Cold Soils Mean Starter Fertilizer Could Pay

Young corn plants ( Sonja Begemann )

Make sure you have the right conditions before pulling the trigger on starter fertilizer. While it can provide positive ROI, it’s not always guaranteed. Learn what conditions are most likely to pay off.

“Starter fertilizer results in better root systems early,” says Todd Carpenter, Verdesian Life Sciences technical development manager in a news release. “Better root systems mean that the plant will use water and nutrients more efficiently, allowing it to grow more rapidly and put more of those resources into grain.”

If you have low testing soils or planted into cold soils you’re more likely to see positive early growth responses to starter fertilizer, according to Iowa State University (ISU) Extension research. Here are a few more instances in which ISU Extension says you’ll likely see positive response:

  • Early planting (results from N and P)
  • No-till with heavy residue or early planting (N and P)
  • Late planting (mainly from P)
  • Continuous corn, especially in no-till (P and K)
  • With lower than recommended P and K broadcast and without N application before planting

In the Farm Journal Test Plots operators found a seven to 10 bu. response to starter placed 2x2 and a three to five bu. response to in-furrow application. Combined the plots show a 15 to 20 bu. yield increase.

ISU recommends starter fertilizer for corn when fields have poor drainage, cold soil, crop residue or late planting dates with full season hybrids.

“Many would argue that when striving to achieve consistently higher yields, a starter fertilization program should be seriously considered,” says the Fertilizer Institute. “Starter fertilizer does provide some level of insurance against nutrient variability and adverse growing conditions.”

This article was first published in April 2017.