What is that large fertilizer spreader doing in a field of knee-high corn, spreading dry fertilizer over the top? Isn't dry fertilizer supposed to be spread in the fall or else in the spring before planting?
Betsy Bower would tell you that spreading in the fall and spring are the traditional times to spread, and still work effectively for many producers. But Bower, agronomist for Ceres Solutions and also an Indiana Certified Crop Adviser, would also tell you many producers in west-central and southwest Indiana are finding spreading fertilizer over growing corn can help layer on nutrition, resulting in higher yields.
So don't be surprised if you see a spreader in a corn field, or one or more sitting on a dealer's lot, or being filled up with fertilizer ready to go to the field. Some of them will be spreading nitrogen, but others will be spreading major nutrients and micronutrients needed by the crop.
Many of the soils where Bower scouts and advises farmers are sandy. Some are irrigated, and some are not. "On our sandy soils we are spreading fertilizer over the top multiple times," she says. "Through tissue testing we've found that magnesium and sulfur, as well as potassium, can be low in growing corn plants. The potassium deficiency usually shows up when corn is in the V9 to V 11 stage."
That means corn has 8 to 11 leaves. A leaf counts if it has a collar attaching it to the main stem is visible.
On what she calls sugar sand, Bower says they often apply Kmag plus potash and a "smidge" of urea over the top at V4 to V5, then again at V7 to V8. The idea is to layer of Magnesium and sulfur, and to keep more K in play in the plant as the season progresses.
Many of these fields are irrigated, but not all. If the fields aren't irrigated then they count on rain to solubilize the fertilizer.
"These steps have helped many customers add 100 bushels per acre on these soils," she concludes.
From the corn hybrid you select to the seeding rate and row width you choose, every decision you make influences the size and scope for corn yields. Download our FREE report: Maximizing Your Corn Yield.