Home » Corn » The Sufficiency versus Replacement tipping point.

The Sufficiency versus Replacement tipping point.

Being educated in the realm of Soil Fertility at Oklahoma State University by the likes of Dr Gordon Johnson and Dr. Bill Raun, Brays Nutrient Mobility Concept and Mitscherlich’s Percent Sufficiency Concept are ingrained in my psyche. In class the concept of Build and Maintain for phosphorus fertilizer management was just briefly visited and not discussed as a viable option.  For anyone in the corn belt, and some Okies, reading this that may seem unusual.  But when I was in school on average in Oklahoma there was about 100-200 K acres of 100 120 bpa (bushel per acre) corn, 300-400 K acres of 40-50 bpa sorghum, and over 5 million acres of 20-30 bpa wheat.  In a state with those average yields, replacing P removed by the crop was not a major concern.

But times are changing.  There is more corn and soybean planted and the achievable yields of all crop are increasing.  While the average winter wheat producer should not be worried about replacement rates of P there is a growing group of producers that should.  This blog will discuss the scenarios in which sufficiency rates are best and those in which replacement should be considered. The OSU factsheet PSS-2266 goes in-depth on each of these methods.

Applying P based on sufficiency will increase soil test P levels in a low yielding environment.  For example on a 20 bpa wheat field that starts out with a soil test P level of 0. Using the sufficiency recommendation each year the soil test value will reach 20 ppm (40 STP) in 20 years. A 30 bpa field would take 30 years.  Yes that is a long time but the soil test value is increasing a little each year. The point of 20 ppm is important because at that level the crop is 95% sufficient, meaning if no P is added the crop will only reach 95% of the fields yield potential.

Using a mass balance approach we can determine at what point does the crop remove more than we can supply with in or near furrow starter fertilizer.  Table 1 shows the values I am using for the discussion.  The first column is just the average amount of P removed per bushel of grain, most of our grains fall in the .4 to .5 lbs P per bushel range.  The second column is the soil test value at which P level is said to be at 90% sufficient. The reason this column is included is that the P2O5 reccomendation for this P level fits into the starter rate for all crops. The low high starter rates are the typical range of P2O5 that is delivered within the safe range (N based) and what I see as the common rates.  These values may be above or below what you use. 

Values used to create Table 2. Phosphorus per bushel of grain. Mehlich 3 soil test value (ppm) at which crop is determined to be 90% sufficient, typical range of P2O5 applied with starter fertilizers, recommended P2O5 rate when soil test P is at 90% sufficiency.

Table 1. Values used to create Table 2. Phosphorus per bushel of grain. Mehlich 3 soil test value (ppm) at which crop is determined to be 90% sufficient, typical range of P2O5 applied with starter fertilizers, recommended P2O5 rate when soil test P is at 90% sufficiency.

Table 2 is pretty simple but it is the center point of this article.  The one caveat I need to add is this assumes strip till or 2*2 / 3*2 is not being used. Table 2 is using the starter range and removal value to determine the yield level the starter can support. The first take on this table may provide some hint on why in a state with 5 million acres of wheat averaging 36 BPA the state soil fertility specialist didn’t focus on replacement rates.  In fact for most for most the the wheat ground P application is higher than removal and P levels are slowly increasing. The big take home from this table should be is my yield level outside this window? If so do not immediately go out in crease your P rates but do take a close look at your system as a whole.  Take a close look at your cropping system, not just one seasons but look at a three or four year cycle.  Add up P applied and P removed, are you positive or negative net balance?  If you are negative take a long hard look at your soil test over time.  Some soils can supply a large amount of P even if you are removing more than you apply.  Other soils will be rapidly drawn down.  Regualr soil testing allows for producers to keep an eye on these values. 

Yield level (bushels per acre) at which P removal is equal to P added in starter fertilizer application.

Table 2. Yield level (bushels per acre) at which P removal is equal to P added in starter fertilizer application.

In the end even if the production warrants the use of replacement rates, the current market may not. For more on that read https://osunpk.com/2016/08/27/now-may-not-be-the-time-for-replacement/.

Speaking of market currently both soybeans and cotton are getting a lot of attention due to how the economics is penciling out. Soybean is a “heavy” P crop pulls .8 lbs per bpa while cotton removes 13 lbs per bales. Both of these crops are salt sensitive and the rate of inforrow is typically quite low providing only about 6 lbs when on 30″ rows.  If you are growing beans or cotton make sure you account for their removal when you talley up your system. 

 Below is a table that I wanted to add, well because I like it. This table illustrates that buildup, and drawdown, rate is heavily impacted by existing soil test value.  In short it takes a lot more fertilizer P to raise soil test p levels in a very low P testing field than it does when soil test P is closer to optimum, 19 lbs per 1 lb at STP of 10 and 5 lbs per lb when STP is 65.  The exact rate changes by soil type and the same holds true to drawn down via crop removal. 

Amount of P2O5 above crop removal needed to increase soil test phosphorous based upon intital soil test results. Adapted From http://www.spectrumanalytic.com/support/library/ff/Soil_test_P_and_K_buildup_and_drawdown.htm "Drawdown of Soil Test Phosphorus and Potassium Levels by Alfalfa, K.L. Wells & J.E. Dollarhide, Univ. of Kentucky, Soil Science News & Views, Vol. 21, No. 3, 2000"

Amount of P2O5 above crop removal needed to increase soil test phosphorous based upon initial soil test results.
Adapted From http://www.spectrumanalytic.com/support/library/ff/Soil_test_P_and_K_buildup_and_drawdown.htm “Drawdown of Soil Test Phosphorus and Potassium Levels by Alfalfa, K.L. Wells & J.E. Dollarhide, Univ. of Kentucky, Soil Science News & Views, Vol. 21, No. 3, 2000”

 Any questions or comments? Feel free to contact me at b.arnall@okstate.edu

 


2 Comments

  1. Jimmy Kinder says:

    Great article. Note, if you are grazing out wheat on odd years, your P205 use is dramatically less over time. We were building P on the farms because of our graze-out rotation. Lesson learned in the ’80s

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: