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From the fall of 2011 to about a week ago one of my grad students, Lance Shepherd, has spent A LOT of time burning up the highways and back roads of Oklahoma. Lance’s project was titled “NPKS Strips in Oklahoma winter wheat”, basically an extension of the N-Rich Strip concept. We wanted to see if we could or would find a response to added nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), or sulfur (S) fertilizer on top of the farmer’s fertilizer applications. Over the two crop years lance applied NPKS strip on more than 80 fields from the Kansas border to the Red River. Of those 80+ Lance was able to collect, by hand, grain samples from 59 sites. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some of the juicy tidbits we are gleaming from this fantastic data set.
For the project at every site Lance collected soil samples to 18”, documented soil type and collected producer fertilizer, variety, and field history information. Over the 59 locations there were essentially 236 trials. The yield of each strip (N,P,K, and S) was compared back to a sample collected from the field, referred to as Farmer Practice. Of the 236 comparisons there were a total of 17 positive responses. Of these 17 responses seven were to N, seven to P, three to K, with no responses to S.
We are learning a great deal from these 17 locations. The biggest take home was that in most instances soil test results identified the yield limiting factors. For example of the seven responsive P locations six had either a low soil pH or low soil P index, some both. At only one site was there a response not predicted by soil test. Of all 59 harvested fields more than just six had low P or pH levels however most producers had applied enough fertilizer to reach maximum yield. For nitrogen two items proved to be the most likely reason for loss of yield, under estimated yield goal or environment conducive to N loss. As for the K responses we look at both K and chloride (Cl) as KCl, 0-0-62 potash, was applied in the K strip. Just looking at the soils data K was not low at any of the three sites. However, two sites are in sandy loam soils, which is conducive to Cl deficiencies. The lack of response to S was not surprising as soil tests indicated S was sufficient at all 80 locations were strips were applied. So again what did we learn from these plots, soil testing is key in maximizing yield and profitability and in most of the N responsive sites the N-Rich strip indicated a need for added fertilizer in February.