Annual Agronomy News > Manganese: The Neglected Micro with Macro Effects

Manganese: The Neglected Micro with Macro Effects

Dec 01, 2021

Manganese is one of 17 essential plant nutrients for plants to grow and produce a crop. Manganese is considered a micronutrient as it is taken up by plants in small quantities. In spite of the small quantities taken up by plants, critical plant functions are limited if micronutrients such as manganese are not available. Fertilizer recommendations for crops typically focus on nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and sulfur. Zinc is talked about in corn production. Boron is popular in hay fertilizers. However, manganese is often left out of fertilizer conversations. Based upon observations during the 2021 growing season manganese is a micronutrient that needs to be given more respect.
This past growing season agronomists working in northeast Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Calumet and surrounding counties noticed crops that had a pale green to yellow color. In April, pale green to almost yellow patches were scattered through winter triticale and winter wheat fields in these fields. These fields all had spring fertilizer applied to them without heavy rainfall so they should have had plenty of nitrogen, sulfur, and potassium. As April transitioned to May, more wheat fields showed these odd symptoms. Tissue sample results from all these winter triticale and wheat fields indicated plenty of nitrogen and sulfur, however, manganese was the one and only nutrient that was very deficient. The yellowing of the small grains crops makes sense because manganese plays an integral role in photosynthesis. If photosynthesis is compromised, the greenness of the plant will be reduced. The addition of Max-In Flexi Manganese with or without the small grain herbicide improved the vigor of the plants immensely in a about a week. As May transitioned into June, July, and August additional crops including oats, corn, soybean, and alfalfa were showing deficiency in areas that have never before seen manganese deficiency. Believe it or not even sorghum sudangrass and pumpkins jumped on the manganese deficiency bandwagon! All of these crops improved greatly with a foliar application of Max-In Flexi Manganese. In the case of several corn fields, a couple applications of manganese were required as manganese does not translocate to new tissue very well.
The reason for all these visual signs of deficiencies this year and not in previous years is not well understood. These fields may have been deficient in the past, but did not exhibit the symptoms as prominently.  If tissue sampling was not completed, the manganese deficiency may have been misdiagnosed as a nitrogen or sulfur deficiency.   It’s also possible the dry cold soils from April into most of May might have contributed to the problem. We do know that deficiency is most problematic on soils with soil pH greater than 7.0, high organic matter soils, and low fields that are wet for prolonged periods of time. With all the deficiencies that showed up this past year, it may be a good time to evaluate fertility programs. Remember, if you are seeing the deficiencies, it is too late, yield has already been lost.
Crops that have a high demand for manganese include soybean, snap bean, wheat, oat, triticale, and sorghum sudangrass. Corn has a low to moderate demand for manganese. Broadcasting a soil application of manganese is ineffective and expensive as the manganese quickly gets tied up in high pH soils. For this reason, the most common method of application of this nutrient is by foliar application. Max-In Flexi Manganese is an excellent foliar product that can be used on most crops. Banding manganese applications is also very successful.  Manganese 6% can be mixed with the popup fertilizer in corn or used as an in furrow treatment for soybeans. If in furrow treatments are not enough, additional Max-In Flexi Manganese can be applied as a foliar treatment. Manganese 6% can also be added into Y-drop applications.
In the Malone area this year the added advantage to manganese applications was very apparent.  The most drastic was a 50 to 100-bushel swing in corn yields with the addition of manganese on very deficient, high organic soils. Significant forage yield increases were seen on winter triticale and sorghum sudangrass due to the addition of Max-In Flexi Manganese. Another grower documented a 10-bushel yield bump in his wheat with this product as well.
This may be a good time to meet with your agronomist and have a discussion to see if manganese or tissue sampling is right for your operation. Every soil and operation are different. Now is an excellent time to investigate what may be the next low hanging fruit on your farm. Who knows, it could be a micro that could have a macro effect on your farm!

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