Where Do Starter Fertilizers Pay Off?

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Return on investment in starter fertilizer can depend on several facts. Corn grain yield increases from starter fertilizer applications are most likely in the following situations:

  • In northern portions of the Corn Belt
  • In combination with cultural practices such as no-till or minimum tillage
  • On coarse-textured and or low-organic-matter soils
  • On poorly drained or cold soils
  • On soils low in P and K
  • When nodal root systems are severely impeded by stresses, including insects, diseases, compaction, dry or cloddy soils, cool soil temperatures or fertilizer placement
  • When soil pH is unusually high or low
  • When substantial drought stress is likely

Higher corn prices and changes in farming practices (early planting, for instance) may create new roles for starter fertilizers. One role may be as insurance against prolonged, unfavorable weather conditions soon after planting. More tests under a variety of field situations will help determine when and where treatments may be most valuable.

Related Content: Use of Starter Fertilizers in Corn Production