Hi! I’m Heather. You might have seen my smiling face show up at your farm, or maybe we’ve crossed paths at a farm show. I teach farmers about micronutrients and plant growth hormones and help them decide whether they should or (just as importantly!) shouldn’t consider giving these inputs a try. Which category are you?
Micronutrients and supplemental growth hormones are two opportunities to finetune a crop. Though they are fairly new concepts for most North American growers, there’s nothing new about either input’s use globally. In Europe, where land is expensive and soils are less productive compared to here in North America, farmers have embraced crop-boosting technologies including these for decades.
That reality is coming for us in North America too. Over the handful of years I worked in ag retail before shifting to Stoller last year, we started hearing more and more examples of deficiencies in specific nutrients like boron in acres that hadn’t been deficient previously. Meanwhile, as all the other costs of production — especially land — rise, farmers here will have to follow Europe’s lead in actively managing any and all factors that contribute to top quality and more efficient production.
Even in the year I’ve been working for Stoller, I’m noticing a shift happening in conversations with growers. Many more are open to hearing about how investing a little extra into the crop in ways they might not have tried before can bring higher overall returns. If increasing their farm profits doesn’t convince growers to focus on efficiency, the federal government’s threatened fertilizer emissions cut backs just might force the decision.
All that said, growth hormones and micronutrients aren’t for everyone. Growers who are already progressive, those who are pushing their acres generally already appreciate and use growth hormones and micronutrients. The next level of growers — those who do a great job but wait to follow their neighbours’ example — are increasingly calling me to ask questions about how growth hormones and micronutrients might apply to their acres. However, farmers whose crops could benefit from macro-scale adjustments – those who still need to increase their fertilizer blend alongside the seed, for example, or who need to catch up to rampant disease or runaway weeds — would do much better to focus on managing these more prominent concerns before they dive into foliar nutrition or growth hormones.