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Fertilizer Placement: Starter Fertilizer
January 2013

By David Mengel, Ph.D.
Professor of Soil Fertility and Crop Production
Kansas State University
Phone: 785-532-2166

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Under low fertility, responsive conditions, the use of a starter P or K fertilizer can enhance yields. Phosphorus is normally thought of as the nutrient most important in Starter fertilizers, but N, P, K, S and Zn can also provide benefits when applied in a band close to the germinating seed. Some of the benefits normally associated with starter fertilizer use are: enhanced early growth; hastened crop maturity; lower grain moisture at harvest; increased yield at low soil test levels. Starter fertilizers can be applied in many ways, including the traditional 2x2 placement 2 inches to the side and 2 inches below the seed, surface or dribble banding, or as pop-up or in-furrow placed. One of the key issues when using starter fertilizer is the potential for ammonia or salt injury. To reduce the potential for injury to germinating seed and seedlings, limit the N plus K content to 6-10 pounds per acre; on a 30 row basis (proportionally higher rates can be applied in narrower rows).

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