Effect of Starter Fertilizer on Corn Growth, Development, and Yield

Trial Overview

  • There are several reasons for applying starter fertilizer; it is important to study the outcome of an application of starter fertilizer in fields.
  • These data did not support a clear yield benefit for starter fertilizer in corn; although, height and vigor seemed to improve with the use of starter fertilizer. 

Research Objective

  • The objective of this research was to evaluate the effect of starter fertilizer on corn growth and yield.
Soil Type
Previous Crop
Tillage Type
Planting Date
Harvest Date
Potential Yield
Planting Rate
Monmouth, IL
Silt loam
36,000 seeds/acre

Site Notes:

There were 10 replicates.Half of the plots received 3.5 gal/acre of 10-34-0 fertilizer plus 1 qt of a chelated 0.7% zinc (Zn) product in-furrow at planting time. The other half received no starter fertilizer. All other conditions were the same between the two sets of plots.A 114-day relative maturity SmartStax® RIB Complete® corn blend product was used in all plots.



Understanding the Results

Figure 1. Effect of starter fertilizer on corn yield when comparing the untreated check (UTC).
  • During the early season, plots with starter fertilizer were taller and exhibited more vigor. This was visually apparent through the majority of the growing season.
  • However, this difference in seedling height and vigor did not translate into a yield difference.
  • These results are similar to university trials, which generally indicate starter fertilizer may benefit yield in fields with an underlying fertility issue, reduced tillage systems, and cool soils.1

What Does This Mean for Your Farm

  • Starter fertilizer can increase seedling height and vigor, but this does not necessarily translate into a yield benefit.
  • Starter fertilizer may increase yield in soils with an underlying fertility issue. In these cases, it is important to try to identify and treat the underlying issue.