Fertilizer: Band Versus Broadcast Application Guide


To ensure optimal uptake of nutrients many growers this time of year begin to weigh out the pros and cons of band and broadcast fertilization methods. Midwest Laboratories wants to help educate and empower our clients to make informed decisions. Below you will find general information regarding efficiency, soil conditions to take under advisement, and general definitions of the techniques.


Band (or starter) application is the placement of fertilizer in the same area as the seed. The basic starter idea places fertilizer 1 1/2-2 inches below and also to the side of the seed. Direct contact with the seed can give them a salt burn, especially in conditions of limited moisture.

Broadcast Application is a general distribution of the fertilizer over the entire soil surface. Midwest Laboratories plant food recommendation considers a broadcast application of all nutrients.

Strip Placement is the placement of the fertilizer application in narrow strips, usually 14 to 24 inches apart at a depth of 10-12 inches.


A band placement is able to provide more nutrients to young plants than a broadcast application. The efficiency of a band application depends on row spacing. Banding becomes more efficient with more widely spaced rows.  Check out this resource guide for more information about efficiency factors for various row widths.

At the present time, we would attribute an efficiency factor of 0.80 to the practice of concentrating the fertilizer in strips rather than a general broadcast application.


  1. Performance on very fertile soils can be limited by cold wet soil conditions. A starter may respond because of availability not related to soil levels.
  2. The higher the soil pH, the greater the efficiency of a starter application. A wide range of difference between the P1 and P2 will indicate a need to apply a portion of the fertilizer as a starter.
  3. Salt burn will occur more quickly on low CEC soils, or soils with a high content of sand.
  4. Trace elements manganese and iron are probably best applied in a starter because of their poor availability on many types of soils when applied broadcast. However, some of the new sources of these elements have been more effective than traditional sources.

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