By Steve Sexton & Brian Cornelious, PhD, Agricen
Growers use starter fertilizers to try to get plant nutrients in the right place at the right time for early plant growth. By applying small quantities of nutrients close to the seed in starter programs, growers can usually get their crops off to a good start—an advantage they can often maintain during the growing season. However, as with any fertilizer program, making sure that applied nutrients in a starter program are in a plant-available form right when the crop needs them most can be a challenge. How can growers improve the efficiency of their starter programs and realize the payoff of higher yields in the process?
Most standard starter fertilizers are primarily composed of the polyphosphate form of phosphorus, allowing inclusion of tank mixed micronutrients. Polyphosphate must be converted into orthophosphate (a plant-available form) before plant uptake and utilization. A typical starter program in the U.S. Corn Belt is 5 gallons of ammonium polyphosphate (10-34-0) plus 1 quart of zinc. Other starter fertilizer products, such as those from Loveland Products, provide highly efficient starter packages that typically can be applied at lower rates than standard polyphosphate with similar results in the field. All of these types of starter fertilizers benefit from the addition of the biochemical technology contained in Accomplish LM (for liquid programs) or Titan XC (for impregnation on dry fertilizers), which speeds up the conversion of polyphosphate into plant-available orthophosphate and releases tied-up nutrients in the root zone. Both products can also facilitate nutrient uptake by increasing feeder tip roots and root mass for improved plant performance.
By enhancing and speeding nutrient conversion and release in the soil and by facilitating plant uptake, biochemical technologies can make good starter programs even more efficient and productive:
Corn Starter Trials - Redfield, South Dakota
In two corn starter trials, the grower’s standard practice was 5 gallons of 10-34-0 plus 1 quart of zinc. The grower's standard alone was compared to the grower's standard plus 1 quart of Accomplish LM.
The Results? In the first trial, the corn yield was 132.0 bu/acre without Accomplish LM compared to 140.7 bu/acre with Accomplish LM, an 8.7 bu/acre yield increase with the biocatalyst technology. In the second trial, the yields were 97.9 bu/acre without Accomplish LM compared to 108.0 bu/acre with Accomplish LM, a yield increase of 10.1 bu/acre with the biocatalyst technology.
Overall, adding Accomplish LM to the grower's standard program out-yielded the grower's standard alone by an average of +9.4 bushels per acre, also providing ROI to the grower.
Corn Starter Trials - Minnesota/South Dakota (Multi-Year)
The data charts below show two- and three-year averages from Minnesota and South Dakota innovative plots conducted by Nutrien Ag Solutions. Riser was applied at 2.5 gallons per acre and Accomplish LM was applied at 1 pint per acre in the starter band at planting. In the top chart, a 7.3 bushel per acre increase over the check demonstrates the effectiveness of using starter fertilizers.
When Accomplish LM is added to the starter fertilizer (below), that rises to 13.6 bushels per acre over the check.
This data is a good demonstration that the addition of a biochemical fertilizer catalyst to a starter fertilizer program can increase the efficiency and uptake of those nutrients.
Growers that use starter fertilizers, whether polyphosphate (10-34-0) or higher-efficiency products, can improve the efficiency of their programs and realize higher yields by including the concentrated biochemistry provided by Accomplish LM and Titan XC.