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Agronomy Update January 2018

Posted on January 09, 2018

The Andersons Agronomy Update: January 2018

By David Dyson, Agronomist

As we say goodbye to the past and ring in the new year, it is time to look forward to the next cropping season. A good plan can be the difference between an average yield and a great yield. Planning for a successful crop starts right now.

Let us look at some interesting facts before we dive into what kind of starter we need to be looking at to fulfill our needs for the 2018 corn crop. Soil laboratories across the Midwest have compiled some interesting facts regarding soil fertility levels. The critical level of phosphorus, according to most lab recommendations is 15 ppm. A&L Laboratories reports that 31% of soil samples processed through their lab are below 15ppm. Phosphorus is not the only deficient element, as 26% of their samples are below the critical level for potassium. Genetics have played a significant role in this deficiency, as root worm resistant corn has increased the removal rate by the following amounts: 24% more phosphorus, 19% more potassium, and 27% more zinc. Removal rates are not the whole story, however. The free sulfur we have been receiving from polluted air has been cut back to almost zero.

Moving on, researchers are in agreement that applying a row starter at planting will achieve three main objectives:

  • First, a corn seed with starter will germinate and emerge out of the soil faster, and the stand will have a greater chance of being uniform. If a plant emerges 5-7 days after its neighboring plant, the later plant will become a weed that cannot be killed.
  • Second, a corn crop with starter will flower 4-7 days earlier. This may not seem important, but earlier flowering increases the likelihood of pollination during cooler periods.
  • Third, starter will increase grain dry down by 2-3 points. This directly translates into cash saved in drying fuel.

Now that we have established the primary benefits of using a starter, you need to consider which kind of starter will best deliver the nutrients to the corn plant quickly. First, know that all starters are NOT created equal. Differing raw materials and manufacturing processes can yield different qualities and grades of fertilizers. In general, there are two distinct forms of liquid fertilizers – high-orthophosphate fertilizers and high-polyphosphate fertilizers. High-orthophosphate starters like The Andersons PureGrade® Diamond 6-24-6, GoldStart® 6-24-6 or Season Pass® with AVAIL® (6-18-6 + 1.0 S, 0.05 Zn) contain nutrients that are immediately available to the plant. Starters high in polyphosphate like 10-34-0 or 11-37-0 need time and warm temperatures for the polyphosphate to be converted into orthophosphate before being absorbed into the plant. The conversion rate for polyphosphate to orthophosphate is three-to-one: three pounds of polyphosphate is comparable to one pound of orthophosphate. As a result, if you use a high-orthophosphate product you can use a much lower application rate compared to a polyphosphate product.

In addition to the lower application rate, high-orthophosphate products provide other benefits such as lower salt index, near neutral pH, longer shelf life, and let us not forget about the addition of potassium. High-orthophosphate fertilizers also have lower viscosities which mean they flow and pump more easily, especially in cooler temperatures. Finally, due to their characteristics, high-orthophosphate products are recommended for in-furrow placement, making the delivery of nutrients even more efficient.  

In conclusion, using a high-orthophosphate starter such as Diamond 6-24-6, GoldStart 6-24-6, or Season Pass with AVAIL can increase yields and lower drying cost. This has been proven in numerous trials. Recently, The Andersons PureGrade Diamond 6-24-6 was named “PFR Proven” by Beck’s Hybrids and their Practical Farm Research team. This honor is awarded to products that have been tested in PFR and found to provide annual yield gains and averages a positive ROI over a minimum of three years.​



By Dani Kusner, Agronomist



In this 2017 starter fertilizer study on corn performed by Beck’s Hybrids in Ohio, 5 gallons of PureGrade Diamond 6-24-6 outperformed competitor products across two different hybrids. The average 7.5 bu/acre yield advantage over the control resulted in a $10.94 return on investment/acre. 



In this 2017 starter fertilizer study on soybeans performed by Beck’s Hybrids in southern Illinois, 2 gallons of PureGrade Diamond 6-24-6 had yield increases on two varieties, resulting in a 8.9 bu/acre and 1.9 bu/acre increase over the control. This resulted in a $79.85 and $11.33 return on investment/acre respectively. In this study, using PureGrade Diamond 6-24-6 proved more beneficial on the early planting date for soybeans than on later plantings (late May.)

View the complete 2017 Practical Farm Research (PFR)® book.


PureGrade® Diamond 6-24-6



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©2018 The Andersons, Inc. All rights reserved. The Andersons logo, PureGrade, GoldStart, and Season Pass are registered trademarks of The Andersons, Inc. AVAIL is a registered trademark of Verdesian Life Sciences. Practical Farm Research and PFR Proven are trademarks of Beck’s Superior Hybrids, Inc.

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