Question: I had problems with starter fertilizer placement this year. What can I do next year to fix this?
Answer: Fertilizer burn can wreck a picket-fence stand, preventing a high-yielding hybrid from strutting its stuff. If you apply starter fertilizer in the furrow, you must pay attention to the salt load in the fertilizer, and you must plant high-quality seed. Applying starter in the furrow with low-quality seed is like double-dipping on risk factors.
Cracks in the pericarp increase the chance of burning the seed. Remember that round seed typically has more cracks than flat seed. Cheap seed may not be the highest quality. Investigate the quality-control procedures at the seed house where you obtain your seed. If you apply starter fertilizer, make sure your application system is working properly. Every year, I hear from some starter user who had one or two rows plugged. That not only sets those rows behind, but it also puts more starter on the other rows. Check your application system before planting, and use a monitor to make sure it’s working.