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What Research Revealed About Starter Fertilizer

Does starter fertilizer pay? Several Extension agronomists aren’t completely convinced.

“Starter fertilizer will almost always give you bigger plants at V4 to V5 (corn) range, but yield response has always been erratic,” Joel DeJong, Iowa State Extension field agronomist recently told Farm Journal magazine. “It doesn’t always pay for itself – it just depends on the year.”

A series of 2015 trials from Purdue University revealed similar boost in early season plant height and accelerated plant development – but that didn’t always translate to better yields.

“Despite the consistent increases in plant growth and development and grain moisture at all locations resulting from starter fertilizer, increased yield only occurred at two of six locations,” write Jim Camberato, Cody Hornaday and Bob Nielsen.

The researchers admit there are likely other as-yet-unknown factors that influence corn’s response to starter fertilizer.

“[These] factors thought to influence corn response to starter fertilizer include soil temperature, the difference between air and soil temperature, soil nutrient level, soil strength, hybrid rooting pattern and vigor, seasonal rainfall, irrigation, and general yield level.”

The Purdue researchers say they will conduct additional studies over the next several years so they can better understand what effect more of these factors play in corn response to starter fertilizer. For a more complete recount of the 2015 trials, visit http://bit.ly/1PpIPxU.

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