Does Your Field Need Starter Fertilizer?

April 10, 2017 02:10 PM

Make sure you have the right conditions before pulling the trigger on starter fertilizer. While it can provide positive ROI, it’s not always guaranteed. Learn what conditions are most likely to pay off.

“Starter fertilizer results in better root systems early,” says Todd Carpenter, Verdesian Life Sciences technical development manager in a recent news release. “Better root systems mean that the plant will use water and nutrients more efficiently, allowing it to grow more rapidly and put more of those resources into grain.”

If you have low testing soils or planted into cold soils you’re more likely to see positive early growth responses to starter fertilizer, according to Iowa State University (ISU) Extension research. Here are a few more instances in which ISU Extension says you’ll likely see positive response:

  • Early planting (results from N and P)
  • No-till with heavy residue or early planting (N and P)
  • Late planting (mainly from P)
  • Continuous corn, especially in no-till (P and K)
  • With lower than recommended P and K broadcast and without N application before planting


In the Farm Journal Test Plots operators found a seven to 10 bu. response to starter placed 2x2 and a three to five bu. response to in-furrow application. Combined the plots show a 15 to 20 bu. yield increase.

ISU recommends starter fertilizer for corn when fields have poor drainage, cold soil, crop residue or late planting dates with full season hybrids.

“Many would argue that when striving to achieve consistently higher yields, a starter fertilization program should be seriously considered,” says the Fertilizer Institute. “Starter fertilizer does provide some level of insurance against nutrient variability and adverse growing conditions.”

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Spell Check

Tom K
Eagan, MN
4/26/2017 10:54 AM

  This articles talks about starter in furrow as if there is no difference between the various types. If the product used causes injury and/or stand loss then it can be detrimental, but its all about the product and rate. Should not lump them all together, as there are big differences in seed safety among the various products.


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