Maybe you see the need to apply starter fertilizer but are a year away from switching planters and don't want to invest in starter application equipment on your current planter, which came without fertilizer attachments. Or maybe you don't think you have time to line everything up and make the switch this year. Are there other ways to get nitrogen and other nutrients that might go on with starter applied to your crop and still reap some of the same benefits as if you applied row starter fertilizer in corn?
Betsy Bower, and agronomist with Ceres Solutions, Terre Haute, believes that there are other options. She's worked with growers in western and southwestern Indiana for more than two decades, helping them fine-tune their soil fertility programs. Some of them apply starter fertilizer, but others don't.
She also coordinates the Crops Corner and Hoosier Bug Beat panels for the Indiana Certified Crops Advisers. These columns appear regularly in Indiana Prairie Farmer. Look for information about the potential value of applying row starter, even if you haven't in the past, in the February issue.
Meanwhile, here are some thoughts about alternatives from Bower, herself a current writer on the CCA panel. "You can get pre-plant nitrogen and sulfur (onto your field) in other ways if you do not want to invest in starter," she says. "You can apply N and S with your preplant herbicide."
That assumes you're making a pre-plant herbicide application. More people, even those with Roundup Ready crops, are returning to soil-applied herbicide applications to supplement the use of glyphosate later. Part of the reason for the switch back toward having some soil-applied residual herbicide available is the weed resistance issue. The other advantage is having early season weed control if wet weather delays application of postemergence products, as it has for the past two springs in many areas of Indiana.
Pay attention to labels and ask for advice from your fertilizer dealer if you choose to apply N and S with herbicides, Bower cautions. With some herbicides, you need to watch the ratio of ATS (sulfur-supplying component) with nitrogen in the mix.With some herbicides, Bower says, ATS can only make up 10% of the total mix to keep all products in the tank in suspension.