Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Corn Response to Banded Fertilizers at Planting

Banding fertilizer around the corn seed during planting is a common practice in the northern Corn Belt. Corn planting is frequently delayed in this region due to cold, wet soils, which result in slow root growth and limited uptake of nutrients during early developmental stages.

The last major evaluation of banded fertilizer in Wisconsin was conducted between 1995 and 1997 (Bundy and Andraski, 1999). Results indicated that full-season corn hybrids increased grain yield with banded fertilizer when planted late. Since then significant production changes have occurred including higher yields using transgenic crops, improved planting machinery and implements, and continued increases in soil nutrient levels. Growers question whether starter fertilizer is even necessary for modern corn hybrids and production practices, yet, often it is applied as “insurance.” Our objective was to evaluate the agronomic response of corn to banded fertilizer.

Plots were established at 11 locations (Arlington, Janesville, Montfort, Fond du Lac, Galesville, Hancock, Marshfield, Chippewa Falls, Seymour, Valders, and Coleman). Fertilizer treatments included: 1) an untreated check, 2) seed-placed fertilizer (10-34-0-1(Zn)) applied in the seed furrow at 4.1 gal/A, and 3) starter fertilizer (9-11-30-6(S)-1(Zn)) applied at 200 lb/A as a band 2 in. to the side of the row and 2 in. below the seed. Split-plots were eight to sixteen corn hybrids ranging in RM by 5-d increments from 80 d- to 115 d-RM. An emphasis was placed upon longer-season hybrids at each location and selection of hybrids differing in emergence vigor. Corn was harvested and yields determined mechanically from the center two rows of each four-row plot.

Figure 1. Corn grain yield response to banded fertilizer. Values are are derived from 578 GxE means and averaged across 2017 and 2018. Research is funded by the Wisconsin Fertilizer Research Council.

During 2017 and 2018 across all locations, significant differences were found for fertilizer treatment (Figure 1). Overall, starter fertilizer produced greater grain yield than seed-placed fertilizer and the untreated check. On average starter fertilizer (228 bu/A) increased grain yield up to 2.4% more than seed-placed fertilizer (224 bu/A) and the untreated check (223 bu/A). During 2017 and 2018, 5 of 11 locations had a significant response to fertilizer treatment. Consistent response across locations were seen at Arlington, Fond du Lac and Marshfield. One more year of research will be conducted during 2019.

The response of corn grain yield to starter fertilizer has been studied extensively in the United States, but the specific combinations of environmental conditions and agronomic factors that result in consistent responses remain unclear. An overall goal of this project is to predict when and where banded fertilizer will provide an economic return for the farmer. For each replicate soils were sampled and tested for nutrients. At the V5-V6 stage of growth, plants from each hybrid were sampled and tissue tests determined plant nutrient concentrations.

Further Reading

Bundy, L.G., and T.W. Andraski. 1999. Site-Specific Factors Affecting Corn Response to Starter Fertilizer. Journal of Production Agriculture 12:664-670.

Additional data:

Table 1. Corn grain yield (bu/A) response to banded fertilizer during 2017.

Table 2. Corn grain yield (bu/A) response to banded fertilizer during 2018.

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