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STARTER FERTILIZATION SOMETIMES BOOSTS CORN YIELD
Antonio P. Mallarino, Professor, Department of Agronomy, Iowa State
March 23, 2015
With lower grain prices and perhaps lower than normal pre-plant phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) fertilizer application, farmers and crop consultants are asking questions about starter fertilizer for corn this spring. The placement of small amounts of plant nutrients in bands offset to the side and below the seed row or in the seed furrow increases the concentration of nutrients where seedling roots grow. Common starter fertilizers have nitrogen (N), P, and K, and a few times other nutrients. Research in Iowa and the north central region has shown that early plant growth increases from starter fertilizer are common and can be large in corn but are uncommon and small in soybean. The early growth responses usually are more frequent in low-testing soils or when conditions are colder than usual. With cold soil, root growth is slowed, the capacity to absorb nutrients is reduced, and the diffusion of nutrients through soil towards the root surface also is slowed. These effects are more likely to happen with earlier than recommended planting dates and with reduced tillage that has high residue cover because the residue keeps soils cooler and wetter for a longer time compared with soils with little cover. Read on.
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