Jesse Grogan has seen it all in his career with LG Seeds. He’s seen the good years, like 2014, the bad years, like 2012 and the frustrating years, such as 2015. He’s also worked with farmers in years when budgets were squeaky tight, and he knows this is one of them.
So he doesn’t take questions that involve spending money on an input like starter fertilizer lightly. Here’s how he responded when we asked him to address various scenarios that you might find yourself planting into this spring. Grogan is also an Indiana Certified Crop Adviser.
IPF: Suppose I’m a farmer and I will plant into fall-chiseled soybean stubble in some fields. I shoot to start planting around April 25. My soil test levels for phosphorus are high, medium for potassium. I’m equipped to apply starter fertilizer, but I’m thinking about leaving it off this year to save money. I’m asking you if that’s a good move.
Grogan: Use a starter program if you expect a cool and wet spring and you’re planting into a fallow seedbed (without tilling again), or you’re planting into light or poorly-drained soils. Starter with nitrogen will get plants off to an even start.
IPF: Suppose I’m going to till before planting.
Grogan: If you’re doing light tillage ahead of the planter, then a starter could be left out. Soils warm up and are better drained in the seedbed after light tillage, depending upon soil types. Starter has been important in the last few years, however, due to cooler and wetter springs.
IPF: Ok, suppose I’m the same farmer, but I’m going to plant into some fields where the soybean stubble is untouched. I would like to start there by April 15. Now what do you say about starter fertilizer?
Grogan: Definitely use a starter fertilizer program. You’re planting early into a no-till or reduced tillage situation, so yes, I definitely recommend starter fertilizer.
IPF: Ok, here’s one more scenario. Suppose I’m trying cover crops too. I have a couple fields of rye. My goal is to let it grow this spring, then kill it and plant into it. My target planting date would be the first week of May. Would you recommend starter fertilizer now?
Grogan: Absolutely! Use starter fertilizer following a cover crop. Soils are cooler, and there is competition for nutrients with decaying cover crop residue, especially for nitrogen.