Optimum management of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertilizers for corn [Zea mays L.] and soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] production requires quantitative understanding of multiple soil processes and crop responses, including supply and immobilization of N and P by soil, the response of yield and quality to nutrient availability, and the relationships and interactions between N and P cycling, crop response, and other soil physical and chemical variables. We conducted a six-year experiment on two 16-ha fields on glacial-till soils in south-central Minnesota. In each year of a corn--soybean rotation, we measured soil physical and chemical parameters and grain yield and quality at a 0.014-ha resolution within each field. These observations coincided with placement of a randomized complete block, split plot design of N and P fertilizer treatments. Spatial patterns of mineralizable N were consistent over time. Mineralizable N was highly correlated to soil nitrate at a well-drained site, but not at a poorly-drained site. Increases in available soil P per kg of net P addition were significantly related to soil pH. Within fields, spatial patterns of soybean yields were highly correlated across years, and we observed consistent relationships between yield and soil variables. Overall, soybean yield related positively to soil P and Zn and negatively to pH at all site-years. Quadratic-plateau regression models of soybean yield in relation to soil P and Zn indicate that in high pH soils at these sites, yield is optimized when soil P and Zn levels are higher than current recommendations. Corn yields responded significantly to N rate and N rate by P rate interaction in all site-years. Whole-field economic optimum N rate differed significantly by site-year and by P treatment at some site-years. Site-specific P fertilization should account for spatial variation in soil P buffering capacity. Nitrogen mineralization and NxP nutrient interactions should be accounted for in agronomic management decisions for corn production. The consistent influence of soil pH on nutrient cycling and crop response indicates the potential benefit to amelioration of high pH in calcareous glacial-till soils. Results highlight the significance of spatial variability in nutrient cycling to crop management.
Thesis (Ph.D.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2012
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