Should you use starter fertilizer?

By Dave Nanda, Director of Genetics and Technology for
Seed Consultants, Inc.

Why is starter fertilizer becoming more important than in the past? When we plant early, the growing conditions for germination and early growth of the seedlings are very harsh. The soils are cold and wet and anything we can do to help the little seedlings will give them a head start. In addition, planting in no-till or reduced tillage ground is becoming more prevalent. For applying starter fertilizer, you may have to modify your planter. It is important to have the nutrients, especially, nitrogen available immediately after germination to the young seedlings where little roots are developing. What are benefits of starter fertilizer?

• I have seen better stand establishment where starter was used as compared to the check rows.

• Corn is more robust and healthier. The canopy formation is slightly faster and corn seedlings are ahead of the early weeds.

• In our studies, the seedlings look greener than where starter was not used in side-by-side studies.

• I saw a distinct vigor difference in last year’s tough planting conditions.

• In my previous studies, early planted corn yielded higher with starter fertilizer than where no starter was used. If you have to plant after the middle of May when the soils are warmer, it may not give you a big advantage.

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