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Update from the Field: Precise Products for Precision Placement

Posted by Dave Dyson, Agronomist on February 19, 2020

The jury is in and the judgment is final, starter works! Liquid starter fertilizer has proven to be effective not only early in the planting season, but even when crops are planted well into June. Before we get too far, you may ask, “How is starter fertilizer effective, even in a late-planted crop?” When we measure starter effectiveness, there are numerous factors we evaluate including germination, emergence, growth, pollination, dry down, and finally, yield. Our recommendation to utilize “Precise Products for Precision Placement” such as a low-salt, high-quality PureGrade® liquid starter placed 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. 

Let us start by looking at germination and emergence. Our first goal when using a liquid 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 just plain run out of energy. Lost plants or slow emergence can translate into yield reduction. If a corn plant germinates and emerges later than its neighbors by one collar stage, it becomes a weed that is difficult to kill. That smaller plant will grow and take in nutrients and water but not produce grain. If you do the calculation, for every 1,000 plants per acre that do not develop an ear, 7bu/ac will be lost. It does not take long at $3.80/bu to pay for a low-salt, high-quality starter application.

Our next goal is to see increased vegetative growth and earlier pollination when a low-salt liquid starter is applied. Even in 2019, when growers faced a late start to the season, plants that received a starter application had increased vegetative growth compared to plants that did not receive starter fertilizer, Figure 1. The accelerated growth continued throughout the season and pollination was observed seven days earlier where the starter was applied, Figure 2. These little successes start multiplying as the season progresses.

Figure 1: The corn on the right of the spade had 5 gal/ac of InfuraMax applied in-furrow. The corn left of the spade did not have a starter applied. The corn to the right of the spade is one full growth stage ahead of the corn to the left of the spade.
 

Figure 2: The corn on the right that had starter applied in-furrow continued to advance more quickly throughout the growing season compared to the no starter corn on the left.

Our final goal is to influence dry down and yield. With delayed planting last season, I debated whether to plant my corn plot at all. I finally planted the plot on June 8. At this time, most growers were in the “cutting inputs” mentality, assuming additional inputs would not provide a positive return on investment. Given this thought, I decided to conduct a starter study to test the theory of starter benefits in a late-planted crop. Despite extremely late planting, at harvest, the treatment that received starter fertilizer observed a decrease in moisture of 1.1% and an increase in yield by 7.8 bu/ac, on average between four replications. Both outcomes are positive and provide a return on investment to the grower.

In conclusion, applying a low salt, high-quality liquid starter fertilizer in-furrow has proven to provide three main benefits to growers - early emergence, quicker pollination, and faster dry down at harvest. If these three main objectives are achieved, higher yields will likely be observed. For more information about The Andersons’ liquid starters, including InfuraMax®, a low-salt starter exclusive to The Andersons Retail Farm Centers, contact your Trusted Ag Advisor from The Andersons.


David Dyson

Dave Dyson is a regional agronomist for The Andersons’ Farm Centers which are located throughout Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. He is an Indiana native and grew up on a dairy farm in Miami County. A graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Crop & Soil Science, Dave has a deep knowledge of various agronomic topics and is committed to helping growers improve their crops. If you have any questions, Dave can be reached at david_dyson@andersonsinc.com

© 2020 The Andersons, Inc. All Rights Reserved. PureGrade and InfuraMax are registered trademarks of The Andersons, Inc.

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