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Corn Illustrated: Most of the response is likely due to nitrogen in starter fertilizer.

Tom J. Bechman, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

March 12, 2019

2 Min Read
young corn
GOOD START: Recent studies indicate corn benefits from fertilizer placed on both sides of the row instead of one side, especially if it’s nitrogen fertilizer.

When Randy Dowdy of Georgia — winner of the National Corn Growers Association contest a couple years ago with over 500 bushels per acre — talked about placing starter fertilizer on both sides of the row, people listened. Equipment companies listened, too. Today, various equipment options exist for 2-by-2-by-2 placement on both sides of the row.

Customers of Beck’s Hybrids, Atlanta, Ind., asked about 2-by-2-by-2 placement. “We decided to look at it in our Practical Farm Research program,” says Jim Schwartz, Beck’s director of Practical Farm Research and agronomy.

PFR trial
Beck’s set up a replicated trial at six locations, including Atlanta, in 2017, comparing various rates of liquid nitrogen applied in a 2-by-2-by-2 placement vs. the control, which was 30 units per acre in a traditional 2-by-2 placement. They repeated the trial at three locations in 2018, using the same two hybrids and three rates of nitrogen: 30, 45 and 60 units per acre. The total amount of N applied over the season remained constant.

“When we averaged results from both hybrids and three locations together, we saw a 10-bushel-per-acre increase averaged for 60 units of nitrogen in 2-by-2-by-2 placement versus 30 units of nitrogen in the 2-by-2,” Schwartz says.

Return on investment was $16.47 per year for 30 units in 2-by-2-by-2 vs. 2-by-2. Response was even greater for the higher rates of N in 2-by-2-by-2. ROI was $25.09 per 45 units of N and $39.20 for 60 units in the 2-by-2-by-2-placement vs. the control. There was a wide range in responses by year and location. At Atlanta in 2018, the ROI for 60 units in 2-by-2-by-2 was $90.35 per acre.

“A hybrid, which is more of a racehorse with a comparatively smaller root mass compared to the immense amount of plant vegetation it produces, responded more than the other hybrid to having nitrogen on both sides of the row,” Schwartz says.

2nd trial
To see if there would also be response to phosphorus in a 2-by-2-by-2 placement, Samantha Miller, agronomy information specialist for Beck’s, says a second study was included in PFR research in 2018. This replicated trial was carried out at three locations: Atlanta, Ind., plus Beck’s PFR sites in central Illinois and Ohio.

They still found a healthy response. The response appears to come primarily from nitrogen placed on both sides of the row.

In the 2018 multisite study, 15, 20 and 25 gallons of 18-18-0 in 2-by-2-by-2 placement were compared to the control, which was 15 gallons per acre of 18-18-0 in a traditional 2-by-2-placement. Martin’s Dual UMO 2-by-2-by-2 commercial system was used for the 2-by-2-by-2 placements.

Both hybrids averaged across both sites still showed a 5.5-bushel-per-acre edge and $21.16-per-acre ROI, compared to 15 gallons in 2-by-2-by-2 vs. the control. Yield gain was highest at 25 gallons, but ROI was similar.

“Placing starter fertilizer on both sides of the row encourages roots to grow in both directions, and gets them off to a better start,” Miller says.

About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman is editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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