Building High Plant Fertility

Every farmer knows the key to a successful crop is optimal nutrition. And starter fertilizer can give corn and soybeans the boost they need to thrive. For best results come harvest, it’s important to know the basics of starter fertilizer, plus how to select the best fertilizer choice for your farm’s specific needs. 


Starter fertilizer uses planter application to place small amounts of nutrients near the seed to help provide even nutrient distribution early in the season. It can be in either liquid or granular form. But farmers should apply it in the row as a band, pop-up, dribble, or broadcast application. 

This fertilizer type is the best option for fields with early-season stressors, such as cool soil temperatures, early planting dates, or no-till/high-residue fields. It can provide nutrient access in less-than-ideal soil conditions, stimulate early-season nutrient uptake, and increase crop vigor. 

Starter fertilizers assist with the speed of nutrient uptake. By placing the vital nutrients closer to the growing seedling you ensure more timely nutrient capture and early season seedling development. But a starter fertilizer application at planting will improve the availability of nitrates in the soil and keep the crop healthy. This is especially important in wet soil conditions, since plants may struggle to access nutrients in waterlogged soil. This can limit root growth and reduce oxygen availability. Starter fertilizers can help overcome these challenges by making nutrients accessible, even in wet conditions. 

However, this all depends on a variety of factors, including the type of fertilizer used, soil conditions, and type of crop. Soil pH, organic matter content, and the presence of other nutrients can all impact how effectively starter fertilizers improve plant growth and nutrient availability. Work with a local AgriGold agronomist for help choosing the most appropriate starter fertilizer for specific soil and field types. 


Many growers ask, “Is there any value in adding starter fertilizer to soybeans?

This type of application can be a good risk management strategy to ensure soybeans get off to a fast start. In early-planted soybeans, a starter fertilizer application may give growers a head start in the spring when conditions are cool, too dry, or too moist. It can provide key nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus. These can help promote early plant growth and development before or during emergence. Phosphorus helps promote root growth and development, while nitrogen is essential for leaf and stem development. By maximizing access to these nutrients, starter fertilizer can give early planted soybeans a better chance at success. 

But, before you apply a high-nitrogen content starter fertilizer, consult with an AgriGold agronomist. Soybean plants have a unique ability to produce their own nitrogen through a symbiotic relationship with Bradyrhizobium, which can either occur naturally in the soil or be introduced via soybean inoculation. Given that an average 60bu/ac soybean crop needs to produce 360 pounds of nitrogen to thrive, studies suggest that excessive early-season nitrogen application may actually hinder nodule formation.

A proper starter fertilizer can also help reduce the risk of nutrient deficiencies. In some soils, certain nutrients can be either limited in quantity, or unavailable to plants. Starter fertilizer can provide these nutrients directly to the young soybean plants. This ensures the crop has access to everything it needs to thrive and produce a hearty yield. 


A starter fertilizer application at the time of corn planting can benefit overall crop growth and height. It can also decrease time to R1 (silking) and reduce grain moisture content, which can lead to higher yields. 

If there is early-season stress, starter fertilizer can help reduce an uneven stand and ward off potential yield loss. Additional early-season stressors such as cold temperatures, wet soil, disease, and pests can greatly affect seedling growth. These factors cause the plant to quickly fall behind. When this happens, it will struggle to compete for resources in the field. 

Applying a starter fertilizer during planting can give the seedling more vigor to to ward against poor conditions. A starter fertilizer at the corn seed can provide the necessary nutrients for optimal growth. 


Corn and soybeans depend on the nutrients they receive. So it is critical to select the right starter fertilizer. Consult with an AgriGold agronomist to choose the best fertility blend based on soil sampling results, yield goals, and input choices

Since corn is a heavy nitrogen user, opt for a starter fertilizer with higher nitrogen content. For soybeans, choose starter fertilizers with high amounts of phosphorus and potassium. 

When selecting and applying starter fertilizer, it’s important to keep in mind the potential for burn in terms of fertilizer placement relative to the plant. Failure to properly place the fertilizer can result in fertilizer burn, which can harm seedlings. This risk is especially pronounced if equipment malfunctions, such as pumps surging and dispensing too much solution in close proximity to the plant. Therefore, it’s crucial to carefully monitor equipment functionality to prevent such incidents.

Additionally, your crop’s fertilizer and nutrient needs will depend on hybrid/variety selection and product placement. So reach out to your local agronomist to develop a customized plan. 


It depends on soil fertility, crop and field specifics, weather, and planting dates. Typically, farms that benefit the most from starter fertilizer work in no-till or high-residue systems. 

Early-planted fields, especially early-planted soybeans, have also benefited from starter fertilizers. When plants have early-season access to phosphate, their root mass will grow. The larger the root mass, the more soil is available for nutrient extraction throughout the season. 


  • Successful crop growth and development depend on getting the necessary nutrients.
  • If weather conditions turn wet, applying starter fertilizer at planting can improve nitrates in the soil and maintain crop growth. 
  • Starter fertilizer can provide a much needed boost in fields with early-season stressors or poor soil conditions.
  • Additional early-season stressors such as cool weather, disease, and pests can greatly affect seedling growth and success. But starter fertilizer can help provide the necessary nutrients to prevent a bad start to the growing season

At the end of the day, farmers must carefully evaluate the costs and benefits of starter fertilizer before applying it to their field – especially as commodity and input prices fluctuate. For questions or help creating a starter fertilizer plan,  reach out to a local AgriGold agronomist.