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
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.
Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or
by email at [email protected]