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osunpk

Since 2008 I have served as the Precision Nutrient Management Extension Specialist for Oklahoma State University. I work in Wheat, Corn, Sorghum, Cotton, Soybean, Canola, Sweet Sorghum, Sesame, Pasture/Hay. My work focuses on providing information and tools to producers that will lead to improved nutrient management practices and increased profitability of Oklahoma production agriculture

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DAP in short supply? Revisiting, DAP vs MAP, Source may matter!

From mid August through October, fertilizer applicators and grain drills are running across the southern great plains wheat ground. Di-ammonium Phosphate (DAP 18-46-0) is maybe the most popular form of phosphorous (P) utilized in wheat production today. DAP delivers a high content of nitrogen (N) while efficiently binding the toxic aluminum (Al) ions low pH soils. However due to the flooding that occurred throughout the spring the Ports have been closed and DAP could be in short supply. I have heard that many companies and Co-ops have already sourced Mono-ammonium phosphate (MAP 11-52-0) to supplement the lack of DAP for our early planted wheat crop. With this happening, I wanted to share some points about the two sources. In a broadcast incorporated scenario I do not have much preference for one over the other. It is when producers are applying the fertilizer in-furrow or applying to alleviate Al toxicity that source can matter. As described in the post below, in a soil with a neutral pH DAP and MAP perform equally well. So in this scenario I give MAP a slight edge over DAP if the price is the same. I say this as you can run less material per acre with MAP and refill a little less often. Many worry about the drop in N delivered with MAP versus DAP but in my work I see that is the P in the starter that gives us a good response and not the N, which can be delivered with pre-plant or top-dress. However, DAP wins out in soils with a pH below 5.5. The original blog below shows the results when DAP and MAP are banded in acidic soils using the same rate of P per acre.  The reason we see this happen is that when MAP dissolves it forms a slightly acidic solution (approx 4.0) while DAP will dissolve to form a slightly basic solution (approx 7.5). In our work BOTH DAP and MAP increased yield above the check in acidic soils, which goes to show MAP is an affect tool for short term remediation of aluminium toxicity (Band P for Al toxicity Blog). However it might require more MAP per acre to reach the equivalent results. Because of what we saw when comparing the two sources at equivalent rates of P, I would recommend increasing the rate of P2O5 from 30 lbs per acre to 35 or 40. This would be going from 65 lbs of DAP to 67-77 lbs of MAP per acre.

So the take home would be as this wheat season takes off and you find that DAP is hard to locate and you A) Have overall neutral (5.5+) pH levels do not hesitate using MAP. Run the normal amount of material getting a few extra lbs of P or apply less material to get the same amount of phosphate. B) Have a acidic situation and are banding to alleviate aluminum toxicity use the same amount of material or a little bit more.  Keep in mind in acidic soils with a low soil test P level you have to apply enough phosphate to take care of the Al and enough to take care of the P deficiency. Note the results of the NPKS wheat response strip (NPKS BLOG)

Original Post Published July 18, 2016
DAP vs MAP, Source may matter!

Historically the two primary sources of phosphorus have had different homes in Oklahoma. In general terms MAP (11-52-0) sales was focused in Panhandle and  south west, while DAP (18-46-0) dominated the central plains.  Now I see the availability of MAP is increasing in central Oklahoma. For many this is great, with MAP more P can be applied with less material. which can over all reduce the cost per acre. There is a significant amount of good research that documents that source of phosphorus seldom matters. However this said, there is a fairly large subset of the area that needs to watch what they buy and where they apply it.

If you are operating under optimum soil conditions the research shows time and time again source does not matter especially for a starter.  In a recent study just completed by OSU multiple sources (dry, liquid, ortho, poly ect ect) of P were evaluated.  Regardless of source there was no significant difference in yield.  With the exception of the low pH site. The reason DAP was so predominate in central Ok, soil acidity.  See an older blog on Banding P in acidic soils.

Picture1

Figure 1. The cover of an extension brochure distributed in Oklahoma during the 1980s.

When DAP is applied, the soil solution pH surrounding the granule will be alkaline with a pH of 7.8-8.2. This is a two fold win on soil acidity aka aluminum (Al) toxicity.  The increase in pH around the prill reduces Al content and extends the life of P, and as the pH comes back down the P ties up Al and allows the plant to keep going. However, the initial pH around the MAP granule ranges from an acid pH of 3.5-4.2.  There is short term  pH change in the opposite direction of DAP, however the the Al right around the prill becomes more available and in theory ties up P even faster.

Below is a table showing the yield, relative to untreated check, of in-furrow DAP and MAP treatments in winter wheat.  The N401 location had a ph 6.1  while Perk (green) has a pH of 4.8.  At Perkins in the low pH, both forms of P significantly increased yield, almost 20 bushel on the average.  DAP however was 5 bushel per acre better than MAP. At the N40 site the yield difference between the two sources was 1 bushel.

MAPvDAP2

Relative yield winter wheat grain yield MAP and DAP both applied at equal rates of P (32 lbs P2O5 ac) when compared to a untreated check.

In general it can be said that in acid soils DAP will out preform MAP while in calcareous high pH soils MAP can out preform DAP. So regarding the earlier statement about the traditional sales area of MAP or DAP if you look at the soil pH of samples went into the Oklahoma State University Soil, Water, and Forage Analytical lab the distribution makes since.

State pH

Average soil pH of samples sent into OSU soil water forage analytical lab by county.

In the end game price point and accessibility drives the system.  In soils with adequate soil pH levels, from about 5.7 to around 7.0, get the source which is cheapest per lbs of nutrient delivered and easiest to work with. But if you are banding phosphorus in row with your wheat crop because you have soil acidity, DAP should be your primary source.

The challenge of collecting a representative soil sample

Guest Author, Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, Nutrient Management Specialist Kansas State University

At first glance, soil sampling would seem to be a relatively easy task. However, when you consider the variability that likely exists within a field because of inherent soil formation factors and past production practices, the collection of a representative soil sample becomes more of a challenge.

Before heading to the field to take the sample, be sure to have your objective clearly in mind. For instance, if all you want to learn is the average fertility level of a field to make a uniform maintenance application of P or K, then the sampling approach would be different than sampling for pH when establishing a new alfalfa seeding or sampling to develop a variable rate P application map.

In some cases, sampling procedures are predetermined and simply must be followed. For example, soil tests may be required for compliance with a nutrient management plan or environmental regulations associated with confined animal feeding operations. Sampling procedures for regulatory compliance are set by the regulatory agency and their sampling instructions must be followed exactly. Likewise, when collecting grid samples to use with a spatial statistics package for drawing nutrient maps, sampling procedures specific to that program should be followed.

 

Figure 1. The level of accuracy of the results of a soil test will depend, in part, on how many subsamples were taken to create the composite sample. In general, a composite sample should consist of 15 or more subsamples. For better accuracy, 20-30 cores, or subsamples, should be taken and combined into a representative sample. F

Regardless of the sampling objectives or requirements, some sampling practices should be followed:

  • A soil sample should be a composite of many cores to minimize the effects of soil variability. Take a minimum of 12 to 15 cores from a relatively small area (two to four acres). Taking 20-30 cores will provide results that are more accurate. Take a greater number of cores on larger fields than smaller fields, but not necessarily in direct proportion to the greater acreage. A single core is not an acceptable sample.
  • Use a consistent sampling depth for all cores because pH, organic matter, and nutrient levels often change with depth. Match sampling depth to sampling objectives. K-State recommendations call for a sampling depth of two feet for the mobile nutrients – nitrogen, sulfur, and chloride. A six-inch depth is suggested for routine tests of pH, organic matter, phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and zinc (Zn) (Figure 2).
  • When sampling a specific area, a zigzag pattern across the field is better than following planting/tillage pattern to minimize any past non-uniform fertilizer application/tillage effects. With a GPS system available, recording of core locations is possible. This allows future samples to be taken from the same locations in the field.
  • When sampling grid points for making variable rate nutrient application maps, collecting cores in a 5-10 foot radius around the center point of the grid is preferred for many spatial statistical software packages.
  • Avoid unusual spots obvious by plant growth and/or visual soil color/texture differences. If information on these unusual areas is desired, collect a separate composite sample from these spots.
  • If banded fertilizer has been used on the previous crop (such as strip tillage), then it is suggested that the number of cores taken should be increased to minimize the effect of an individual core on the composite sample results, and to obtain a better estimate of the average fertility for the field.
  • For permanent sod or long-term no-till fields where nitrogen fertilizer has been broadcast on the surface, a three- or four-inch sampling depth would be advisable to monitor surface soil pH

 

 

Figure 2. Consistency is sampling depth is particularly important for immobile nutrients like P. Stratification of nutrients and pH can be accentuated under reduced tillage.

Soil test results for organic matter, pH, and non-mobile nutrients (P, K, and Zn) change relatively slowly over time, making it possible to monitor changes if soil samples are collected from the same field following the same sampling procedures. However, there can be some seasonal variability and previous crop effects. Therefore, soil samples should be collected at the same time of year and after the same crop.

Soil test results for organic matter, pH, and non-mobile nutrients (P, K, and Zn) change relatively slowly over time, making it possible to monitor changes if soil samples are collected from the same field following the same sampling procedures. However, there can be some seasonal variability and previous crop effects. Therefore, soil samples should be collected at the same time of year and after the same crop.

Soil testing should be the first step for a good nutrient management program, but it all starts with the proper sample collection procedure. After harvest in the fall is good time for soil sampling for most limiting nutrients in Kansas.

For instructions on submitting soil samples to the K-State Soil Testing Lab, please see the accompanying article “Fall soil sampling: Sample collection and submission to K-State Soil Testing Lab” found in this eUpdate issue.

For any questions Contact.
Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, Nutrient Management Specialist
ruizdiaz@ksu.edu

 

Poly versus Ortho another year of data from Iowa

Guest Author, Dr. Jake Vossenkemper; OkState Grad and Agronomy Lead, Liquid Grow Fertilizer

Updated Research Comparing Ortho/Poly-Phosphate Ratios for In-Furrow Seed Safe Starter Fertilizers. Last years post Link

Article Summary

  • Ortho-phosphates are 100% plant available, but a high percentage of poly-phosphates in starter fertilizers convert to ortho-phosphate within just two days of application.
  • This quick conversion from poly- to ortho-phosphate suggests expensive “high” ortho starter fertilizers are not likely to result in increased corn yields compared to seed-safe fluid starters containing a higher percentage of poly-phosphate.
  • On-farm field studies conducted near Traer, IA in the 2016 and 2017 growing season found no statistical difference (Pr > 0.05) in corn yield between conventional and high ortho-phosphate starters in either year.
  • High ortho starters cost more per acer than 50/50 ortho:poly starters, but do not increase corn grain yields.

Polyphosphates Rapidly Convert to Plant available Orthophosphates

Given polyphosphates are not immediately plant available and orthophosphates are immediately plant available, this gives the promoters of “high” orthophosphate starters ample opportunity to muddy the waters. Nevertheless, the facts are, polyphosphates are rather rapidly hydrolyzed (converted to) into orthophosphates once applied to soils, and this hydrolysis process generally takes just 48 hours or so to complete.

In September of 2015, we posted a blog discussing some of the more technical reasons why the ratio of ortho to polyphosphates in starter fertilizers should have no impact on corn yields. For those that are interested in the more technical details, we encourage you to follow this link to the September 2015 blog post.

While we was relatively certain that the ratio of ortho to polyphosphates in liquid starters should have no effect on corn yields, we decided to “test” this idea with on-farm field trials located near Traer, IA in the 2016 and 2017 growing seasons.

How the Field Trial Was Conducted

In these field trials, we used two starters applied in-furrow at 6 gal/ac. Each starter had an NPK nutrient analysis of 6-24-6. The only difference between these two starters was the ratio of ortho to polyphosphates. One of these starters contained 80% orthophosphate and the other contained just 50% orthophosphate. With the remainder of the phosphorus source in each of these two starters being polyphosphate. Each plot was planted with a 24-row planter (Picture 1) and was nearly 2400 ft long. In both the 2016 and 2017 growing seasons the experimental design used was a randomized complete block with 4 or 5 replications.

Field Trial Results

Averaged over the side-by-side replications there was less than 1 bu/ac difference in corn grain yield between the high ortho and low ortho polyphosphate starters in both the 2016 and 2017 growing seasons. In addition to finding no differences in grain yield between these two starters, the high ortho starters generally cost about $1 more per/gal (so the $6/ac difference in price at a 6 gal/ac rate) than the low ortho starters. So the more expensive high ortho starter clearly did not “pay” its way in our multi-year field trials.

More Trials Planned for 2018

While our findings agree with other research-comparing ortho and polyphosphate starter fertilizers (Frazen and Gerwing. 1997), we want to be absolutely certain that our fertilizer offerings are the most economically viable products on the market. Therefore, we have decided to run this same field trial at one location in northern, IL in 2018, and at one location in central, IA in 2018. Stay tuned for those research results next fall.

References
Franzen D. and J. Gerwing. 2007. Effectiveness of using low rates of plant nutrients. North Central regional research publication No. 341. http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/nutrient-management/fertilizer-management/docs/Feb-97-1.pdf (accessed 8 of Sept 2015).

A big Thank You to Dr. Vossenkemper for sharing this article with us.
The original article and his contact can be found at Link

Using a Grain Drill Grain Box for Fertilizer, Results and a Calibration guide.

For the last few years I have been challenging people to “Think Out Side the Box” when applying fertilizer. One of these application methods is to use a grain drill to put Nitrogen fertilizer into the soil. Just the act of getting N into the soil will immediately decrease the opportunity for losses. While it seems crazy many picked up on the idea of using grain drills for N applicators. The first year of a two-year study looking at documenting the practice is in the books. With data coming in from three locations, utilizing two drill types (double disk conventional and single disk no-till), the results are quite promising.  The biggest take home from year one was a 2 parter: 1) if conditions are conducive to nitrogen loss from urea volatilization, applying urea with a grain drill in the spring improved efficiency. Conversely if loss potential was low, there was no difference. 2) in some soil conditions the double disk drill could not close the furrow and this reduced the positive impact of using the drill.  The two tables below show the impact application and environment on yield.  Each of the treatments had 60 lbs of nitrogen (as Urea) applied per acre. At Chickasha the first application was made while it was fairly dry and then it rained, but the second application was made during a period in which there was no rain but a fairly significant dew each morning. This can be seen as the small effect volatilization played on the yields of the first application timing. At Lahoma, it was the early applications that had a higher risk of loss with no difference seen later.

 

Partial year one results from the topdress N with a grain drill at Chickasha OK. Timing 1 was late January and timing 2 was late February.

 

Partial year one results from the topdress N with a grain drill at Lahoma Ok. Timing 1 was early January and timing 2 was mid February, and timing 3 was early March.

 

With the results from the first year of the top-dressed drilled nitrogen studies in the books, the interest has been increasing. One question keeps popping up: for grain drills without a fertilizer box, what  do we put our grain box on to apply fertilizer.  At one point the number of inquires hit a critical mass and I sent out my crew to find grain drills and create calibration curves for DAP (18-46-0) and Urea (46-0-0).  The crew did just that.

Now please consider what is presented below is a general calibration. Much like the chart on your grain drills, it will hopefully get you close but the best-case scenario is that each drill is calibrate prior to running. As request are made we will try to add more drills to this list.

To create the following charts the guys located several different makes of drills around the OSU experiment stations. They were instructed to choose setting based on the manufacture seed rate charts in the range of 60, 90, 120 etc.  For each setting they caught a couple of row units for both Urea (46-0-0) and DAP (18-46-0). They caught each setting multiple times to get a good average.

If you look at the tables you can see the Landol 5211, Great Plains 1006NT, and International 5100 are fairly similar, with the John Deere 1560 being a little lower and the John Deere 450 significantly lower at the lower rates.  To use the tables below, consider what kind of grain drill you have and choose to follow one of the drills listed or the average of all five. If you use the average value I would expect most to find they applied a bit more than planned.  To make it even simpler, but less accurate, you can use the % wheat value.  To do this for DAP take your target rate and divide by .88, this value is what you want to set your drill to.  For example for a target rate of 100 lbs DAP per acre use the following formula:  100/.88 = 114.  Choose the manufacturer recommended settings 114 lbs wheat seed per acre.   If you are wanting to apply Urea take your target rate of urea and divide by 0.71.

 

DAP 18-46-0

Table showing the manufacturer wheat rate setting and the resulting amount of DAP 18-46-0.

Graph documenting the manufacturer wheat rate setting and the resulting amount of DAP 18-46-0.

UREA 46-0-0

Table documenting the manufacturer wheat rate setting and the resulting amount of Urea 46-0-0.

Graph documenting the manufacturer wheat rate setting and the resulting amount of Urea 46-0-0.

 

Again, I cannot state this enough, this is a general guide, each drill even of the same manufacture and model will likely be different.  The only way to be certain of the rate applied is to calibrate each drill individually.

Questions or comments please email me at b.arnall@okstate.edu or call 405.744.1722

 

Comparing Ortho/Poly-Phosphate Ratios for In-Furrow Seed Safe Starter Fertilizer

Guest Author, Dr. Jake Vossenkemper; Agronomy Lead, Liquid Grow Fertilizer

New Research Comparing Ortho/Poly-Phosphate Ratios for In-Furrow Seed Safe Starter Fertilizers

Article Summary

  • Ortho-phosphates are 100% plant available, but a high percentage of poly-phosphates in starter fertilizers convert to ortho-phosphate within just two days of application.
  • This quick conversion from poly- to ortho-phosphate suggests expensive “high” ortho starter fertilizers are not likely to result in increased corn yields compared to seed-safe fluid starters containing a higher percentage of poly-phosphate.
  • A field study conducted near Traer, IA in the 2016 growing season found less than 1 bu/ac yield difference between a 50/50 ortho:poly starter and high ortho-phosphate starter.
  • High ortho starters cost more per acer than 50/50 ortho:poly starters, but do not increase corn grain yields.

Poly-phosphates Rapidly Convert to Plant available Ortho-Phosphates

Given poly-phosphates are not immediately plant available and ortho-phosphates are immediately plant available, this gives the promoters of “high” ortho-phosphate starters ample opportunity to muddy the waters. Nevertheless, the facts are that poly-phosphates are rather rapidly hydrolyzed (converted to) into ortho-phosphates once applied to soils, and this hydrolysis process generally takes just 48 hours or so to complete.

In Sept. of 2015, I posted a blog discussing some of the more technical reasons why the ratio of ortho- to poly-phosphates in starter fertilizers should have no impact on corn yields. For those that are interested in those more technical details, I encourage you to follow this link to the Sept. 2015 blog post: https://www.liqui-grow.com/farm-journal/.

While I was relatively certain that the ratio of ortho- to poly-phosphates in liquid starters should have no effect on corn yields, I decide to “test” this idea with a field trial in the 2016 growing season conducted near Traer, IA.

How the Field Trial Was Conducted

In this field trial, we used two starter products applied in-furrow at 6 gal/ac. Each starter had an NPK nutrient analysis of 6-24-6. The only difference between these two starters was the ratio of ortho- to poly-phosphate. One of these starters contained 80% ortho-phosphate and the other contained just 50% ortho-phosphate with the remainder of the phosphorous source in each of these two starters being poly-phosphate. Each plot was planted with a 24-row planter (Picture 1) and plot lengths were nearly 2400 ft. long. In total, there were 5 side-by-side comparisons of the two starter fertilizers that contained different ratios of ortho- to poly-phosphates.

Field Trial Results

In general, there were no large differences in yield between the two starters in any of the 5 side-by-side comparisons, except for comparison number 5 (Figure 1). In comparison number 5, the 50% ortho/50% poly-phosphate starter actually yielded 6 bu/ac more than the high ortho starter. But averaged over the 5 side-by-side comparisons, there was less than 1 bu/ac yield difference between the high and low ortho starters (P=0.6712).

In addition to finding no differences in grain yield between these two starters, the high ortho starters generally cost about $1 more per gallon (so $6/ac at a 6 gal/ac rate) than the low ortho starters. So the more expensive high ortho starter clearly did not “pay” its way in our 2016 field trial.

More Trials Planned for 2017

While our findings agree with other research-comparing ortho- and poly-phosphate starter fertilizers (Frazen and Gerwing. 1997), we want to be absolutely certain that our fertilizer offerings are the most economically viable products on the market. Therefore, I have decided to run this same field trial at one location in northern Illinois in 2017, and at one location in central Iowa in 2017. Stay tuned for those research results this fall.

Picture 1
Planting starter fertilizer trials near Traer, IA in the growing season of 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 side-by-side comparisons of corn yield from two 6-24-6 starter fertilizers that contained either 50% ortho & 50% poly-phosphate or 80% ortho and 20% poly-phosphate. The field trial was conducted near Traer, IA in the growing season of 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Franzen D. and J. Gerwing. 2007. Effectiveness of using low rates of plant nutrients. North Central regional research publication No. 341. http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/nutrient-management/fertilizer-management/docs/Feb-97-1.pdf (accessed 8 of Sept 2015).

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

 

Precision Nutrient Management in Forage Systems

Published in Progressive Forage http://www.progressiveforage.com/ 9.1.2016

First, let’s agree the term “precision” is relative. Forage is a diverse system with an even more diverse set of management strategies. Regardless, every manager should be constantly striving to improve the precision in which nutrients are managed. The ultimate goal of any precision nutrient management tool should be this: producing the highest quality output (in this case forage) with the least amount of input – ultimately, optimizing efficiencies and maximizing profits. Within this readership there are those who are soil sampling at a 1-acre resolution and others who have likely not pulled a soil sample in the past decade. For both spectrums we can make improvements – let’s start basic and move forward.

A soil sample should the basis for all nutrient management decisions. Is soil testing a perfected science? No, far from it. However, there must be a starting point. A soil sample is that first bit of information we can start with and the basic data collection for precision ag to make improved management decisions. When fertilizer is applied without a recent soil sample, it is done based upon pure guesswork. How many other management decisions are made on a farm or ranch by a guess?

The composite soil sample is a great start, but it is just that – a start. While there are some soils that are very uniform most are extremely variable. In a survey of 178 fields in the southern Great Plains on average the soil pH was 6.12; phosphorus (Mehlich 3 phosphorus [M3P] and Bray 1 phosphorus [B1P]) was 28 ppm while soil test potassium averaged 196 ppm. So on the average the primary components of soil fertility were okay. However, on average the 178 fields had a range in soil pH of 1.8 units, M3P and B1P both had range of a 52 ppm and STK had a range of 180 ppm.

Table 1 shows the minimum and maximum soil test values for the 178 fields.

  Average Range Min Max
Soil pH 6.12 1.77 5.23 7.01
Phosphorus 28 52 2 54
Potassium 197 180 107 287
Sulfur 15 24 3 27
Organic matter 1.9 1.2 1.3 2.5

 

This data helps support the concept that we should find ways to increase the resolution or decrease the number of acres represented by a single soil sample. Increasing soil sample resolution is typically done using one or two methods – zone or by grid.

Zone sampling

The basis of a zone sample is creating a smaller field. The biggest question with zones is how to draw the lines. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of possible methods, each having their own reasons and benefits. My basic recommendation is that before lines are drawn goals have to be established. For example, if phosphorus or soil pH management is important, the basis for the lines should be soil based. This could be based on soils map, soil texture, slope and on and on. If the target is improved nitrogen management, then the reason for drawing lines should be yield based. This could be based on yield maps, aerial images, historic knowledge or many soil parameters.

Why does it matter? Two reasons: First, across the broad spectrum of soils and environments two nutrients are hardly spatially correlated, which means the zone that is best at describing phosphorus variability does an extremely poor job describing potassium variability. Second, more theoretically the demand for nutrients are driven by different factors. Phosphorus (a soil immobile nutrient) fertilizer need is driven by the soil P concentration (look up Brays Sufficiency Concept). Many use yield as a parameter for phosphorus application, but this is not a plant need or even a yield maximizing practice. Fertilizing based on removal is done to prevent nutrient mining. However, nitrogen (a nutrient mobile in the soil) fertilizer need is based on yield and crop removal. Hence, the common Land Grant University N and sulfur recommendations are yield goal based.

Grid sampling

To be honest even the experts disagree on the hows, whys and ifs of grid sampling. I like data, therefore I naturally lean towards grid sampling if the field warrants it. For me, the biggest benefit of grid over zone sampling is that soils data from zone samples are biased to whatever parameter was set for the zone and therefore any resulting map for all nutrients must reflect the original zones. In a grid, each data point is independent therefore the maps of each nutrient can be independent, and (the science tells us) in most cases nutrients are independent of each other.

Ideally two pieces of information are available for determining whether a field is grid sampled or not. The first piece of information is a yield map from any previous crop. If yield is fairly uniform, I question the need for variable rate management, much less the expense of grid sampling. Regardless of the sampling method zone or grid, the discussion is moot if spatial variability does not exist across the field. However, many forage producers may not have access to this kind of data.

One of the most useful decision aid tools for grid sampling is the composite soil sample. The reason is simple statistics: A composite sample should be a representative average of the field. If the data is normally distributed, that means half of the field is above and half the field is below the sample average. So the optimum fields to grid are those in which an input falls at the point in which the benefit of applying is in question, because it suggests that approximately half the field needs the inputs while the other half likely does not. It is in this scenario that the return on investment can be greatest. As with pH, for example, fields with a very low value should have a flat broadcast application and should be sampled again at a later date. Fields with a composite pH well above 6.0 will unlikely have enough acres needing lime to warrant sending out an applicator.

Is grid sampling a lifelong activity? No. The initial activity of grid sampling will provide both an indicator of the variability level and overall needs of the field. From that point, decisions can be made and actions taken. Identify the greatest limiting factor in the field based on the samples, and focus on impacting change upon it. Zone sampling in subsequent years can be utilized to document change. When that issue is resolved, move to the next factor. It may require grid sampling again or using the original grid to develop new management zones. For instance, if the greatest issue first identified on the field is soil acidity then after the soil pH is neutralized the field should be grid sampled again. The reason is for this is that changing soil pH will influence many nutrients and the amount of change is not consistent but dependent upon many other factors.

In precision ag we tend to look at layers, yield, soil, etc. However, none of these tell the whole story independently. An area in a field may have moderate soil fertility and be under producing. Using the data collected the decision may be made to increase inputs; yet, the issue is a shallow restrictive layer limiting production. Therefore, the extra inputs will be of no benefit and could even further reduce production. It is at this point I like to bring out the importance of “getting dirty.” There is no technology that can take the place of “boots on the ground” agronomy.

For producers who have historically preformed intensive soil sampling there is still room for improvement. Soil testing and nutrient management is not an exact science; in fact, it was originally built for broad sweeping, statewide recommendations. As technology advances and inputs can be applied at sub-acre resolutions, all of the environment (weather, soil) by genotype inactions becomes more evident.

The next step in precision ag is to develop recommendations by upon site specific crop responses. This is where nutrient response strips can further improve nutrient use efficiencies and crop production. In Oklahoma, nitrogen-rich strips are applied across fields (grain and forage) to determine in-season nitrogen needs. Having a strip in the field with 50 to 100 extra units of N acts as a management tool which takes into account soil, environment and plant need. If the strip is visible the field or zone needs more N, if it is not visible then the crop is not deficient and at that point in the season does not need more N. Producers have taken this approach for N and adopted it for P and K with strips across the field with a zero and high rate of either nutrient. After a few seasons, responsive and non-responsive zones are developed and P and K applications are managed accordingly.

One misconception of precision ag is that the end result should be a field with uniform yield from one corner to the other. This is often not the case; in fact, in many cases the variability in production across the field can be increased. Theoretically, precision ag is applying inputs at the right rate in the right place. This means areas of the field which are yield limited due to underlying factors which cannot be managed have a reduction in inputs with no effect on yield. Other areas of the field have not been managed for maximum production therefore an increase inputs result in increasing yield widening the gap between the low and high yield levels.

Regardless of where a producer currently sets on the technology curve, there are potential ways to increase productivity and efficiency. There is nothing wrong with taking baby steps; it is often the simple things that lead to the greatest return.