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Zinc and Sulfur Fertilization for High-Yield Corn Production

Start Date: 2008
Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Vetsch
Organization: University of Minnesota, Southern Research and Outreach Center
Status: Complete

Background Info

Early planting of corn combined with increased residue cover, due to conservation tillage, often results in cooler and wetter spring planting conditions. These conditions can reduce secondary and micronutrient availability in soils, and may result in nutrient deficiencies in young corn plants. Sulfur (S) and zinc (Zn) are two nutrients that may be limiting in corn-on-soybean rotations or during cool and wet spring soil conditions. This research project attempted to fill in the knowledge gap regarding the effects of Zn and S fertilizer in southern Minnesota and answer some of the following questions:

  • What are the soil, agronomic, and/or environmental conditions in which economic responses (i.e., a yield increase) to Zn and S are found for corn in Minnesota?
  • Is a broadcast application of ZnSO4 as effective as a starter band for farmers with large equipment who do not use starter fertilizer?
  • Is there a yield benefit to the sulfate in ZnSO4?
  • Are responses to Zn in corn hybrid-specific?

Objectives

Identify effects of starter-brand and broadcast applications of sulfur and zinc

Determine if corn hybrids respond differently to brand and broadcast-applied Zn

Key Findings

In fields with some marginally deficient grid cells, obtaining an economic return on Zn seems unlikely, especially if the whole field is fertilized with Zn.

More targeted S research is needed to answer questions about placement and rate of S alone and in combination with nitrogen and phosphorus.

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