To look closer at nitrogen and phosphorus applications at planting to maximize yields, a single machine applied all of the starter blends for the Farm Journal Test Plots.
With two decades of data, the Farm Journal Test Plots in central Illinois, led by Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie, have shown starter fertilizer boosts yields, on average, 7 bu. to 10 bu.
In 2010, the plot program expanded on the lessons learned to find answers to year-to-year variability in response to starter. To diversify our test plot effort, Missy Bauer joined the team as Associate Field Agronomist, based in the Eastern Corn Belt.
Beyond using it for timing and placement of crop nutrients, there are numerous questions about starter.
"Mainly, farmers ask if it pays off for hauling the extra weight and handling another product at planting," Ferrie says. "Don’t think of starter as just starter. Think of applying starter as part of your Systems Approach."
In Bauer’s area, it’s common for farmers to apply starter because of cool soil conditions.
"I have seven years of starter studies, and the average response for us is 8 bu. to 10 bu. per acre," she says. In a year like 2009 that was really cool, we had some 20 bu. responses."
Starter can be applied at different rates, with a spectrum of attachments and formulations. These variations only complicate the uncertainty when determining what makes starter pay.
"One of the questions I get the most is about in-furrow starter fertilizer, which is the most common way we see starter applied," Ferrie says. "Farmers report that they see visual response early in the season but don’t always see the yield increase."
Ferrie says that one reason in-furrow application can start off strong is its placement. That placement in relation to the seed, though, restricts the rate at which it can be applied and still not damage the seed.
"Our previous plots have told us that pop-up can give the crop a good start but it doesn’t seem to yield as high when compared with the higher starter rates placed beside and below the seed. You’d kill corn with putting those high rates in furrow. With that in mind, we took a closer look at starter blends," Ferrie says.
In 2010, Ferrie oversaw starter plots that spanned three different fields, two corn on corn and one corn after soybeans. In the corn-on-corn plots, two different tillage practices were used: vertical tillage and no-till.
The same planter was used in all of these plots, providing commonality across the entire effort. Starter was applied with a Yetter 2959 face-mounted coulter that places the starter to the side and below the seed and a seed firmer to place in-furrow.
- February 2011