What Surface Banding Can Do for No-Till Yields

Surface banding allows no-tillers to apply nitrogen closer to the row without having to buy starter fertilizer systems for no-till planters.

For years we’ve known starter fertilizers have been essential for no-tillers to ensure early-season crop growth.

Last year, for the first time, we tried a new starter system on our planter that included surface banding of nitrogen and sulfur. This let us apply additional N close to the row without buying expensive coulters to inject starter.

This not only lowered the cost of the new system, but we avoided cluttering up the planter with more coulters, which could add weight and reduce residue flow through the machine’s 20-inch spacings.

Even with tremendous amounts of rainfall last year, our corn never showed visible signs of nutrient deficiency with our new fertilizer system. Our on-farm research plots showed a 8- to 10-bushel response in corn and a reduction in corn harvest moisture of 1-1.5%.

An increased rate of starter improved early-season growth, and the other types of broadcast fertilizers spread out the release of these nutrients throughout the growing season — so plants could efficiently use the nutrients we applied.

Helping Plants Out

Since there wasn’t room for fertilizer openers on our planter, we initially moved to a popup system. Using 7.5-9 gallons an acre of 10-34-0 provided us an initial early-season boost to emerging seedlings, but fertilizer rates had to be limited because of potential injury to seedlings with in-furrow application.

While the popup applications helped our corn plants get off to a good start, we sometimes ran short of nitrogen when the plants were in the 12-inch to knee-high range…

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Leverich jim

Jim Leverich

No-Till Farmer's Conservation Ag Operator Fellow for 2022, Jim Leverich is a no-till farmer near Sparta, Wis. His 1,000 acre-farm has been in his family since 1864 and no-tilled since 1984. An innovator and educator, Leverich has 35-plus years of no-till and on-farm research experience, and possesses a deep, practical understanding of what makes no-till work. For his contributions while at the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service, Leverich was named the No-Till Innovator of the Year (Research & Education category) in 2006. A talented presenter and writer, Leverich was a regular guest columnist for No-Till Farmer in 2011 when it earned the Gold Medal as the nation’s top newsletter from the American Society of Business Press Editors.

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