Corn School: Where to place fertilizer in a strip-till system

A custom build 4-row strip tiller with four different fertilizer placements. Photo: Ben Rosser

Where should growers place fertilizer in strip-till strips to best protect the seed from injury while optimizing nutrient uptake?

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs corn lead Ben Rosser says Ontario does have “safe rate” recommendations for in-furrow and 2″x 2″ planter banding but no guidelines are currently available for strip-till fertilizer placement.

On this episode of the RealAgriculture Corn School, Rosser notes it’s unlikely that there’s one perfect placement. The best placement will depend on soil test values, desired rates and the grower’s system.

This summer, Rosser will be working with University of Guelph soil fertility and nutrient management professor John Lauzon on a research project designed to build data to develop safe rates for strip-till fertilizer. With funding from Grain Farmers of Ontario and the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, the research team will use a custom-built 4-row strip tiller to investigate four strip placements commonly used by strip-tillers who employ shank or coulter-based strip units. (Story continues after the video.)

The research project will also look at different fertilizer blends applied in the strip and impacts of application timing — spring versus fall. Rosser notes that soil type will impact safe rate recommendations so the trials will be conducted across a range of soils including clay-loam, loam and sand-type soils. He says the research will help address fertilizer burn concerns in strip-till, including salt injury and urea or ammonia burn when using urea-type fertilizers.

Until safe rate recommendations are developed, Rosser says farmers wanting to push fertility rates should run test strips on their own farms, ideally on different soil types that present different levels of risk, over multiple years.

One idea Rosser would like to explore is how growers could safely split blends within the strip. He says it would be good to measure the impact of placing starter fertilizer like MAP in a shallow portion of the strip and then going deeper into the strip with nutrient sources that are not as safe to feed the crop as the roots develop.

Click here for more Corn School videos.

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