliar sprays is a valuable tool for promoting the health and growth of plants, and their advantages make them a popular choice for farmers and gardeners alike.


What Not to Do With Foliar Sprays


Foliar sprays are a convenient way to deliver nutrients to plants directly through their leaves. However, it's important to know what not to do with foliar sprays.


  1. Do not use foliar sprays as a replacement for soil-applied fertilizers.
    While foliar applications can ensure quick uptake of micronutrients, they do not provide the comprehensive set of nutrients required for plant growth.
  2. Foliar sprays are not effective for inorganic nutrients, which require soil uptake to be effective.
  3. Avoid using synthetic chelates in foliar sprays, as they can harm the plants and the environment.
    Organic chelates, made from natural sources like plant extracts, are much safer options.
  4. Do not use foliar sprays during hot and dry weather conditions as the nutrients can scorch the leaves.
    Foliar sprays can cause leaf burn if not applied at the right time of day. This is because sunlight and high temperatures can magnify the effects of the sprays, causing damage to the leaves and burning them.
  5. Do not over-apply foliar sprays.
    Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Foliar sprays can be toxic to plants if sprayed in excessive amounts.


While foliar sprays can be an effective way of supplementing soil-applied fertilizers, it's important to use them correctly and not as a replacement for soil-based nutrient applications.


Selecting Micronutrient Sources


When selecting micronutrient sources for crops, one of the crucial aspects to consider is the source of micronutrients being used. It is always advisable to use biological and natural micronutrient sources. Plant-based nutrients are considered more effective as they contain natural chelates and other natural substances that enhance nutrient availability and uptake by plants.


Natural chelates make nutrients available to plants while protecting them from being lost through leaching. They also support the biological functions of plants allowing nutrients to be absorbed faster, leading to healthier crops and higher yields. Unlike synthetic chelates, natural chelates do not cause soil degradation or create ecological imbalances.


Synthetic chelates, although cheaper, often present risks to the environment and human health. These chelates are made of complex compounds that do not break down easily and can leave chemical residues that affect soil and water quality. This means that they can remain in the soil for years, leading to soil degradation. If synthetic chelates leach into water sources they can also become a threat to aquatic life, and have also been shown to be toxic to humans if consumed in large quantities.

It is for these reasons that plant-based, naturally chelated nutrient sources are suggested for agriculture as a safer and more effective alternative. When selecting micronutrient sources for crops, it is critical to prioritize the use of natural chelates and plant-based nutrients. Doing so not only enhances crop health and productivity but also protects the environment and consumer health.


Synthetic chelates present significant risks and should be avoided to promote sustainable and responsible agricultural practices. Taking a thoughtful and respectful approach to selecting micronutrient sources is just as important as choosing the right nutrients for your crops.