Phosphorus, copper and zinc requirements of no-till wheat crops and methods of collecting soil samples for soil testing

Michael Bolland, R.F. Brennan

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    Plant testing of wheat crops in south-western Australia, sown using no-till for > 7 years, often indicates marginal to deficient levels of the soil immobile elements phosphorus ( P), copper (Cu) and zinc ( Zn). In this region, P, Cu and Zn fertilisers are usually placed ( drilled) with the seed while sowing crops. However, in no- till cropping, because the fertilisers are placed in the same rows as the seed during sowing, in the years after application the 3 elements are no longer mixed through the top 10 cm of soil. It may be more effective to deep band fertiliser below seed while sowing no- till crops. Alternatively, cultivating the top 10 cm of soil every 5 - 7 years would mix previously applied fertiliser P, Cu and Zn through the topsoil, which should improve the effectiveness of the fertiliser residues for the current and subsequent no- till crops. In field experiments in paddocks in south- western Australia sown using no- till for 7 - 11 years, we compared these 2 alternative methods to the standard no- till practice of drilling fertiliser with the seed in the same crop rows. No shoot or grain yield responses of wheat were obtained. The exception was that in 1 experiment cultivating the topsoil before drilling P with seed was more effective than drilling or deep banding P. Concentrations of P, Cu and Zn measured in wheat shoots or grain were either unaffected by treatment, or, compared with drilling fertiliser with seed, were larger for the other 2 methods, indicating these 2 methods were more effective at increasing the concentrations of the elements in plant parts. The 3 elements have been shown to have good residual values for crop production in the region. Therefore, we recommend that experiments should not be performed in existing no- till paddocks until the residual value of P, Cu and Zn applied in the old cropping system has become negligible, which could, for Cu and Zn in particular, take many years.In the second year, the experiments were used to compare 4 different ways of collecting soil samples from the top 10 cm of soil ( standard soil sampling depth used in south- western Australia) to measure soil test P ( Colwell), Cu ( ammonium oxalate) and Zn ( DTPA). The sampleswere either collected randomly within the plots ( present method), always in the rows used to sow seed and apply fertiliser, always between the rows, or half in and half between the rows. Soil test values for P, Cu and Znwere unaffected by amount of element applied and method of application when samples were collected between rows, at random, or from all banded treatments where fertiliser was placed below the 0 - 10 cm sampling depth. Soil test values for samples collected in rows increased as the amount of fertiliser applied increased and were about double the values for samples collected half in and half between rows.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1051-1059
    JournalAustralian Journal of Experimental Agriculture
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


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