Are 2x2 Starter Fertilizer Programs Profitable In Soybeans?

Are 2x2 Starter Fertilizer Programs Profitable In Soybeans?
Mar 17, 2023

By Michael Staton

Some Michigan soybean producers want to increase soybean yield and net income by applying fertilizer in a 2x2 band at planting—2 inches to the side of the seed furrow and 2 inches below the seed. The high fertilizer prices make it critical for these producers to know for sure if their starter fertilizer program is making them money or costing them money. Because of this, the Michigan Soybean On-Farm Research Program provided producers an opportunity to evaluate the effect of their specific 2x2 starter fertilizer program on yield and income in replicated strips.

10 soybean producers from across Michigan did this in 2021 and 2022 as part of the Michigan Soybean On-Farm Research Program, a partnership between Michigan State University Ex10sion and the Michigan Soybean Committee designed to help farmers evaluate management practices, products and equipment. The 10 cooperating producers compared their existing 2x2 starter fertilizer program (fertilizer analysis and application rate) to a no-starter control.

The 2x2 starter fertilizer programs increased soybean yield by an average of 2.7 bushels per acre at three of the 10 locations. The yields in the other seven sites were not affected by the addition of the 2x2 starter fertilizer. The 2x2 starter fertilizer was profitable at two of the responsive sites. However, the added income generated by the starter was only $4.50 per acre while the cost of the fertilizer programs ranged from $35 to $42 per acre at these sites. The seven unresponsive sites were not profitable with the losses averaging $30 per acre and ranging from $11 to $68 per acre. A detailed summary of the 2021 to 2022 2x2 starter fertilizer results is available in the 2022 Michigan Soybean On-Farm Research Report.

Some soybean producers are also interested in applying starter fertilizers directly in the seed furrow to improve soybean yield and income. Because of this, the Michigan Soybean On-Farm Research Program is providing farmers an opportunity to evaluate the yield and income effects of their in-furrow starter fertilizer programs again in 2023.

Establishing the in-furrow starter versus no starter treatments is as easy as turning the pump off in every other planter pass when using planters equipped with hydraulic pumps. We recommend planting six strips of each treatment to reduce the influence of soil variability on the results.

Gathering the yield data at harvest is also easy when using a well-calibrated yield monitor. Participating producers will provide the average yield from each strip and MSU Ex10sion staff will use proven statistical procedures to determine how the in-furrow starter fertilizer affected yield and income.

Conducting this trial is an easy, accurate, and confidential way for producers to learn if their soybean in-furrow starter fertilizer program is profitable. Producers planning to apply in-furrow starter fertilizer to soybeans in 2023 are encouraged to conduct at least one of these trials on their farm. If you are interested in conducting an in-furrow starter fertilizer trial on your farm, contact Mike Staton at 269-355-3376 or

This article was produced by a partnership between MSU Ex10sion and the Michigan Soybean Committee.

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