Corn Starter; The Catalyst to More Potential

Apr 27, 2022

     Corn starter is a favorite topic for many this time of year. The question of whether or not to utilize a starter turns into conversation about what type of spring we will have; warm or cool, early or late. The success of a corn starter is often tied to a cool spring; however, a starter can have a large impact no matter the spring.
The original job of a corn starter, dry or liquid, is to provide immediate nutrients to a corn plant while in the early stages of growth. This is important because the roots are very small, and unlikely to have found the main source of fertilizer the Co-op may have broadcast on the field. This is especially important for immobile nutrients like phosphorus. Unlike nitrogen, phosphorus cannot move to the roots via water movement. Compounding this issue, the phosphorus in the soil that one would see on a soil test, is often tied up in organic matter until the soil warms up. This is the idea that creates the incorrect stigma that a starter is only needed during cool springs. We know this to be incorrect if the proper products are used. 10-34-0 should be used regardless of what kind of spring we have.
    On top of your typical 10-34-0 liquid starter, zinc has become a major component of most successful starter regimes, and for good reason. Zinc is the nutrient “forklift” to many reactions in the corn plant. Allowing the phosphorus and nitrogen in your 10-34-0 to be utilized in processes including cell elongation, and the production of chlorophyl. Perhaps most importantly in the early stages of a corn plant it is also the driving factor in synthesis of plant growth hormones. These growth hormones are crucial components to everything in the plant’s life including, root development, and germination.
    Plant growth hormones are so critical that many are taking the next step to apply it directly with their starter. They do this with a product call Ascend SL. Ascend SL is a plant growth regulator (PGR) that contains 3 different plant growth hormones. In local tests, a starter with Ascend SL has shown to increase population and plant uniformity, increase root mass significantly, and often be 1-2 growth stages ahead of a starter without Ascend SL. This all creates an average yield benefit of 2.9 bushel/acre and frequently a dryer crop come harvest.
    With options like Ascend SL and zinc added to a corn starter, we can make a starter produce return on investment in almost any spring. Talk to your agronomist about the benefits of a corn starter, and how it can set your crop up for a more profitable year. 

Jackson Gregory
Belgrade Cooperative Agronomist
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