Published on Friday, March 6, 2020
For many years, research has been conducted on starter fertilizers and placement, either in the row or near the row. The visual observations of the response to a starter often do not necessarily match up with the data at the end of the season. As we continue to learn and develop new products and application technologies, the results seem to be more promising and the responses more consistent. Beck's PFR continues to investigate some of the new application technologies and products that may provide a benefit.
In all likelihood, the best place to start is with phosphorus (P) for a few reasons. First, available P is typically found in lower concentrations in soil water, usually between .01 and 3 ppm. Secondly, it moves into the plant mainly through a process called diffusion. This process moves the nutrient only millimeters each day. The plant takes up P in the orthophosphate form which is either the H2PO4 - or HPO4-2 molecule (the predominant form present is determined by pH).
As a result, the best way to help mitigate P deficiency to increase the concentration of it in the orthophosphate form and improve placement, since it moves so little in the soil. Other nutrients such as zinc, will also likely benefit from placement due to their low mobility in the soil and the fact that smaller amounts are required to grow a crop. Beck’s PFR has tested, and will continue to test, a number of products that attempt to solve both the concentration and placement question.
The other way to help increase P uptake could be through the development of mycorrhizae. These fungal “arms” attach to the root and help extend the reach of the root hairs, increasing surface area and therefore aiding in uptake of nutrients like P that have limited soil mobility and are found in low concentrations in soil water. The word mycorrhizae means “fungus root.” Beck's is testing various biological products that may aid in creating a favorable environment for mycorrhizal development.
Photo Credit: The Rhizosphere, Second Edition
Certain practices can either increase or decrease the presence of mycorrhizal fungi. Heavy tillage can reduce the levels of mycorrhizal colonization, so if tillage is part of your operation, perhaps the use of a product or practice promoting mycorrhizal fungi has merit. Certain crops, such as cover crops in the mustard family, can inhibit mycorrhizae the following year. If you use a mustard species as a cover crop, consider promoting mycorrhizal fungi in another way.
Beck’s PFR has tested 2x2x2 systems Yetter Dual 2968 Series and Precision Planting's Conceal system over the past three years and witnessed consistent yield gains of 7.0 Bu./A. more when placing nutrients on both sides of the plant. Instead of using one coulter, we now have two. Fertilizer is applied in the same amount in the 2x2x2 as the 2x2 system, but with a reduced salt load on the plant. Nutrients can be more evenly applied to the plant in a 2x2x2 system, resulting in improved root and plant health, as well as root uniformity. An unintended result of placing nutrients only on one side of the row is preferential root growth. Roots proliferate in the direction of higher nutrient concentrations, leaving the other side of the row relatively underdeveloped.
It is challenging to draw direct correlations to a product as it relates to starters and micronutrients. More than likely, the benefits will be driven more by cultural factors such as planting date and soil temperature, or your tillage system and fertility levels in the field. However, in some circumstances, we have observed differences in hybrid response to starter fertilizers based on differences in early-season root growth.
Martin-Till® is a registered trademark of Martin Industries, LLC. P Max® is a trademark of Midtech R&D, Inc. (Manufactured for: Rosen's, Inc.). NACHURS® is a registered trademark of NACHURS ALPINE SOLUTIONS. PureGrade® is a trademark of The Andersons, Inc. FurrowJet™ is a trademark of Precision Planting. Seed-Squirter® is a registered trademark of Capstan Ag
Author: Jim Schwartz
Categories: Agronomy, Agronomy Talk