Is banding fertilizer with soybean seed worth the risk?

Should growers broadcast or band fertilizer at soybean planting?

That’s a question Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) soybean specialist Horst Bohner has been hearing a lot lately. Earlier this week at a virtual Ridgetown/Simcoe agribusiness breakfast meeting, Bohner recommended growers broadcast and incorporate fertilizer at planting rather than banding. “Putting fertilizer with the seed is dangerous because of the potential for burn,” he said.

When growers do opt to place fertilizer with seed, Bohner believes a 2″ x 2″ band is the place to be if they intend to put dry product through the planter. “Some trials do show that 50 lb of MAP in-furrow is okay with soybeans at 15-inch rows, but there is also very little benefit compared to broadcasting,” he said. “That’s why, as an industry, we haven’t gotten too excited about the strategy.”

Bohner notes that OMAFRA research trials indicate that fertilizer application at planting can increase yield up to 5 bu/ac in fields that test low for P and K, “but broadcast incorporated seems to perform just as well compared to banding.” The only caveat, Bohner notes, is when the soil test is really low — that’s when banding starts to shine.

Bohner adds that he’s not opposed to banding fertilizer with soybeans: “it’s a good way to supply nutrients.” He uses the practice in his trials, especially high-yield trials, but he doesn’t feel it’s worth the risk of burning seed. “We don’t see much of a benefit if you just look at the numbers.”

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