Starter fertilizer supports early season cotton growth
Nitrogen and phosphorus play an important role in helping young cotton plants get off to a strong start. With dry growing conditions expected in many cotton growing areas again this season, starter fertilizers with these nutrients are one consideration for farmers looking to boost cotton growth early when soils are still damp and cool.
Robert Armstrong, regional manager for West Texas Agriplex in Seminole, Texas, says starter fertilizers are useful to cotton stand establishment.
"With the hail, wind and extreme temperature swings we have on the High Plains, this is another way for farmers to support and protect their crop," Armstrong says.
While nitrogen is the most important nutrient for cotton growth and development, phosphorus is essential to vigorous root and shoot growth and early boll development. Unfortunately, it isn’t always readily available.
"Cotton in soils with high calcium and high pH or sandy soils with iron and aluminum tend to have difficulty absorbing the nutrient," says Reggie Underwood, regional field manager for SFP. The company manufactures Avail and NutriSphere-N, which enhance the availability of phosphorus and nitrogen to crops such as cotton, corn and soybeans.
Maximize growth. "We have great opportunities this year with commod-ity prices, and our inputs are manageable; we’ve just got to look at ways to maximize efficiencies, and these products can help accomplish that," he says.
Armstrong adds: "If the farmer wants to maximize his potential, this is a benefit. Starter fertilizers aren’t a silver bullet, though, just another practice that can help."
The combination of technology, equipment and careful management is critical to the successful application of starter fertilizer in the zone, he adds. "A lot of the new planters have in-furrow equipment on them already, so farmers can control everything on the main monitor, tied into GPS, making applications in-furrow less risky."
Underwood says starter programs with Avail plus 10-34-0 or other starter blends will run between $30 and $60 per acre, depending on pounds of nutrients applied.
"With GPS precision, farmers can put their fertilizer down and plant in the zone. This can potentially eliminate one trip across the field and reduce labor costs in the process," he says. Some equipment manufacturers, such as John Deere and Krause Equipment, are able to retrofit older planters to place fertilizer in the zone.
Keith Edmisten, Extension specialist at North Carolina State University, does not support putting starter fertilizer in-furrow, as cotton seed is sensitive to ammonia and farmers may risk injury or even complete stand loss.
"In research, we have seen as little as 2 gal. per acre of 10-34-0 kill cotton when applied in-furrow," he reports.
Placing starter at least 2" to the side of the seed and 2" below the soil surface will minimize the potential for crop injury.
With the recent loss of Temik, however, some farmers in Edmisten’s area used starter fertilizer successfully in 2011. Armstrong says many farmers in the High Plains took the same approach last year and saw similar benefits.