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Zinc: A micronutrient that matters

Read Time: 5 minutes

By the Cargill team November 23, 2021

Getting the most out of your crop means paying attention to “little” things like micronutrients

Zinc is an essential nutrient required for proper plant development and a prime example of why the “micro” in micronutrient does not mean insignificant. It’s considered a micronutrient because it’s needed in much lower concentrations than macronutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous. The fact that it’s needed at lower rates does not mean it’s any less important to the plant.

When making a fertilizer recommendation I’ve learned to keep macro and micronutrients balanced based on the crop’s needs. 

Zinc works alongside phosphorous to promote proper root development. The benefit is that the more surface area there is on a root system, the more nutrients and moisture the plant can take up.  The plant will also pull in more zinc as seeds begin to develop. I recommend soil and tissue samples to help make sure nutrients are balanced properly at these stages.

Understanding Zinc Availability and Sufficiency

In Western Canadian soils, a soil test level 1.0 ppm is generally recommended but, even when soil tests show sufficient levels of zinc in the soil for proper plant development, that's only part of the story. Do you know if the zinc in the soil is actually available to the crop? The following three factors may be keeping your crop from taking up zinc from the soil:

1. Too much phosphorous

High phosphorous levels can keep plants from taking up zinc efficiently. Growers using manure or who are increasing phosphorous rates should look at adding some zinc in the seed row as well. High levels of zinc will increase uptake of phosphorous and calcium by the plant.

2. Seeding into cold soils

When you seed into cold soils, plant roots will search for nutrients less vigorously. At the same time, because zinc is not mobile in the soil, it can’t travel to the roots to be taken up. Unfortunately, zinc is key to proper root growth and must be available in early development. Placing zinc in the seed row will ensure it's where it needs to be.

3. High pH and low organic matter

Studies show that as pH increases, zinc uptake decreases. (Zinc is most available at a pH of 7.5 or less). Zinc levels also tend to be lower on soils with lower organic matter. 

Timely Applications

When you confirm zinc deficiency, you have plenty of options for application at all stages of plant growth.

YaraVita™ Procote™ Zn is an oil-based micronutrient product that is coated onto granular fertilizer. It is very plant safe, equipment safe, and helps to reduce dust. Using Procote will ensure Zinc is available early in the season and is easy for the plants to access. Another option to get zinc to your plants at seeding is to use MicroEssentials® SZ™, an all-in-one nutritionally balanced granule that also contains nitrogen, phosphorous, sulfur and zinc. 

Further into the season, you can choose from a range of foliar products that can be mixed in the spray tank such as YaraVita Flex™. This product is very tank mixable, contains a good amount of nutrients, and has a very reliable formulation that guarantees plant safety and uptake.

If you have any questions regarding how micronutrients could impact your crop, or about these products, contact your nearest Cargill retailer. 



YaraVita, Procote, and Flex are trademarks of Yara Canada, Inc. MicroEssentials is a registered trademark and SZ is a trademark of The Mosaic Company.