Penn State
ForagesPeopleTopicsResourcesSelection ToolContact Info

Topics : Soil Fertility for Forage Crops : Establishment

At Establishment

Download this Fertility at Establishment document in Adobe PDF format.

Starter Fertilizer for Forage Crops

Applying a small amount of fertilizer near to the seed at planting time is a well accepted practice in corn production. This practice is known as starter fertilizer. The strategically placed source of nutrients for the young plant has been shown to consistently provide an early growth response and often a yield increase in corn. However, the response of forage crops to a starter fertilizer has not been as consistent. Generally, it is assumed that a starter fertilizer will give a beneficial response only under very adverse conditions such as soils that are very cold and wet, soils with poor physical properties, and soils that are very low in fertility. If a starter fertilizer is used for a forage seeding, there are at least three major management considerations. (1) The starter fertilizer should have a high phosphorus content. Many fertilizers meet this requirement. Dry fertilizer examples include: 10-20-10, 10-20-20, 10-10-10, and 8-32-16. Fluid fertilizers include: 10-34- 0, 7-21-7, and 9-18-9. A fertilizer containing urea should not be used as a starter. (2) The starter should be banded 1 inch directly below the seed. This is especially important for legume seedings. (3) Finally, the rate should be kept below about 60 pounds of nitrogen plus potash in the starter band. This is an important precaution to avoid reduced germination and salt damage to the seedling. If a starter fertilizer can not be banded as described above, a small amount of fertilizer can be broadcast as a starter. However, the broadcast method is less effective than band placement because it will only give a beneficial response under very adverse environmental conditions-when the soil fertility level is low. Routinely broadcasting a small amount of fertilizer as a starter is not recommended under most conditions.