Starter Fertilizer Basics

From AgVenture's Seeds for Success Agronomy Update, December 2015

AgVenture recognizes several important benefits of utilizing starter fertilizers. They can play an important role in optimal stand establishment and development.
Uneven stands have been reported to suffer corn grain yield reductions from six to as much as 23 percent depending on the severity (Nielsen, 2010; Nafziger, et al., 1991). This yield loss could be significantly reduced by starter fertilizer applications in cases where the primary cause of uneven stands is the inability of the young nodal root system to access sufficient soil nutrients.

Starter fertilizers, small amounts of plant nutrients – nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are placed in close proximity to the seed, usually at planting. Placement can be directly below, to the side, or to the side and below the seed. Growers sometimes consider broadcast or liquid fertilizer application to the soil surface as "starter"; however, these should not be included because nutrient placement is positionally unavailable to early seedling growth. To be a "starter," nutrients must be strategically positioned to enhance early seedling vigor and development.