Fertilizer 101: Micronutrients


June 10, 2014

Over the past few weeks, we’ve explored the various nutrients that boost plant production and keep people all over the world fed and healthy, including the Big 3 and enhanced efficiency fertilizers. This week, let’s take a look at the third category of essential crop nutrients: micronutrients. Micronutrients play a supporting role in overall plant health and development. Micronutrients promote essential plant processes and growth, which translates into nutrient-rich food for animals and humans. Micronutrients include boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc, which are often in short supply for growing crops. Let’s take a closer look at the specific role of each micronutrient.

Boron:  This important nutrient ensures healthy cell growth and assists in the formation of pollen. A lack of boron may also stunt plant growth.

Chlorine: Used primarily in small grains like wheat, chlorine helps plants manage water stress and resist fungal diseases.

Copper: Copper plays an essential role as a catalyst, promoting chemical reactions without becoming a product of those reactions. It also assists in the formation of protein pigments in red blood cells, making it a key micronutrient for animals and humans.

Iron: This nutrient works as a catalyst in the formation of chlorophyll and promotes root function in legumes such as peanuts and beans.

Manganese: Another chlorophyll catalyst, manganese also helps regulate several plant enzymes. Ensuring plants have enough manganese translates into manganese-rich food for humans.

Molybdenum: This nutrient helps plants use nitrogen and phosphorus (two of the “Big 3” nutrients) more efficiently and gives farmers greater yields and more return on their investment in fertilizer.

Zinc: This vital nutrient plays key roles in human health as well as plant health.  It helps plants form proteins, starches and growth hormones, which helps people grow healthy skin and bones.

Each of these micronutrients plays a key role in plant, animal and human nutrition. Soil fertility and thus, fertilizer, are fundamental components to feeding the world’s population. The abundant, high-quality and affordable food we have now is made possible by the fertilizer industry and the farmers who are using available nutrient resources responsibly and sustainably.