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Organics: Maximize Early Season Growth to Increase Yield at Harvest

Posted by Jessica Link, Agronomist on March 15, 2022

Providing adequate nutrition at planting is essential for a productive growing season. When looking at early season growth, consider the nutrients that are necessary at this time, such as phosphorus. Phosphorus is essential for stimulating early season root and shoot growth in seedlings. Phosphorus can be used in the form of starter fertilizer to meet crop needs. When measuring the effectiveness of starter fertilizer, there are numerous factors to evaluate including germination, emergence, growth, pollination, dry down, and finally, yield. Placing starter fertilizer in-furrow or close to the seed helps to achieve three main goals by effectively delivering key nutrients in an available form to the crop – 1) Quick germination and even emergence, 2) Accelerated growth, and 3) Enhanced grain fill and yield. 

The first goal when using a starter fertilizer is to get the seed out of the ground as quickly and evenly as possible. The longer the seed is in the ground and not exposed to the sun, the more likely it will be affected by insect damage, disease, or insufficient energy. Lost plants or slow emergence can translate into yield reduction. If a corn plant germinates and emerges later than its neighbors by one growth stage, it becomes a weed that is robbing nutrients from the productive crop.

The next goal is increased vegetative growth and earlier pollination. Starter fertilizer contributes to accelerated growth throughout the growing season, increasing the photosynthetic ability of the crop. In many cases, starter fertilizer can lead to germination occurring 7 days earlier compared to crops that did not receive the benefits of starter fertilizer.


The Andersons is proud to introduce a one-of-a-kind organic liquid row starter, PureStart. PureStart organic fertilizer is OMRI Listed® and designed specifically for organic production.

Produced from steamed bone meal and other natural components, PureStart is designed for easy flowability with traditional application equipment, and furthermore, has no obnoxious odors.  PureStart is the first high phosphorus liquid organic product specifically designed as a row-starter.  This fully-formulated product, which also includes nitrogen and potassium will stimulate root development and early season growth.

PureStart is designed to be applied using standard starter fertilizer equipment. It may be applied in-furrow or 2x2 at planting. At the time of application, PureStart may be mixed with other liquid products with agitation, like The Andersons Fulvic LQ fulvic acid to increase delivery of applied nutrients.

In 2021 in Wisconsin, PureStart was applied at planting in-furrow at a rate of 5 and 10 gal/acre. The PureStart treatment had 1,900 and 2,600 more plants per acre, respectively, than the treatment with manure only.

In the same 2021 Wisconsin trial, PureStart at a 5 gal/acre rate yielded a 12.74 bu/acre increase and PureStart at a 10 gal/acre rate yielded a 17.25 bu/acre increase at harvest compared to the treatment with manure only.

The final goal is to influence grain fill and dry down. By providing essential nutrients through the season, the crop has adequate supplies to maximize grain fill and remain healthy until harvest. If a crop does not have sufficient nutrition, it will rob nutrients from the stalk and leaves to fill the ear. When this happens, the crop is weaker and more susceptible to lodging. When the crop is properly equipped at harvest, it is able to focus its efforts on grain fill and dry down.

In conclusion, starter fertilizer has proven to provide three main benefits - early emergence, quicker pollination, and faster dry down at harvest. If these three main objectives are achieved, higher yields will likely be observed.

The Andersons is committed to supporting a safe and reliable food supply and organics can continue to be a growing part of the supply chain. To learn more, please click here.

Jessica Link is an agronomist for The Andersons. Jessica is an Ohio native and grew up heavily involved in the agriculture industry through both 4-H and FFA. A graduate of The Ohio State University with a degree in Agronomy, Jessica has a strong understanding of crop growth and development. If you have any questions, Jessica can be reached at

©2022 The Andersons, Inc. All rights reserved. PureStart is a trademark of The Andersons, Inc. OMRI Listed is a registered trademark of Organic Materials Review Institute.

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