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Starter Fertilizer for Corn

Give seeds a spark early in the season

Starter fertilizer gives corn a nutrient boost right from the start. Because starter fertilizer is applied at planting, the seed receives much-needed nutrients immediately. Early fertilization has many proven benefits, and it just might prove to be the right tool for your farm.

Corn Starter Fertilizer Benefits

Southern States General Manager Lucas Householder says that in his area of Virginia, starter fertilizer is quite popular with corn growers. "By spurring growth first thing in the season, Southeastern growers can take advantage of the wet, cooler springs to prepare for the hot, dry summers," Householder explains.

Especially in cool, sandy soils in Virginia and North Carolina, growers will put down a starter fertilizer to help their crops thrive. Essentially, starter fertilizers put nutrients right where a plant needs it at a time when root growth might be slow.

A growth spurt early can increase yield at harvest time. "It allows growers to plant earlier, which affects yield in a positive way," Householder says.

In addition, starter fertilization can help keep your nutrient management plan on track, and it can be a more effective fertilizer choice. Starter fertilizer methods apply nutrients more efficiently than a traditional broadcast spread.

How Corn Starter Fertilizer is Applied

There are two ways to apply starter fertilizer: side-by-side and pop-up in furrow.


Side-by-side, the more traditional starter fertilizer application method, is applied as a band below and beside the seed. Growers typically add between 20 and 30 gallons per acre of side-by-side as starter fertilizer. "Using side-by-side allows growers to deliver more plant food per acre, but it requires higher amounts of product per acre compared to a pop-up starter," Householder says.

Pop-Up in Furrow

Pop-up fertilizer has gained popularity in recent years. It is added by planters to the furrow along with the seed at planting time. Growers typically use between 3 to 5 gallons per acre of pop-up fertilizer. "Pop-up not only spurs growth with less fertilizer, it can also soften the seed coating and speed up germination," Householder adds.

Use caution, however, with pop-up products, as a high-salt, poor-quality liquid fertilizer can cause salt injury with this method. "If salt injury occurs, germination can lessen and you'll end up with lower population stands," Householder cautions.

Overall, starter fertilizers can be an effective part of a nutrient program in the right situation. For more information on starter fertilizer, please consult your local Southern States professional or local agronomist.

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