Second Helpings: The importance of post-plant nutrients

Picture this: you've just finished a hearty meal, but you're still hungry for more. You go back for seconds to get all the nutrients you need to feel satisfied. In many ways, side dressing nutrients for corn is like going back for seconds at the dinner table, providing a spoon feeding of a three course meal right to the crop before and during the growing season. It's about providing the crop with essential elements, ensuring it has everything it needs to thrive and reach its full potential.

Pre-plant fertilization lays the foundation for healthy growth, whereas post-plant (or in-season) nutrition plays a crucial role in supporting corn plants during critical development phases, setting the crop up for the best yield potential. Side dressing nitrogen and other nutrients is a great option to continue to spoon feed that crop into success.

Dr. Jake believes, generally, a planned side dress application is valuable. Planned applications allow you to adjust for economics and weather. For example, the early growing season often has low temperatures which slow down nitrogen mineralization and leave the corn crop vulnerable to nitrogen deficiencies. Economically nitrogen prices change throughout the year and side dressing nitrogen may or may not be a good value. Always check with your Liqui-Grow Sales Applicator to learn about up to date pricing.


Timing Matters: V5, V9, VT


Dr. Jake emphasizes the value of side dressing nutrients before V5 for a few reasons:

  1. Nutrients are limited because of slow mineralization early in the season, back to the cold soils again…
  2. Low nutrient availability and small root size means the roots often aren’t large enough to find the nutrients available. By side dressing nitrogen, you can increase your odds of keeping that plant on track to yield well.

If you are experiencing greater than normal spring rainfall, planning a V5 or before side dress nitrogen application can really benefit small corn plants. Rain can push nitrogen deeper into the soil, and the small roots are just often not large enough to keep up with the nitrogen moving through the soil profile. By V5, roots are established, facilitating nutrient uptake, including water, crucial for ongoing growth. Focusing on nutrient uptake during this phase sets the stage for effective plant development throughout maturation.

If you have low CEC soils or know you have low soil fertility because of soil tests taken, this could also be a great opportunity for side dressing. Check with your local Liqui-Grow Sales Rep to find out more!

Larson, E. (2023) V3 Growth Stage. Mississippi State Extension. https://www.mississippi-crops.com/2023/04/21/how-to-determine-corn-vegetative-growth-stages/


For Dr. Jake, "in-season application" ideally occurs before V5, but certainly before V9. The old way of thinking was to get that nitrogen on right before V9, so it’s there and later in the season, but there is lots of research to debate this theory. Beyond V9, there's a risk of stunting plant growth & yield, especially with a nutrient split of 75% before or at planting and 25% after - or any ratio that is less than 75% at or before planting. Typically, Midwest soils can adequately support nutrient uptake from V9 up to VT, depending on adequate soil moisture levels. By V9 through VT, the crop is at its peak nitrogen absorption rate per day, meaning delaying application until after V9 puts the crop at a disadvantage in terms of nutrition. Even though farmers have been across the fields “a lot” in a short amount of time, delaying the side dress pass can ultimately hurt yield, keep your equipment “warmed up” and ready to go again!

If you have questions about what this means, contact a Liqui-Grow Sales Applicator, or check out this video: Is Side-Dressing Nitrogen Worth It This Year?

Nielsen, R. (2000) V9 Growing Point & V9 Whole Plant. Purdue University. https://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/corn/news/articles.00/Growing_Points-0510-Gallery.html


Nitrogen uptake will peak at VT, and by this time the soil will provide enough nitrogen through mineralization to carry the crop, as long as adequate soil moisture is present to carry the nitrates. Late season N applications will only be beneficial in certain conditions.

The Extras - Just like mashed potatoes are good, they are better with gravy.

Side dressing nitrogen is important but with today's hybrids available to us, the potential of these hybrids, and the modern day cropping practices farmers participate in, we can see a benefit in adding some potassium and sulfur. Oftentimes these added nutrients can help combat limiting factors for plant development. Boron and zinc can even be added to your side dress mixture for additional micronutrients in your application.

Potassium (K):

Potassium is essential for various physiological processes in corn plants, including water regulation, enzyme activation and stress tolerance. While pre-plant applications are often the only recommendation for potassium, there are situations where side dressing with K can provide additional benefits, especially in fields with specific challenges.

  • Jake’s recent research trials suggest that applying potassium solely at pre-plant results in stronger crops than a 75% up front followed by a side dress of 25% ratio. However, there are times you’ll see a “bang-for-your-buck” with additional K in your side-dress application those are:
    • fields experiencing dry springs, or sandy/droughty soils
    • low and limited soil potassium levels
    • compaction issues (where roots have been limited)

Applying 10 to 15 pounds of potassium during side dressing, particularly in sandy or low-potassium soils, can help address deficiencies and promote optimal crop growth. Liqui-Grow manufactures its own 0-0-12 product to be used during the side-dress season. Just so you know, adding potassium to the tank can be tricky. It’s important to have the correct N to K ratio, and your Liqui-Grow team is knowledgeable and ready to help.

Sulfur (S):

Corn needs sulfur for proper development and over the past 10-15 years we have seen an increase in crop need for sulfur, here in the Midwest. To delve into why corn needs sulfur, check out this blog post from Jan! An extra benefit to using Sulfur in with our side dress nitrogen is its ability to act like a nitrification inhibitor, because it slows the nitrification process, leaving more nitrogen available for uptake for a longer period.

Recommended ballpark sulfur rates vary depending on crop rotation and soil type. For corn on corn, applying 20 to 25 pounds of sulfur per acre is advisable, while corn after soybeans may require 15 to 20 pounds. In sandy/droughty soils, we like to see 30 pounds regardless of crop rotation. For more specific rates tailored to your operation, give us a call!

In cool early season soils, sulfur applications can be a huge benefit to the corn crop, especially since it’s just not readily available until the soils warm up. But if your crop is on track, and the economics make sense, adding additional sulfur into your side-dressing application can result in a positive ROI for your operation. Find out more in our video: Sulfur: When is Enough, Enough?

Finishing Touches

By incorporating potassium and sulfur into your nitrogen side dressing application, you can provide your crop with the extra nourishment it needs to thrive. With the right approach, side dressing nutrients become a recipe for success in corn production.

Your Liqui-Grow Sales Applicators are happy to discuss the best option for your operation. Liqui-Grow is proud to offer

  • custom side dress applications
  • bar rentals if you prefer to do your own application and
  • high-quality products like our 20-0-4-2
  • Delivery or pick-up of product as well

We pride ourselves on being able to work with your operation, and fill your crops needs.

Questions? Give us a shout!

Text us at 564-220-2508 or email questions@liqui-grow.com.

Starting Strong with Starter Fertilizer


Do you know how the weather will shake out this spring? We don’t either, but numerous research studies have shown average U.S. corn yields increase with the addition of a starter fertilizer. Here in the Midwest we are very used to seeing all four seasons in one week, sometimes in one day– as an insurance policy against all of the elements, starter fertilizer is a great addition to your spring plan. So what does starter fertilizer provide?

In this blog, we’ll learn about the importance of starter fertilizers by understanding starter basics, when to use starter fertilizer, and what to consider while using starters.

Understanding Starter Fertilizers

Starter fertilizer is a combination of nutrients applied to the crop at or around planting. Depending on the placement of the starter fertilizer, the nutrient application consists of phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, nitrogen and zinc. Starter fertilizer can be especially helpful in environments such as:

  • no-till or reduced-till soil
  • sandy soil
  • cool soil
  • soil with low organic matter
  • soil with low P, K & other soil minerals

As we continue to plant earlier in April, these soils are oftentimes colder than the crop needs for adequate nutrient uptake. Soil nutrients are slow to mineralize in cold soils, and starter fertilizers offer crops nutrients that may not be readily available in the soil during times of unseasonably cold weather or exceptionally early planting where nutrient movement and absorption is noticeably slower. By using a starter fertilizer early in the growth cycle, you can help ensure proper root development—which is essential for successful yields. Why? Because corn has little, itty-bitty roots that can’t always reach the nutrients present in the soil. By using starter fertilizer and placing it close to those roots, it helps the crop out while it is young. Kind of like a hearty breakfast early on can jumpstart your day, a strong starter fertilizer early on can jumpstart your corn crop! Even for well-producing fields, starter fertilizer can be advantageous for yields and as Dr. Jake states, “a cheap insurance policy” to hear what else Dr. Jake says about starter fertilizer check out this liqui-grow loop: https://youtu.be/yuRvWZ27oi4?si=F9DIc8Fvvgo1sr8r


Why Starter Fertilizers?

Root Development

After germination, corn kernels develop two root systems. The first set of roots  developed are seminal roots, followed by nodal roots crucial for nutrient uptake. If nodal roots face stress, it can hinder nutrient absorption and overall plant growth. And when a plant’s health falls behind by two or more growth stages, it becomes very difficult for that plant to catch up, therefore hurting overall yields.

Rented Land Fertility

According to Iowa State University, about 60% of crop ground is rented land. While we know it’s possible to build soil fertility over time, short term leases can pose a risk for renting low-fertility fields, as tenants might not take as good of care of the farm as long term leases. This is another instance where starter fertilizer can bridge that gap, providing necessary nutrients for a relatively low cost with a more immediate return on investment. A great way to be aware of your soil fertility is through soil sampling– check out our last blog to learn more on soil sampling!

Photo of Tractor planting with fertilizer


Starter Fertilizer Considerations

The goal of any fertilizer is to feed the crop and the yield. That being said, we always want to be conscious of seed injury. When talking about starter fertilizer, we specifically want to be aware of salt injury which means some nutrients have higher salt contents and if they come in contact with your seed corn, they will injure or kill the seed. It’s very important to know what products you are using and what placement you have available on your planter. Never hold this information back when working with an ag retailer, we don’t want to give you the wrong information because we didn’t know all the pieces to the puzzle.  

6-24-6-.25 (Zn) 

6-24-6-.25 (Zn) is a seed-safe in-furrow starter fertilizer with low salt content. With the recommended three to six gallon per acre application, salt injury is uncommon. As Dr. Jake says, this is the “crown jewel of starters and an extremely successful product of Liqui-Grow.” 


For fields with significantly low phosphorus and potassium levels, 4-10-10 is another quality starter fertilizer option. This is an out-of-furrow fertilizer, allowing higher application rates without seed injury in the 10 to 20 gallon per acre range. Choosing a starter fertilizer can have many considerations, including soil health and even efficiency preferences—higher application rates will mean more stops to fill up.

18-3-3-3-.15 (Zn)

Another option to consider, especially for high phosphorus and potassium soils, is our 18-3-3-3-.15(Zn). This is a complete N, P, K, S, and Zn starter. Our 18-3-3-3 is an out-of-furrow fertilizer with application rates in the 15-30 gallon per acre range. This is a great option for continuous corn since it provides a readily available source of nitrogen, when we commonly see N tied up in residue. 

Talk to your Liqui-Grow sales applicators to learn more about which starter fertilizer is right for you.

To Conclude

Starter fertilizers can positively impact corn yields, especially in specific geographical regions or under certain soil conditions. In essence, starter fertilizers are like a booster shot for young corn, providing the plants with the nutrients they need to thrive during the critical early stages of growth. 


Questions? Give us a shout!

Text us at 564-220-2508 or email questions@liqui-grow.com.

Prepare for Spring: Sampling, Mapping, Planning and More!


Dr. Jake said it best: “Soil sampling is about tracking where you’re going,” regardless of when or how you sample. Soil sampling procedures look different from farm to farm, and even field to field. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider spring sampling:

Timing Matters

Consistency is key. Depending on your operation, you may sample soil in the fall or the spring. For the most accurate analysis, maintaining that timing is important. If you test in the fall, it is a good idea to continue to test in the fall. However, if there is a need to switch sampling seasons, spring can be advantageous. 

Logistically, having the soil information in hand from a spring sampling gives you ample time to prepare for fall fertilizer applications. By using a spring sampling schedule, you are able to better capture the fertility needs as pricing and contracting become available throughout summer and fall months. Particularly if you're considering a variable rate strategy, this will allow you to build those VRT plans based off of soil fertility recommendations. The benefit to spring sampling is being able to plan better and make more informed decisions instead of the often rushed feeling we get when trying to sample in between harvest and fieldwork in the fall- not to mention throwing the possible rain event in there, as well!  

It’s also important to know that previous crops, like corn, can also leave residue which will continue to deposit potassium into the soil over the winter. This can change your potassium levels from fall to spring and therefore would change the soil analysis over the winter, as well. This is also a good reminder that once you establish a spring sample cycle, maintain it.  

Optimizing Insights

Soil sampling is a fantastic tool to understand your soil health. One specific way to sample soil is with a grid sampling approach. This approach essentially looks at a field and makes a map of that field based on a specific grid. This can be anywhere from 10-acre grid plots down to 1-acre plots, but, most commonly, grid sampling looks at 2.5-acre plots. 

For example, a sample is taken from each 2.5-acre grid section of your field, and upon analysis, gives you a map overview of that field. This map shows a prediction of the strong and weak points of your field, allowing you to customize fertilizer application, targeting the areas that need it most. This can be especially beneficial in fields we have seen historic manure applications made. If we rely on 40 acre composite samples, we might hit a “hot spot” that would cause a misrepresentation of that field’s overall actual soil fertility. Ask your Liqui-Grow Sales Applicator for more information on this! 

While certain soil health components, like pH, may not change drastically from one grid square to the next, nutrients like phosphorus and potassium can. And unless you grid sample, you won’t know if you need variable rate application. 

Think of grid sampling like the saying, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.” Grid sampling allows you to identify the weakest links. 

There are many other ways to “skin this cat”, and if you are interested in soil sampling options, and what will benefit your farming operation the most, please reach out to our Liqui-Gow Sales Applicators.

Cost-Effective and Efficient

The fastest way to improve yields and return on investment from your crop is to know your soils across the farm. Variable Rate Application, or VRT, will essentially allow you to do this. We already know that grid sampling gives you a map that pinpoints areas that may need some added nutrients. Using that data, and a few other layers of information, we can create a variable rate fertilizer strategy to meet those fertility needs and improve the farm profitability.

Most of the time, variable rate can be much more cost-effective because you are applying nutrients where you need them, rather than a blanket application across every acre. You have more specific data to create a better fertilizer plan and you have a more specific application process; you’re not buying based on unknowns. 

While this may be a more in-depth process compared to other sampling and application methods, the return on investment with this individualized practice is worth it, in most cases.

Partner with the Experts

Soil sampling, in any form, is a tool designed to help you make the best decisions to improve your yields. In terms of soil sampling, Dr. Jake encourages farmers to ask themselves: “Does this make sense for this field and for my operation?” 

Dr. Jake put this video together on soil sampling, if you have more questions, check it out!
Soil Sampling – Grid Samples vs. Composite Samples. Which is Better?



With so many tools available, and so many details concerning individual field needs, the Liqui-Grow team is ready to help you make the best choice for your farm. Contact your local Liqui-Grow Sales Applicator to start the sampling process in your fields!

Questions? Give us a shout!

Text us at 564-220-2508 or email questions@liqui-grow.com.

Quarterly Newsletter: May 2020

May Newsletter Banner Image


Continual Safety and Service

Securing Seeds

Control Your Yield


Owner's Update

Liqui-Grow is a family-owned business (62 years) focused on serving its employees and Midwest farm customers. We are proud to maintain an employee management team that welcomes input and takes quick action when called upon, especially during these unusual times. Every spring we work to keep a safe and secure work environment, but this spring we had to up our game to meet the new challenges.

The safety of and service to each and every Liqui-Grow customer was considered with changes we made this spring in providing products/services to them. We want to thank them for their support. We also want to thank each and every employee for their support and extra effort this spring to keep our teams safe and viable during this busy spring season.

As a family-owned business that is not handcuffed by any bureaucratic processes or distractions, we are able to make decisions that are sensitive, nimble and timely recognizing the impact not only on our employees and customers, but us directly.

As we enter this next phase of our growing crop, both customers and employees can be assured that we are being very thoughtful in balancing many needs for creating future successes in 2020.


Thanks so much for your support.

-Scott, Hov & Bruce Tinsman

photo of owners


Securing Seeds

photo of Katie Hess
Katie Hess
Seed & Seed Treatment Manager










"We were extremely proactive as a company this spring, and took seed delivery to our locations sooner than usual to try and secure our customers’ orders and requests."

I am 33 years old and I’ve been reminded over and over again the past 2 months of what unprecedented times we are living in and we’ve never seen this, hopeful to not see it again in my lifetime. It seems like each generation gets to see something no one else has ever seen. It’s hard to point out positives right now, but here goes.

We were extremely proactive as a company this spring, and took seed delivery to our locations sooner than usual to try and secure our customers’ orders and requests. We also want to thank our customers for taking delivery of seed products sooner than usual. If there’s one thing I’ve learned working with farmers all these years, it is, they will adapt to unforeseen events.

Securing your seed for your orders isn’t as easy as it seems, sometimes we have to “beg, borrow or steal” to fill those orders and this was no different than any other year, but with a lot more social distancing rules to follow. If you see me at a location or field day later this year, ask me more about this!

I say all this to remind you as the salesmen ask you what your plan or ideas are for next year, they are trying to do their best in securing supply for you. Thanks for all of the support this spring, and I’m looking forward to walking your fields with the salesmen this summer!


Control Your Yield

photo of Dr. Jake Vossenkemper
Dr. Jake Vossenkemper
Agronomy Research Lead









"It’s wise to focus on the metric you can control, which is yield."

No doubt COVID-19 has caused recent commodity prices to soften and it’s impossible to know what these developing circumstances might do to the future commodity price landscape. What we do know, however, is that we have very little control over crop prices, but we do have some control over crop yield. Given the two metrics together control gross revenue, it’s wise to focus on the metric you can control, which is yield.

Given these facts, I would double down on making wise agronomic decisions. You obviously had a well thought out crop production plan prior to the epidemic that would result in optimum yields/returns and I see no reason to deviate from that. In other words, if you and your Liqui-Grow salesman had planned to make a sidedress application to corn or had planned on making a foliar fungicide application to soybean or corn, those plans were made based on sound agronomics and not on an emotional reaction due to the present pandemic.

While I am not an economist, I follow closely what ag economists are saying and there are a few reasons why prices may rebound. Ethanol consumption while still historically low is making a steep rebound. Cheap US corn means that we are increasingly competitive on the world market which may incentivize China and other export markets to buy US corn. Moreover, some ag economists believe that corn planting intentions are inflated meaning the 2020 crop may not be as large as the USDA is forecasting at this moment. So there is hope for optimism and you will need yield to capitalize on higher grain prices this fall/winter should that materialize.


Newsletter Archive - COMING SOON