Starter Fertilizer Use in Dryland Corn Production

As fertilizer prices continue to increase, producers are looking for other practices to help keep input costs in check and to help maximize their yield potential.  One practice is the use of a starter fertilizer at planting.  So, the question that most people have is: What is Starter Fertilizer?

Starter fertilizer is the practice of placing small nutrient amounts close to the seed at planting. Starter fertilizers can help to enhance the development of the emerging seedling by providing early essential nutrients near the root zone.  Having some early, readily available nutrients near the young seedling can help to increase early growth, aid in disease resistance, and to help with the formation of the leaf to help provide a good start to plant photosynthesis. 

The benefit of a starter fertilizer is generally maximized if the crop is being planted into cooler, wet soil conditions. Cold temperatures combined with wet soil conditions can impede root growth which affects the absorption of nutrients. No-till and conservation tillage planting systems tend to have cooler and wetter soil conditions because of the amount of residue on the ground. By using a starter fertilizer in no-till and reduced tillage systems corn plants can have a better response to the nutrients than being planted later in the spring under more optimal planting conditions.  

What does this all mean for the corn plant?  By applying a starter fertilizer at planting, you are providing an available source of easily accessible nutrients to a limited corn seedling root system. This helps the plant absorb nutrients quickly to help promote growth and root development which tends to promote quicker emergence. We all know that the quicker we can get the plant up and out of the ground that our stands tend to be better and that equates to more viable plants which in turn develops into increased yield potential.

The robust pipeline of Channel® brand of genetics provides another tool to potentially help increase seedling development. With a more uniform emergence and final stand, the opportunity for higher yield potential increase. Yield is what pays the bills and anything we can do to help the plant maximize nutrient utilization and fill that cob helps to provide for a great harvest.

For additional information on the different starter fertilizers, please see Differences in Starter Fertilizers.

Michael Mullins

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ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Performance may vary, from location to location and from year to year, as local growing, soil and weather conditions may vary. Growers should evaluate data from multiple locations and years whenever possible and should consider the impacts of these conditions on the grower’s fields.

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