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Starter Fertilizer 101

March 11, 2021

Shannon Schumacher

Regional Sales Agronomist MN/WI


by Shannon Schumacher, Regional Sales Agronomist (SE MN & NW WI)

Walking into the coffee shop, I’m sure there’s a chance you can hear 2 growers debating over whether starter, or pop-up fertilizers, consistently work. Many factors can play into this, for example the delivery system, type of starter, soil temperatures, soil fertility, and climates among other aspects.

By combining quality nutrients, a carbon-based approach, and a low pH delivery system, QLF has seen consistent results using starter fertilizers all around the US. For over 5 years, a carbon-based stater approach showed that plants treated with L-CBF were on average taller than plants treated with other starters, or with none at all. Increasing early season growth in corn carries multiple benefits, including quicker canopy cover, less weed competition, reduces soil evaporation, and lower moisture at harvest. L-CBF approaches showed increased nutrient accumulation of phosphorous and potassium at V6 by 9% and 9%, respectively.

L-CBF 7-21-3 MKP offers many benefits compared to other starter fertilizers on the market, and it is not in the numbers. MKP stands for monopotassium phosphate. This is a product that is not commonly found in the fertilizer market, it is a high-quality orthophosphate with a nutrient analysis of 0-52-38. By combining a high-quality product, MKP, with a carbon-based approach, we observe better, healthy starts for many crops. This can be credited to the sugars, or carbohydrates, large nutrient profile, and plant protective compounds found in molasses. Remember, molasses is “how plants do sugar”.  L-CBF 7-21-3 MKP combines the best of both worlds, a high-quality nutrient source (MKP) with a carbon-based approach (molasses), and delivers it with a fermentation yeast extract (biological enhancer) in a low pH delivery system. This system allows biology to be more active and therefore more active nutrient cycles and better healthy starts for crops.

Starter fertilizers are the first runner in a long race. There is always a need to hand off the baton to the next runner, in order to win the race. In 2020, an independent, replicated trial was conducted in Wyoming IL. The purpose was to demonstrate the yield and ROI improvements from utilizing an L-CBF approach.  L-CBF demonstrated better plant vigor, greater kernels/row, row/ear, and yield along with exceptional crop growth development from planting to maturity. The data revealed that the QLF Agronomy Program showed a $103 advantage in ROI and a 34 bushel per acre yield advantage over the Control. (ROI based on $3.92 corn) The combination of 2 GPA BOOST foliar at V4 and in-furrow placement of L-CBF 7-21-3 MKP starter at 4.75 GPA with an added quart of CornSpike (dual chelation Zinc blend) significantly improved the start and crop growth development through maturity over the Control (4.75 gals of water in-furrow and 2 gal water foliar at V4). All treatments also received a base fertilizer program of Urea (300 lbs), MAP (50 lbs), and Potash (150 lbs).

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