June 16, 2024
Micronutrients Fertilizers

Importance of Micronutrients in Crop Production

Micronutrient fertilizers play a crucial role in maintaining healthy soil and optimal crop growth. While macronutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are required in large quantities by plants, micronutrients are equally important for plant health even though they are needed in only tiny amounts. Maintaining proper micronutrient levels in soil through fertilization can help boost crop yields and quality.

What are Micronutrients?

Micronutrients, also known as trace elements, are chemical elements required by plants and animals in very small quantities. They include boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel and zinc. Unlike macronutrients which are required in relatively large amounts, plants need micronutrients in milligram or even microgram quantities per kilogram of plant tissue. However, their role is just as significant as that of macronutrients. Micronutrients act as cofactors for enzyme activation and are essential components of proteins involved in various metabolic pathways within the plant.

Symptoms of Micronutrient Deficiencies

When plants do not receive adequate supply of micronutrients from soil, it leads to deficiencies which hamper crop growth and productivity. Common visual symptoms include chlorosis or yellowing of leaves, stunted growth, dead tissue between veins, brown spots and necrosis. For example, iron deficiency results in interveinal chlorosis in young leaves. Boron deficiency causes stunted growth, cracked stems and wilting of shoots. Copper deficiency causes slow growth, wilting, and bleached or yellow foliage. Thorough investigation of soil tests and plant tissue analysis helps in identifying the specific deficient micronutrient.

Key Functions of Micronutrients

– Iron is a component of enzymes involved in photosynthesis and chlorophyll formation. It helps in oxygen transport and nitrogen fixation.

– Zinc plays a key structural role in enzymes responsible for nucleic acid metabolism. It is involved in protein synthesis, carbohydrate breakdown and auxin metabolism.

– Manganese is important for photosynthesis and activation of several enzymes. It acts as a cofactor for dehydrogenases and decarboxylases.

– Boron is required for cell wall structure, sugar translocation, and fruit and seed development. It facilitates calcium and sugar transport within the plant.

– Copper is a cofactor for many redox enzymes related to respiration and photosynthesis. It is essential for lignification of cell walls.

– Molybdenum is a constituent of enzyme nitrate reductase, required for nitrogen metabolism and utilization within the plant body.

Micronutrient Deficiencies Affect Crop Yields

Micronutrient deficiencies contribute significantly to losses in crop productivity worldwide by impairing plant growth and metabolism. According to estimates, micronutrient deficiencies reduce yields of major food crops by over 50% globally. For instance, iron deficiency is known to decrease rice yields by as much as 80% in some parts of Asia. Zinc deficiency reduces maize yields by up to 80% and wheat yields by up to 60% in zinc deficient soils. Replenishing micronutrient levels through balanced fertilization can help maximize genetic yield potential of crops.

Micronutrient Fertilization Practices

Different fertilizer formulations are available commercially for supplying various micronutrients to soil. Common examples include:

– Zinc sulphate or zinc chelates for zinc deficiency
– Iron chelates like EDTA-iron for iron deficiency
– Copper sulphate for copper deficiency
– Sodium molybdate for molybdenum deficiency
– Solubor (sodium tetraborate) for boron deficiency
– Manganese sulphate for manganese deficiency

These fertilizers are usually broadcast and mixed well into the topsoil before crop planting or as foliar sprays during the growing season. Soil and foliar application methods are utilized based on the crop, soil properties and deficiency symptoms. Integrated nutrient management involving balanced use of organic manures along with micronutrient fertilizers proves to be most effective for improving soil health. Precision agriculture techniques like soil mapping and GPS-aided variable rate application are also gaining popularity.

Promoting Nutrient Use Efficiency

While fertilizing micronutrients is crucial, it is equally important to maximize their efficient use by crops. Several agronomic practices improve nutrient use efficiency:

– Application of organic matter improves soil structure and provides micronutrients in plant-available form.

– Liming acid soils maintains proper soil pH for optimum nutrient availability.

– Balanced fertilization through integrated plant nutrition results in synergistic effect.

– Crop rotation avoids continuous deficiencies through depletion of a single nutrient.

– Disease and pest management promotes healthy root systems for enhanced nutrient uptake.

– Conservation agriculture techniques like mulching reduce losses due to leaching and runoff.

– Integrated nutrient management is a holistic approach balancing fertilizers with organic sources.

To sustain crop productivity on depleted soils, maintenance of adequate micronutrient levels holds key through judicious fertilization practices and nutrient management. Adopting a balanced approach considering soil health and plant requirements ensures maximizing benefits of applied micronutrients. This will play a pivotal role in enhancing food security in the times to come.

*Note:
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it