5 Reason Why Your Starter Fertilizer Didn’t Work

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Happy Snowy Sunday from Iowa.  This afternoon we want to talk about starter fertilizer.  Specifically, those of you who tried it once and weren’t satisfied.  Today we’re going talk about 5 reasons why “it didn’t work”.

Option 1) You actually used a really good starter fertilizer (it was orthophosphate) and it worked exactly like it was supposed to.  It got a lot of Phosphorous in the plant. So, what could the problem be?  You already had high Phosphorus levels and maybe you already were a little bit low on zinc. This created a problem.  When you shoved that extra Phosphorus into the plant, it created an imbalance and cut your yields. If you’re wondering if that’s possible the answer is without a doubt YES! We have seen it happen. That’s why we recommend a full system and based off of a soil test. We can’t just throw darts at a board.

Option 2) Low quality fertilizer. Once upon a time there used to be a tractor called an Allis Chalmers XT 190. And the XT 190 was actually not a really great tractor because the rear end on it was fundamentally about the same rear end they used in a WD. Therefore, if you bought an Allis Chalmers XT 190, and it blew up, it gave you a lot of trouble. Did that mean that all tractors were terrible? Did that mean that tractors don’t work? No. It meant that we bought the wrong tractor. If we buy starter fertilizer and it doesn’t work, does that mean that all starter fertilizer doesn’t work? Absolutely not. It meant we bought the wrong starter fertilizer.

Option 3) A polyphosphate starter. This starter fertilizer takes a really long time to break down.  Therefore, we don’t get the Phosphorous in the plant like we need. (Even if we apply the right amount of Zinc.)

Option 4) The cost cutter.  Maybe you were told you could save a little money by using some potassium chloride instead of using potassium hydroxide.  Why does this cut yields and profit?  The salt index goes up, the germination goes down, and the bottom line is we are probably losing between  4-000 – 8,000 plants per acre when we do that.  Which makes us lose yield.  On the surface it looks like starter fertilizer didn’t work but in reality we just made a costly choice in an effort to save money.

Option 5) The starter fertilizer wasn’t pure.  Maybe it had phosacid with things like cadmium (a known carcinogen)  Other things that are common in impure starter is mercury and lead. Cadmium (and other heavy metals) in our fertilizer should be non-detectable. If you run a fertilizer analysis that shows any cadmium at all then you’re hurting seed germination bad!  The range in severity runs from destroying the germ (& possibly killing the plants,) to at the very least delaying the germination by several days.  In addition it disrupts cell division, making cell walls implode and they’re not dividing and dividing and growing, slowing down early plant growth. This puts the plant at a HUGE disadvantage from the very beginning and puts the plant way behind.


Here are just 5 of the reason starter might not of preformed like it should have.  If you’d like to learn more about what starter provides a positive yield increase as well as return on investment then let’s chat.   If you have a question about starter fertilizer, something you’re not sure of, if you’re thinking “Hey, what happened here?” Or “What do you think about this?” We’re happy to provide you much needed answers to the best of our abilities. Simply comment here and we will be happy to help!

We appreciate you guys reading this and if it provided you value it would be an honor if you would share it with your friends & family.

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