By Austin Schultz

It’s that time of year where we should have the majority of our inputs lined up; seed purchased, fertilizer plans in place, and equipment ready to go, but one input can often be overlooked when we look at planting our crops. The importance of starter fertilizer can prove to be very significant this harvest when pulling bushels out of the field.

In southern Minnesota and Wisconsin, we often find that the first few weeks of planting often consist of cool and wet soil conditions. These conditions are when it is most important to use a starter to ensure the success of our crops. A good example of why this is the case, is looking at phosphorus availability during these cool conditions. Phosphorus is very important to corn seedlings and assists in photosynthesis and many other plant processes that affect plant growth. Unlike nitrogen, phosphorus is immobile in the soil so it must be very close to a root for it to be taken up.  At cooler temperatures it is harder yet for the plant to peel the phosphorus molecule off the soil particles. In the chart below, you can see that phosphorus availability has a direct correlation with soil temperatures. If it is not available, your plant is not getting it, which is often why we can see purple leaf tips when the corn plant emerges in the spring. That early stress inevitably leads to less yield.

According to our AYS 2018 data, starter fertilizers helped in adding a range of 5-13 bushels an acre over the thousands of acres recorded. The difference in the range came from the type of fertilizer utilized. Starters can often be overlooked and have proven time and time again to help increase margins and set yourself up for higher yields. Although times are tight, it is important to consider all the different ways we can improve the return on our investment.  A good way to do that is by using the right starter fertilizer. When that plant starts out healthy, it is much easier to keep it healthy and push it further to add more bushels to the bin next fall. Spring is all about starting on the right foot, so start out right by using a starter fertilizer.

Contact your Ag Partners agronomist to discuss starter fertilizer options for your farm. We appreciate all your help and support and look forward to continuing to service your farm in every way possible.