Crossing over to the dark side of micronutrients
I was at the FarmTech conference in Edmonton this past week and I may have crossed over to the dark side. At least I am moving from the bright white light of confident skepticism into a grey area. The dark side may be just around the corner.
I am talking about moving over to the dark side of micronutrients. Maybe they do work. I am still at the maybe stage, but I have seen a number of products around for years, I look at the research and testimonials and it seems to make sense and certainly the with-and-without pictures look good.
(Photo Caption: As you can see by these comparison photos supplied by the Hart FixAll Company, five ounces per 1000 acres of an enriched “tea” made by soaking old Grainews in
tap water can make a huge difference in wheat yields. That's salinity not snow in the top photo. Okay, I am just being a smart ass here, these photos have nothing to do with micronutrients. I just needed an illustration to break up the grey copy.)
But at the trade shows plenty of farmers stop to talk to these micronutrient guys. The micro companies all have nice displays. I don’t see any of their representatives riding bicycles to get to the shows. Somebody must be buying this stuff.
However, I have to balance that with the fact, Independent, Third Party, Western Canada Research Scientists (ITPWCRS) are reluctant to give these products a ringing endorsement. Some argue there isn’t enough micronutrient in any specific treatment to make a difference to the crop, some say studies show there is no general deficiency for X nutrient in Western Canadian soils, most dismiss farmer testimonials as being unreliable — who is going to buy or use something for five years and then tell you it doesn’t work, and others simply say there is no evidence collected by ITPWCRS to show these products are effective. And that may all be valid, too.
SOMETHING TO IT
But there is something in my head that keeps telling me, I think these products have a role. Maybe soil scientists don’t fully understand plant physiology. Maybe there are personality clashes. Maybe there are some old dogs not interested in learning new tricks. I have heard sometimes in life it is hard for people to admit they were wrong. Maybe it requires a leap of faith. There are lots of powerful things in life, like love, electricity, and God, that aren’t easy to see or quantify, but I know those forces are there.
I am not suggesting that God is out peddling Omex’s C3 foliar product, or ATP’s ReLeaf, but maybe he has a couple disciples on the micronutrient sales force.
That’s the other thing. I look at the people selling these products and most don’t look like crooks. Most are pretty good talkers, but that’s not a crime. I have known a few farmers and ITPWCRS who can bend your ear, too. Most micronutrient product promoters are well educated and look like people of conscience. I don’t get the impression they are leaving the house in the morning with “another big day of screwing farmers” purpose in mind. They believe in the products they sell.
I am not a farmer, or an agronomist, or an ITPWCRS so have very little technical standing in this discussion. I did ask wise old, former Grainews editor Jay Whetter for his opinion and the advice he recalled from a researcher, “If farmers are doing all the proper things to produce a crop, and yields seem to reach a plateau, then maybe they should look at micronutrients.”
And that may be the key to this whole product line. If you are a low-budget, corner-cutting producer to begin with, don’t expect a $5 or $7 per acre micronutrient treatment to double your yield or do anything at all really. But if you are following all the good agronomic practices — good seed, proper seed bed, proper seeding rate, proper fertility, wear newer jeans and have a nice pickup, and you expect more from your crop, micros may have an effective fit. And as I have heard enough times over the years about any product — you don’t have to do the whole farm, make your own on-farm test strips to see for yourself.
One of the companies is planning to buy me lunch this week and as is well known in the ag media world, a good lunch, nice pen, or an attractive ball cap is pretty well all it takes to win over a skeptical writer. And geez, if they throw in dessert I might get evangelical about how a little micro can change your life — so praise the Lord and pass the boron.
Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at email@example.com
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