Effective starter fertilizer use in corn
If producers apply starter fertilizer with the corn seed, they run an increased risk of seed injury when applying more than 6 to 8 pounds per acre of N and K combined in direct seed contact on a 30-inch row spacing. Nitrogen and K fertilizer can result in salt injury at high application rates if seed is in contact with the fertilizer. Furthermore, if the N source is urea or UAN, in-furrow application is not recommended regardless of fertilizer rate. Urea converts to ammonia, which is very toxic to seedlings and can significantly reduce final stands.
click image to zoom Work several years ago at the North Central Kansas Irrigation Experiment Field near Scandia illustrates some of these points (Table 1). In this research, former Agronomist-In-Charge Barney Gordon compared in-furrow, 2x2, and surface band placement of different starter fertilizer rates in a multi-year study on irrigated corn.
Excellent responses from up to 30 pounds of N combined with 15 pounds of P were obtained with the both the 2x2 and surface-band placement. In-furrow placement, however, was not nearly as effective. This was due to stand reduction from salt injury to the germinating seedlings, likely due to the high application rate of N plus K in furrow, indicating the importance of monitoring the N+K rates for in furrow application.
Where no starter, or the 2x2 and surface band placement, was used, final stands were approximately 30-31,000 plants per acre. However, with the 5-15-5 in furrow treatment, the final stand was approximately 25,000. The final stand was just over 20,000 with the in-furrow 60-15-5 treatment.
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