Consider Starter Fertilizer This Spring Even if You Haven't Before

Crops consultant seed value to adding starter fertilizer in a variety of situations.

Published on: Jan 10, 2012

Starter fertilizer fell out of favor with some as planters got wider and most still tilled all their soils. Many didn't plant until the end of April or early may. Now that more farmers are planting into some type of reduced tillage and planting earlier when the conditions allow it, it may be time to rethink starter fertilizer, even if means retooling your planter.

Betsy Bower, an agronomist with Ceres Solutions, Terre Haute, coordinates the panel of writers for the Indiana Certified Crops Advisers. Their answers appear in Crops Corner, Hoosier Bug Beat and other stories in Indiana Prairie Farmer each month. Currently, she's one of the three panelists writing answers to questions about crop production.

The February issue will include articles addressing starter fertilizer as a practice you might want to consider, especially if you're in reduced tillage. Following vertical tillage puts you in the reduced tillage category. Depending upon how you run the tool, you can leave as much as 70% residue after corn. The pieces are sized smaller, but the ground is still protected from erosion. And it also warms up and dries out somewhat differently than true conventional tillage.

Look for Bower's response to that situation in the February issue. She also had other comments to make about starter fertilizer. "If you tend to plant later and your soil fertility is on the high side, then you may see little value to starter fertilizer," she says. "However, this past year in southwestern Indiana we saw a value to starter even in corn planted at the end of May into early June.

"Corn was more robust, a little further in development, perhaps around a half-leaf stage, and greener than its no-starter applied neighbor.

"So yes, I think you will get your investment back over time by just having soil fertility immediately available to that young seedling in the particularly harsh growing environments we tend to have in the spring."