Starter fertilizers for corn won’t show visual responses every time you use them, but they can be valuable when spring conditions turn tough on crops

“The way I look at it, sometimes there’s an increase in yield,” says John Holdsworth, field agronomist for Compass Minerals. “But starters always provide an insurance policy against early season stress.”

Nu-Trax P+ with CropStart technology provides the benefits of a starter in dry fertilizer applications at or before planting. By coating onto every granule of a blend, Nu-Trax P+ delivers phosphorus, zinc and other nutrients essential for early growth to young plant roots.

Corn is one of the most responsive row crops to starter fertilizers. The crop has also shown good results in Nu-Trax P+ trials. Holdsworth reports that in the majority of corn trials he’s facilitated in the past few years, the Nu-Trax P+ treatments have had taller plants early in the season.

“Taller plants have more leaf space for photosynthesis,” he explains. “Corn plants set their yield potential at V4-V5. Bigger plants early on have better yield potential.”

Some farming practices benefit more from the addition of a starter fertilizer for corn. Here are four for consideration:

  • Planting early
    Vigorous corn genetics and reliable seed treatments may give farmers more confidence to plant early and take advantage of as many growing days as possible. But planting earlier can mean planting in colder or wetter soils.
  • Using no-till or minimum tillage
    With no-till and minimum tillage, fields have more residue cover. That makes soils colder and wetter, especially in northern corn-growing states. “They are more likely to see the benefits of a starter,” Holdsworth says.
  • Relying mainly on manure for P
    “Manures are good fertilizers,” he says, “but they take longer to break down.” That means that the nutrients you’re relying on that manure to suppy may not be available early in the season. Supplementing nutrients such as phosphorus, which is important for early root development, in a starter fertilizer may be a good practice.
  • Farming in coarse soils
    Sandy or coarser soils with less organic matter don’t hold on to nutrients well. “Nutrients might go down below the root profile,” explains Holdsworth. Supplying nutrients close to the root zone at or right before planting feeds roots until they can grow down to those nutrients in the soil.

When might a farmer want to use Nu-Trax P+ to see the benefits of a starter fertilizer in corn?

  • You farm in an area with phosphorus load limitations
    “If you are limited on the amount of P you can apply each year, Nu-Trax P+ can provide a starter effect without adding a lot of P to the soil,” explains Holdsworth. “We recommend using a 2 lb/ac-rate of Nu-Trax P+ on at least 200 lb/ac dry fertilizer.”
  • You are interested in the benefits of starter feritlizer for corn but want to avoid the expenses of adding a liquid system to your planting equipment
    When commodity prices are low, most farmers look for ways to manage their expenses. Investing in tanks, brackets, pumps, hoses and tubes can get pricey.
    Instead, farmers can ask their retailers to add Nu-Trax P+ to their spring dry fertilizer. It’s affordable and makes use of the fertilizer you’re already applying as a delivery system.
  • You’d like to purchase a larger planter
    Once planters get so large, adding liquid systems just makes the piece of machinery heavy. Plus, how often you need to reload fertilizer tanks can slow down planting – the opposite effect you’d like to have with your new, larger planter.
    Instead of dealing with a liquid starter fertilizer for corn, farmers can get fertilizer with Nu-Trax P+ broadcast ahead of planting.

Have questions about the benefits of starter fertilizers or how Nu-Trax P+ can fit into your farming practices? Tweet us at @NuTraxP, or contact your rep.