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Phosphorus Response and Fertilizer Recommendations for Wheat Grown on Nitisols in the Central Ethiopian Highlands

Agegnehu, Getachew, Nelson, Paul N., Bird, Michael I., van Beek, Christy
Communications in soil science and plant analysis 2015 v.46 no.19 pp. 2411-2424
NPK fertilizers, Nitisols, climate, farmers, fertilizer rates, field experimentation, food security, grain yield, highlands, phosphorus, phosphorus fertilizers, planting, seasons, soil properties, wheat
The provision of farmers with proper and balanced fertilizer recommendations is becoming increasingly important, for reasons of crop productivity, food security, and sustainability. Phosphorus (P) response trials with wheat were conducted on Nitisols at 14 sites in the central Ethiopian highlands during the 2010 and 2011 cropping seasons. The treatments, comprising six levels of P fertilizer (0, 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 kg P ha ⁻¹), were arranged in a randomized complete block design with three replicates. Based on a yield difference between the control and the P treatments, 90% of sites responded to P fertilizer. Application of P fertilizer increased wheat grain yield, up to 30% more than the control. Extractable soil P concentrations (Bray 2, 0–15 cm deep) 3 weeks after planting significantly responded to P fertilizer rate. The critical P concentration (for 90% relative yield) was 13.5 mg kg ⁻¹. Most sites tested had Bray 2 P values <10 mg kg ⁻¹. In the absence of a soil test, a recommendation of 40 kg P ha ⁻¹, resulting in the best response overall, could be made for the first year of application. We also recommend that to prevent a potential loss of wheat yield, a maintenance application of at least 5–12 kg P ha ⁻¹ be applied every year, irrespective of the calculated recommended rate, in order to replace P exported from the field in produce. Further field trials are required to determine interactions between P response and the effects of climate, soil properties, and other management practices.