The essential nutrients that plants need in the smallest quantities are called micronutrients, and they include iron, manganese, boron, copper, zinc, molybdenum, chlorine, and nickel. Fortunately, organic matter usually supplies adequate amounts of these nutrients, because adding too much of any one of these micronutrients can cause more problems than adding none at all.
Micronutrient deficiency is often hard to spot because plants vary in their specific needs and symptoms. Too little iron, for example, can cause blueberry leaves to turn yellow between the veins; too little boron can cause black spots on beet roots.
If your plants have a micronutrient deficiency, the best solution may be to adjust the pH to the level that those specific plants prefer rather than to apply micronutrient fertilizers. Blueberries, for example, require acidic soil; at a pH of 4.2 to 5, the plants usually can take up all the iron they need from the soil. If blueberry plants show symptoms of iron deficiency, check the soil pH, and adjust it if necessary. Beets, on the other hand, prefer a soil pH between 6.5 and 7. If the pH is too low or too high, they can't take up the boron they need. It's better to adjust the pH than to add boron-rich fertilizers, because too much boron can harm other types of plants.
It pays to research the plants you're growing so that you can provide them the basic growing environment they require. You'll save time, aggravation, and money spent on unnecessary — and possibly detrimental — micronutrient fertilizers.
Some fertilizers contain chelated micronutrients. In the process of chelation, the nutrients are chemically bound to other molecules so that the plants can absorb them more easily. Usually, chelated micronutrient fertilizers are used to provide a quick, short-term fix for mineral deficiencies.
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