For corn and soybean growers, one key decision each season is about the use of a starter fertilizer. Why Starters? It’s simple, just like the name: Get your plants off to a good start by providing an immediate source of fertilizer. The goal is straight forward - providing immediate nutrition to the young seedling to bridge the gap between relying on nutrition from the seed and when the plant must begin to explore the soil and gather needed nutrition from there. This big step for the plant takes root development and root mass, and starters help provide just that effect. The agronomics and economics of a starter fertilizer simply make good sense.
So Why Starters- The Bottom Line- YIELD and ROI!
Plot data from local field trials at our Bath, SD Wheat Growers location have been consistent for several years- starters improve plant and root development and more importantly, increase yield and provide a solid ROI- every year. 2016 data shows that a starter program based on five gallons of 10-34-0 as the base fertilizer provided a 6.9 bushel gain over untreated corn. Additional starter additives increase that response significantly.
So, What Makes Up An Effective Starter Fertilizer Blend?
First and foremost, it starts with a quality liquid fertilizer. The primary nutrient we are looking for is Phosphorus. Phosphorus is critically important in developing a larger root system in plants. Starters provide a high concentration of available phosphorus immediately below the developing plants, allowing early access to this nutrient- before the root system is large enough to explore large volumes of soil. The phosphorus source can come from 10-34-0 (ammonium polyphosphate) or a low salt starter fertilizer source like Jumper Plus. From a starter point of view, either provide a great source of available phosphorus. The orthophosphate phosphorus in Jumper Plus is more available right away to the plant, even in cold soils, and that may be an advantage, but the polyphosphate in 10-34-0 converts quickly in our soils to plant-available ortho forms, and catches up quickly. The low-salt formulation in Jumper Plus provides a broad spectrum of uses- both for corn and soybeans.
What Else Needs To Be In A Starter- The Micros Have It!
Zinc remains a limiting factor throughout areas of corn production. This deficiency is one of the primary reasons zinc is a critical component of nearly every successful starter program for corn production. Zinc and phosphorus are truly partner nutrients- zinc catalyzes phosphorus uptake, and the larger roots provided by phosphorus increase uptake of zinc. Zinc sources need to be chelated to protect the zinc in the liquid phosphate fertilizer blend. Zinc must be added to a straight fertilizer based blend like 10-34-0. Jumper Plus offers a good source of plant available zinc built into the product.
EnhanZe Starter Fertilizer Additive- The Perfect Partner For Starter Fertilizers
One of the hard and fast rules of crop nutrition is that only about 30% of the total phosphorus in the soil profile is available for the plants to access. To address phosphorus protection, zinc and even a biostimulant to further enhance plant growth, South Dakota Wheat Growers developed a unique, proprietary starter fertilizer additive called EnhanZe. EnhanZe contains zinc, in a fully chelated form, fulvic acid to help improve nutrient availability, and a phosphorus availability agent to improve uptake and reduce tie-up in the applied fertilizer or soil.
Bottom Line- Crop Nutrition Early Equals Positive ROI Late
Starter fertilizer are a key to season long healthy plants. If your starter does what it’s supposed to do, yield potential is increased, and that top-end yield is critical to maximizing ROI- on every acre!