Jump Start Your No-Till Crops

As no-tillers plant earlier in colder soils, starter fertilizer can get your corn off to a quicker start.

As no-tillers strive for higher yields, theyr'e no-tilling earlier every year — often in cold soils that leave seed more vulnerable to insects and diseases. In colder soils, there’s also less microbial action to break down nutrients and get them into a plant-available form.

In this no-till environment, it’s definitely a good idea to use starter fertilizer, suggests Phil Logsdon, research director with Miles Enterprises in Owensboro, Ky. The starter fertilizer can “feed” the seed while the soil is warming up and speed the seedling’s growth so it can out compete potential plant diseases.

Logsdon maintains that using starter fertilizer can help no-tillers achieve much greater plant uniformity. No-till plants that are not uniform frequently compete for moisture and energy with the rest of the crop, he says. Still another benefit of starter fertilizer is the ability to place nutrients more accurately for more efficient use by your no-tilled crops. This is becoming more important as it relates to the increasing number of environmental regulations.

Watch Nutrient Sources

Various types of starter fertilizer are available, and nitrogen is a key component, says Logsdon. He indicates that no-tillers should avoid using starter fertilizer that will turn to ammonia once it gets in the soil (such as urea or ammonium nitrate) as this can cause serious injury to the seedling.

Starter fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus are also good since phosphorus is very important to the plant, says Logsdon. No-till corn plants that do not receive enough phosphorus often look purplish and…

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