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Why Starter Is Critical With No-Tilled Corn

Adding potassium to your starter fertilizer may prove especially valuable.

Even with a growing trend toward higher soil fertility levels, starter fertilizer still appears to be a good investment for most no-till corn growers. In fact, recently completed University of Wisconsin research indicates that no-till and other reduced tillage systems may even have higher-than-expected potassium needs.

Larry Bundy, a Wisconsin soil scientist, says no-tillers can use starter to help overcome the impact of soil compaction, low soil temperatures, high soil moisture and other factors that sometimes reduce early season corn growth.

Works Better Later

Bundy found that applying starter fertilizer with later no-till plantings stimulated early season plant growth when compared to corn that received no starter fertilizer. A resulting spurt of early plant growth allows the corn to reach more of its yield potential prior to the end of the growing season. Besides benefits for later planting, he also found that the response to starter fertilizer appears more likely when longer-season hybrids are no-tilled on high-testing soils.

The Wisconsin response to starter fertilizer in high-testing soils was more likely when soil potassium levels were below 140 parts per million. With conventional tillage, soil scientist Dick Wolkowski found that banding potassium will partially offset corn yield reductions in compacted soils even with relatively high soil-potassium levels.

No-Till Fertilizer Placement Counts

Bundy is convinced that no-till yield responses with high soil-fertility levels are due to effective placement. In fact, the actual placement of starter will have a significant impact on early season growth and can help you overcome nutrient-uptake limitations that…

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Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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