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Fluid Journal : Winter 2017
7 The Fluid Journal Winter 2017 Efficient Management of Water and Nutrients In drip irrigation and fertigation. The Fluid Journal • Official Journal of the Fluid Fertilizer Foundation • Winter 2017 • Vol. 25, No. 1, Issue #95 Fred Below, Tryston Beyrer, Adriano Mastrodomenico and Juliann Seebauer Summary: Corn and soybean yield was increased both by fertigation and foliar protection; however, the magnitude of response was dependent upon genotype. These hybrid and variety differences in response to fertigation suggest a need for characterization of optimal genetics for enhanced nutrient use and additional yield improvement. ▼ DOWNLOAD The industry-wide initiative of doubling corn grain yields (Zeamays L.) by 2030 is required to feed a growing world population. The use of precision irrigation and fertilizer application technology may serve as a promising venue for producers to increase yield sustainability. Therefore, our primary objectives were to 1) investigate subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) as a possible strategy to improve the efficiency of nutrient uptake and use when fluid nutrients are applied at key growth stages in corn and soybeans (Glycine max (L.) Merr.), and 2) understand how drip irrigation and fertigation can be optimized in a high yield agronomic system with complementary agronomic management practices, including hybrid and variety selection and crop protection. Across five corn hybrids and four planting populations, yield improvements by as much as 69 bu/acre were obtained at Champaign, IL due to season-long fertigation of N, P, K, S, and Zn in 2015. Fertigation increased total nutrient accumulation in corn over a base fertilizer application for N (+53%), P2O5 (51%), K2O (+36%), and S (+36%). Fertigation of corn led to nutrient recovery efficiencies of approximately 65% for N and 25%, 31%, and 38% for P, K, and S, respectively. Fertigation maximized corn hybrid yields to approximately 246 bu/acre regardless of a plant population of 32,000 to 50,000 plants/ acre. Nutrients were also fertigated in soybeans (N, P, K, S, and Zn) and, with foliar protection, improved grain yield by as much as 8 bu/acre in 2015. Varietal differences in response to fertigated nutrients suggest that this tool may be used to classify soybean varieties for their responsiveness to agronomic management. The 2015 findings highlight significant yield improvements associated with adequate nutrient availability in corn and soybeans, and how innovative fluid nutrient sources and delivery methods (i.e. SDI) can be used as a strategy to supply nutrients efficiently for maximum yields and more efficient nutrient use. Introduction To feed a growing human population on less land, greater yields are necessary. While the average U.S. corn yield is approximately 170 bushels per acre, greater yields are possible, as shown by the 2015 National Corn Growers Contest winners, all exceeding 300 bushels per acre and a third of them exceeding 400 bushels per acre. The world record for corn is now well over 500 bushels per acre. In growing a 260 bushel per acre corn crop, our laboratory has determined that weather conditions account for over 27% of those bushels, while the controllable crop management factors of nitrogen fertilizer, hybrid, previous crop, plant population, tillage, and plant growth regulators account for, on average, 26%, 19%, 10%, 8%, 6% and 4% of yield respectively (Ruffo et al., 2015). These yield estimates are based on prerequisites of drainage, pest and weed