A Purdue University study shows high-yielding, modern corn hybrids take up not only more nitrogen from the soil but more micronutrients such as zinc, iron, manganese and copper as well.

Nitrogen rates can also influence how much of these nutrients are stored in the grain at harvest.

Growers may need to consider meeting the increased micronutrient requirements of hybrid corn in high-yield systems, especially if soil nutrient levels are too low.

"This study raises the question of whether we need to pay more attention to micronutrients in fertilizer management," said Tony Vyn, Purdue professor of agronomy and co-author of the study.

"In high-yield systems, it's not just that corn requires more macronutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus — which is what farmers normally think about — more micronutrients are needed as well. If you have soil that is deficient in micronutrients, you could be limiting yields."

Though micronutrients are essential for optimum plant growth and reproductive development, current management practices rarely take them into account, as growers often assume that soil nutrient concentrations for these nutrients are adequate. But in modern crop production systems, deficiencies could occur, Vyn said.

(You might also be interested in Fertilizer recommendations proving valid even with increasing corn yields. Additional information can be found at Nitrogen fertilization costly consideration in corn production).

"For many years, we didn't have to worry about micronutrients," he said. "But if you're in a cash crop situation where you're producing bigger plants and more grain, you are exporting more micronutrients away from the field at harvest. If you're not replacing them, the soil is going to be depleted over time."

Soil factors such as pH and moisture can also influence micronutrient availability, said Ignacio Ciampitti, co-author of the study and assistant professor at Kansas State University.