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Starter Fertilizer for Corn

Crop and Soil Environmental News, April 1997

Mark Alley
Extension Soil Fertility/Crop Management

Recent research at nine locations in Virginia showed that increasing N rates in starter fertilizer up to 50 lbs N/acre placed in a 2 x 2 band was the most economic way to apply early season N for no-till corn production. Placing N in a 2 x 2 starter band eliminates volatilization losses compared with surface applications, reduces N fixation by microbes that are decomposing surface residues in no-till, and eliminates the potential for run-off losses. Also, the higher N rate ensures that corn will have adequate available N should side-dressing operations be delayed by wet weather. Placement of the starter fertilizer must be at least two inches from the row in order to avoid potential salt injury with higher N rates. Similar research in Indiana and Kentucky also indicates that N is the most important ingredient in starter fertilizers when soils test high to very high in plant-available P. Therefore, starter fertilizer should be blended to supply 50 lbs N/acre and the phosphorus shown to be needed by soil testing.

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