Crop Nutrition

Get Your Crop “Started” Off Right

eKonomics News Team

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Getting your crop off to a good start early in the growing season is important to achieving maximum yield. That‘s why one of your first jobs is to determine which nutrients should be in your starter fertilizer.

Consulting your ag retailer or agronomist will help ensure the most effective formulation is achieved through expert consideration of soil-test level, tillage system, soil type and crop history. Ag retailers are also a vital resource when it comes to addressing issues such as ammonia injury and salt stress prevention.

Below are some of the variables to consider when selecting your starter fertilizer:

  • Soils with low-soil-test phosphorus and potassium are prime soils for applying a complete macronutrient starter package.
  • Tillage is a major factor on selection, when using soil-test information to make starter-source decisions:
    • Conventional till fields with little surface residue and high-soil-test phosphorus levels are unlikely to show yield responses to starter phosphorus materials, and respond well to nitrogen starter fertilizer formulations only.
    • No-till or minimum-till fields with considerable residue levels and high-soil-test phosphorus levels might benefit from phosphorus and potassium in their starter fertilizer.
  • Starter formulations with sulfur and micronutrients are also an option. However, soil type is a major factor when considering this formulation. Both coarse-textured soil with low organic matter in high-rainfall environments and soils that have demonstrated sulfur deficiency in the past can be responsive to starters that contain sulfur.
  • Soils with high pH can respond well to starter fertilizers that contain zinc, manganese or other micronutrients.
  • Soils that produced nutrient-deficient crops in the past can benefit from starter fertilizer containing the deficient nutrient – whether or not the field meets the criteria listed above for soil-test level or soil type.
  • For farmers that rely primarily on sidedress nitrogen for the bulk of the nitrogen budget, starter materials with a good amount of nitrogen can go a long way toward ensuring adequate nitrogen nutrition until sidedress time. Care should be taken when applying higher rates of nitrogen in close proximity of the germinating seed (especially if using urea-based nitrogen sources).

The use of starter fertilizer materials is an important decision for your farming operation. Make certain your crop is getting the adequate nutrition early in the growing season to make high yields achievable.