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Published January 18, 2013

Nutrient Management & Soil & Plant Analysis

Corn and Soybean Tissue Potassium Content Responses to


Potassium Fertilization and Relationships with Grain Yield
Research on relationships between K fertilization, crop yield, and tissue K
Matthew W. Clover concentration is needed for modern corn (Zea mays L.) hybrids and soybean
Former postdoctoral research assoc.
(Glycine max L. Merr.) varieties. Twenty 2-yr trials with these crops in Iowa
Iowa State Univ.
Ames, IA 50011
evaluated K effects on plant dry weight (DW), K concentration, and accu-
mulation at the V5-V6 stage; leaf K concentration (R1 stage in corn and R2
currently at: in soybean); and grain yield, K concentration, and K removal. Five K rates
Agrium Advanced Technologies (0168 kg K ha-1) were broadcast the first year (10 sites for each crop).
8347 W. Kennedy Rd. Potassium increased corn or soybean yield at 16 site-years, which had soil K
Peotone, IL 60468 173 mg K kg-1 (15-cm depth, CH3COONH4 test). On average across first-
year responsive crops, 91 and 103 kg K ha-1 maximized corn and soybean
Antonio P. Mallarino* yield, respectively, and across second-year crops the response was linear.
3216 Agronomy Hall Potassium fertilization increased grain K concentration and K removal to a
Iowa State Univ. greater extent and more frequently in soybean than in corn (10 vs. 5 site-
Ames, IA 50011 years, respectively, for concentration and 11 vs. 3 site-years, respectively,
for removal). The magnitude and frequency of responses for both crops were
greatest for vegetative tissue K concentration and smaller (in decreasing
order) for grain yield and K removal, grain K concentration, and early DW.
There was large luxury K accumulation in vegetative tissues. Critical tissue K
concentration ranges defined by two models were 20.2 to 25.1, 10.2 to 11.0,
and 17.6 to 20.0 g K kg-1 for corn plants, corn leaves, and soybean leaves,
respectively, and could not be determined for soybean plants.

Abbreviations: DW, dry weight; LP, linear-plateau; QP, quadratic-plateau; STK, soil test K.

P
otassium fertilization effects on corn and soybean grain yield have been
studied for many years, including in Iowa and the Corn Belt. Iowa research
(Bordoli and Mallarino, 1998; Borges and Mallarino, 2000, 2001, 2003;
Mallarino et al., 2004, 2011a) showed that corn and soybean responses to K fertil-
izer were large and likely only when soil test K (STK) was in the Optimum or lower
interpretation categories (<171 mg K kg-1, ammonium-acetate test, 15-cm sam-
pling depth) as defined in Iowa (Sawyer et al., 2002). Work in Minnesota showed
that yield responses on a Webster soil testing 150 mg K kg-1 occurred in only 3 of
14 site-years (Randall et al., 1997). Research in Ontario, Canada, showed that corn
responded to direct K fertilization (Vyn and Janovicek, 2001) and soybean grain
yield to direct or residual K fertilization (Yin and Vyn, 2002a, 2002b) when STK
levels were <135 mg K kg -1. However, this research included few K application
rates and was not very useful to assess needed K rates in deficient soils. Ebelhar
and Varsa (2000) showed that corn yield responded up to 168 kg K ha-1, however,
soybean yield decreased, on average, with rates above 56 kg K ha-1. The authors
concluded that soybean was more sensitive than corn to higher salt concentrations
with higher rates of K. Research in North Carolina showed that corn responded up

Research funded in part by the Iowa Soybean Association and the International Plant Nutrition Institute.
Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 77:630642
doi:10.2136/sssaj2012.0223
Received 18 July 2012.
*Corresponding author (apmallar@iastate.edu).
Soil Science Society of America, 5585 Guilford Rd., Madison WI 53711 USA
All rights reserved. No part of this periodical may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by
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and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Permission for printing and for
reprinting the material contained herein has been obtained by the publisher.

Soil Science Society of America Journal


to 112 kg K ha-1 (Heckman and Kamprath, 1992) and soybean Information is scarcer for soybean K tissue tests. Early re-
responded up to 224 kg K ha-1 (Heckman and Kamprath, 1995). search for a K test based on trifoliolate leaves sampled at flow-
Research has shown small or inconsistent K fertilization ering before pod set was summarized by Small and Ohlrogge
effects on corn and soybean early dry weight (DW) (V5 to V6 (1973), who suggested a sufficiency range of 17.1 to 25 g K kg-1.
stages) (Heckman and Kamprath, 1992, 1995; Mallarino et al., Mills and Jones (1996) suggested a sufficiency range of 17 to
1999; Borges and Mallarino, 2000, 2003; Mallarino and Higashi, 25 g K kg-1, and based on a more recent review of research, Sabbe
2009; Mallarino et al., 2011a). However, it has been shown that et al. (2011) suggested a similar sufficiency range. Iowa research
K fertilization tends to increase the K concentrations and K ac- conducted from 1995 to 1998 summarized by Mallarino (2010)
cumulation of vegetative tissues, often regardless of the STK found such a poor relationship (R2 0.06) between soybean yield
level or the grain yield response. For example, Heckman and response and the K concentration of soybean leaves at the V5
Kamprath (1992) found that corn plant K concentration at V5 to V6 stage that a critical level could not be determined, even
to V6 always increased with increasing K rate in a 3-yr study, and though K concentrations ranged from 9 to 49.4 g K kg-1 for
K accumulation was increased in 2 yr for corn regardless of the more than 400 plots across sites and years. Based on a review
yield response. Results for soybean (Heckman and Kamprath, of published and unpublished information, Sabbe et al. (2011)
1995) showed that early plant K concentration increased with suggested a sufficiency range 15 to 22.5 K kg -1 for the southern
increasing K rate in 2 of 3 yr while K accumulation was increased region of the United States.
in only 1 yr. These authors reported that soybean leaf K concen- It is well known that the K concentration in soybean grain
tration increased with increasing K rate in 2 of 3 yr regardless of is much higher than in corn grain, and that at prevailing yield
the yield response. In Minnesota, Randall et al. (1997) showed levels in the Corn Belt the amount of K removed often is greater
that K fertilization increased corn leaf K concentration in 10 for soybean. However, scarce research has compared K fertiliza-
site-years of a large study, but grain yield was increased in only tion effects on grain yield, grain K concentration, and K concen-
3 yr. Mallarino and Higashi (2009) summarized research con- trations of vegetative tissues and their relationships. Coale and
ducted in 28 Iowa fields during 1989 and 1990 and showed that Grove (1991) showed that soybean leaf K concentration, grain K
K fertilization increased corn grain yield at only one site but in- concentration, accumulation, and grain yield (Coale and Grove,
creased the K concentration of young plants and leaves in 11 and 1990) were increased with 70 kg K ha-1 over the control. In the
13 sites, respectively. study by Mallarino and Higashi (2009) with corn, K fertilization
Tissue testing sometimes is used to evaluate the availability increased grain yield at one site, grain K concentration at five
of nutrients to plants. The foundation for tissue testing was laid sites, but young plants and leaves K concentrations at 11 and 13
by Macy (1936) and developed further by Steenbjerg (1951), sites, respectively. Yin and Vyn (2002a) showed that K applied
who recognized relationships between tissue nutrient concen- for a previous year crop increased soybean grain K concentration
trations and sufficiency for yield. They suggested that there is a at two of four sites but no yield responses were observed at any
critical nutrient concentration above which there is luxury ac- site. Furthermore, these authors reported that the increases in
cumulation (the nutrient concentration increases do not trans- leaf K concentration were much greater than for grain K con-
late into increased yield) and below which there is deficiency centration. All these studies, and others, have shown that the
and poverty adjustment. Early research (Tyner, 1946; Tyner and K concentration of corn and soybean grain vary significantly
Webb, 1946) suggested that nutrient deficiencies (including K) across years and several management practices, but K fertilizer
in corn were better reflected by nutrient concentrations in the and STK effects on grain K concentration are relatively smaller
ear leaves than in other plant parts. Early interpretations for the and inconsistent compared with effects on yield and, as a conse-
corn ear-leaf K test were summarized by Jones et al. (1990), who quence, the yield level variation has the most predictable impact
suggested a sufficiency range of 13 to 30 g K kg-1. Mallarino and on K removal. This is important because STK and K removal
Higashi (2009), based 28 Iowa field trials with corn conducted with harvest are used to determine K fertilization rates for crops.
during 1989 and 1990, reported an ear leaf critical concentra- There is a need for more research to better understand the
tion of 12.3 K kg-1. More recent suggested sufficiency ranges for magnitude of fertilization effects on grain yield, K accumulation,
corn were 17 to 30 g K kg-1 by Mills and Jones (1996) and 18 K concentration in plant parts, and K removal. Grain yields and
to 30 g K kg-1 by Campbell and Plank (2011) for the southern nutrient uptake have increased significantly in recent years due to
region of the United States. Studies in the 1970s (Walker and improvements in corn hybrids and soybean varieties. Moreover,
Peck, 1975) suggested that the K concentration of whole young the nutrient distribution patterns within corn and soybean plant
corn plants (about the V5 stage) also is a good indicator of K sup- parts, and the nutrient concentrations in tissues traditionally
ply and a critical K concentration of 39.8 g K kg-1. A more recent sampled for fertility assessment also may have changed. These
sufficiency range suggested by both Jones et al. (1990) and Mills possibilities have generated renewed interest in tissue testing,
and Jones (1996) was 25 to 40 g K kg-1. However, Mallarino and along with requests for more current information about K con-
Higashi (2009) did not find a significant correlation between the centrations in different corn and soybean plant parts, how tissue
K concentration of corn young plants and grain yield response, K concentrations relate to increased grain yield and K removal,
even though K concentrations ranged from 7.6 to 48.6 g K kg-1. and better knowledge about how K fertilization affects the K

www.soils.org/publications/sssaj 631
accumulation in vegetative tissue compared Table 1. Locations, soil types, and soil characterization information for twenty 2-yr
field trials.
with accumulation in grain. Therefore, the
objectives of this study were to (i) evaluate Soil type and characterization
Location County Series Classification Clay OM pH Ca Mg
the relative magnitude of K fertilization ef-
g kg-1 mg kg-1
fects on corn and soybean grain yield and
1 Boone Canisteo Typic Endoaquolls 330 36 6.3 2930 500
both K concentration and accumulation in
2 Boone Canisteo Typic Endoaquolls 130 38 6.6 3040 420
young plants, mature leaves at early repro- 3 Boone Nicollet Aquic Hapludolls 270 25 7.2 2410 290
ductive stages, and grain; and (ii) establish 4 Boone Nicollet Aquic Hapludolls 310 59 7.6 6740 290
tissue critical concentrations for corn and 5 Boone Webster Typic Endoaquolls 202 67 7.3 5190 355
soybean young plants and leaves at early re- 6 Boone Webster Typic Endoaquolls 157 47 6.6 3523 442
productive stages. 7 Floyd Clyde Typic Endoaquolls 110 84 6.7 4743 634
8 Floyd Kenyon Typic Hapludolls 310 75 6.7 4547 638
MATERIALS AND METHODS 9 Hancock Nicollet Aquic Hapludolls 350 54 5.7 3685 621
Sites, Trials, and Treatments 10 Hancock Canisteo Typic Endoaquolls 330 47 6.7 4708 609
Twenty 2-yr trials with corn and soy- 11 OBrien Primghar Aquic Hapludolls 430 40 6.2 3300 690
12 OBrien Primghar Aquic Hapludolls 206 52 6.2 3754 662
bean were established in Iowa from 2003 to
13 OBrien Galva Typic Hapludolls 218 53 6.3 4010 717
2006 (eight in 2003, four in 2004, and eight
14 OBrien Galva Typic Hapludolls 430 42 6.5 3480 770
in 2005) at Iowa State University research
15 Washington Mahaska Aquertic Argiudolls 142 44 6.4 2790 585
centers located in Boone, Floyd, Hancock, 16 Washington Nira Aquic Argiudolls 370 35 6.0 2340 580
OBrien, and Washington counties. These 17 Washington Taintor Vertic Argiaquolls 370 34 6.2 2590 560
counties are in the central, northeast, north- 18 Washington Mahaska Aquertic Argiudolls 172 44 6.3 2720 584
ern, northwest, and southeast regions of the 19 Boone Clarion Typic Hapludolls 157 35 6.7 2674 359
state, respectively. The fields had been man- 20 Boone Clarion Typic Hapludolls 129 40 6.7 2878 356
aged with corn-soybean rotations and encom- Soil test values for a 15-cm sampling depth. OM, organic matter.
passed wide ranges of STK. Table 1 shows in-
formation for the soils at each location. There were 2-yr trials at maintain soil test P in the High Iowa soil test category (21 to
20 locations for a total of 40 site-years. Ten trials began with corn 30 mg P kg-1, Bray-P1 test). The P and K fertilizers always were
and ten with soybean, and crops were switched the second year to spread by hand in the fall, so they were incorporated into the
establish cornsoybean or soybeancorn sequences at each loca- soil immediately after application in fields going to soybean and
tion. Table 2 shows for each location and year
Table 2. Soil test K and crop information for each year of twenty 2-yr field trials.
the crop grown, corn hybrids or soybean va-
rieties, and STK values. Hereon, the code for First crop Second crop
each site-year will consist of a location code (1 Location Year STK Crop Hyb/Var Year STK Crop Hyb/Var
1 2005 163 Soybean P 92M70 2006 124 Corn P 34A16
through 20) followed by a to denote the first
2 2005 139 Soybean PB 2643 2006 122 Corn P 34A16
crop or a b to denote the second crop, and
3 2005 150 Corn P 34H31 2006 109 Soybean PB 2994
each site-year will be referred to as a Site (1a
4 2005 234 Corn P 34H31 2006 162 Soybean PB 2994
and 1b through 20a and 20b). 5 2003 153 Soybean AG 2601 2004 125 Corn DK 5824
Treatments for the first year of all trials 6 2003 133 Corn DK 5824 2004 119 Soybean P 92M30
were five broadcast K fertilizer rates of 0, 28, 7 2004 196 Corn DK 5878 2005 173 Soybean CW 2130
56, 112, and 168 kg K ha-1 using granulated 8 2004 170 Soybean CW 2130 2005 162 Corn DK 5878
KCl (52 g K kg-1). No K fertilizer was ap- 9 2004 162 Corn GH 8223 2005 158 Soybean C 2089
plied for the second year, so the second-year 10 2004 138 Soybean L 2038 2005 156 Corn GH 8223
crops evaluated residual effects of K applied 11 2005 213 Soybean K 223 2006 151 Corn P 38H64
before the first crop. Plots of each trial mea- 12 2003 154 Soybean K 223 2004 181 Corn GH 8352
sured 12.2 to 18.3 m in length and either 9.1 13 2003 173 Corn DK 4628 2004 184 Soybean K 223

or 12.2 m in width. The treatments and four 14 2005 170 Corn FC 7649 2006 150 Soybean K 223
15 2003 141 Corn G 8566 2004 131 Soybean P 93B09
replications were arranged as a randomized
16 2005 148 Soybean AG 3602 2006 148 Corn P 34A16
complete-block design in all trials. Following
17 2005 134 Corn DK 6144 2006 129 Soybean P 93M42
the most common practices in Iowa, fields 18 2003 130 Soybean AG 3302 2004 127 Corn G 8566
with corn residue were chisel-plowed in the 19 2003 102 Soybean AG 2601 2004 103 Corn P 35Y65
fall and disked in spring whereas sites with 20 2003 117 Corn P 34M95 2004 120 Soybean DK 2652
soybean residue only were disked in spring. STK, soil test K (15-cm depth) before the first crop and before applying treatments and for
Phosphorus fertilizer was applied as needed nonfertilized plots before the second crop.
HYb/Var, hybrid or variety: AG, Asgrow; CR, Cropland; CW, Crows; DK, Dekalb; FH, Fielders
across all plots at each location to increase or
Choice; G, Garst; GH, Golden Harvest, K, Kruger; L, Latham; P, Pioneer; PB, Prairie Brand.

632 Soil Science Society of America Journal


was incorporated in the spring by disking in fields going to corn. digesting 0.25 g of material with concentrated H2SO4 and H2O2
An N rate of at least 168 kg ha-1 was applied in spring before (Digesdahl Analysis System, Hach, Boulder, CO) and measuring
planting corn across all plots of each trial by injecting anhydrous K by emission spectroscopy. Total early plant K accumulation (V5
ammonia (this is the highest N rate recommend for corn after to V6 stage) and grain K removal were calculated from the dry
soybean in Iowa). The crops planting dates and plant populations weights and K concentration.
used were among those recommended for each region and, there-
fore, varied among locations. Data Management and Statistical Analyses
Analysis of variance was conducted on all measurements for
Soil and Plant Measurements each site-year to determine whether or not there was a response
Soil samples were collected in the fall from each experimen- (P 0.10) to K assuming a randomized complete block design
tal area before K fertilizer application and again from all plots using PROC MIXED of SAS (SAS Institute, 2008), in which
in the fall after the first crop harvest (in late October or early fertilization was considered a fixed effect and replication (blocks)
November). Each sample was a composite of 12 cores collected a random effect. The treatment sum of squares were partitioned
from a 0- to 15-cm depth. The initial soil samples were analyzed into an orthogonal comparison of the control (0 kg K ha-1) vs.
for extractable Ca and Mg by the CH3COONH4 test, pH us- the mean of the four K rate treatments and single degree of free-
ing a 1:1 soil/water ratio, soil test P by the Bray-1 test (Frank et dom contrasts to test for linear and curvilinear (quadratic) re-
al., 1998), organic matter by the combustion method described sponsive trends. Sites were classified as responsive (P 0.10) for
by Wang and Anderson (1998), and soil particle size composi- each measurement based on the main K effect or an orthogonal
tion by the hydrometer method (Gee and Bauder, 1986). These comparison of the control vs. the mean of fertilized treatments.
measurements are shown in Table 1 except soil test P results For each responsive measurement and site-year, the K rate
because based on these test results a uniform P rate was applied that resulted in the maximum was calculated by fitting linear, qua-
across all plots of each site. All soil samples were analyzed for dratic, linear-plateau (LP), and quadratic-plateau (QP) response
extractable K by the CH3COONH4 test on samples dried at 35 models using the REG (for linear and quadratic) or NLIN (for
to 40C (Warncke and Brown, 1998). Table 2 shows the initial LP and QP) procedures of SAS (Cerrato and Blackmer, 1990;
STK and also mean STK of samples collected from nonfertilized SAS Institute, 2008). We chose quadratic, LP, or QP models to
after harvest of the first-year crop. We use Iowa State University describe a crop response only when the residual sums of squares
soil test interpretation classes for STK (Sawyer et al., 2002). The were significantly smaller (P 0.10) than for the linear model.
five STK classes for soil series with low subsoil K (most in the When the three complex models were significantly better than
state and in this study) are Very Low 90 mg K kg-1; Low 91 the linear model, we chose the one with highest adjusted R2 (SAS
to 130 mg K kg-1; Optimum 131 to 170 mg K kg-1; High 171 Institute, 2008) but did not choose the quadratic model when
to 200 mg K kg-1; and Very High 201 mg K kg-1. For soil se- it predicted a decrease after a maximum within the range of K
ries with high subsoil K (in our study, the Mahaska series at two rates used that was not clear from the observed data because this
locations), the boundaries for those classes are 70, 110, 150, and is a well-known problem for this model (Cerrato and Blackmer,
180 mg K kg-1. 1990). The site-years were classified into grain yield responsive
The aboveground portion of 10 corn and soybean plants was and nonresponsive site-years, and the response models were fit
sampled by cutting plants at ground level at the V5 to V6 growth to averages of each other measurement across yield responsive
stage (Fehr et al., 1971; Ritchie et al., 1986) to assess early DW, and nonresponsive sites-years. Relative grain yield from each site
total K concentration, and total K accumulation per plant. Leaves was regressed on the early plant K concentration and leaves K
were sampled and analyzed for total K concentration by collect- concentration. Relative yield for each site showing no significant
ing the blade portion of corn leaves opposite and below the ear (P 0.10) grain yield response was calculated by expressing
at the R1 stage (Ritchie et al., 1986) and the three top, fully ma- the mean yield for the control as a percentage of the mean yield
ture trifoliolate leaves (including the three leaflets and petioles) of across all K rates (including the control). Relative yield for each
10 soybean plants at the R2 stage (Fehr et al., 1971). Corn leaf yield responsive site was calculated by expressing the mean yield
samples from Site 12 in 2004 were accidentally lost. Grain was for the control as a percentage and of the mean yield across K
harvested from a central area of each plot (12.218.3-m length) rates similar to or higher than the yield-maximizing rate estimat-
with a plot combine in most sites except for all trials in Boone ed by the best fitting model. The LP and QP models were fit to
County (Table 1), where soybean plants or corn ears from a 7.6-m relationships between relative yield and tissue K concentration
section of two central rows were hand harvested and threshed us- for young corn or soybean plants, soybean leaves at the R2 stage,
ing a stationary thresher. A subsample of grain was collected for or corn leaves at the R1 stage.
determination of moisture and K concentration. Grain yields were
adjusted to 130 and 155 g kg-1 moisture for soybean and corn, re- RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
spectively. All plant samples (young plants, leaves, and grain) were Grain Yield Responses
dried at 60C in a forced-air oven, weighed (except the leaves), and Table 3 shows that for first-year crops, K fertilization in-
ground to pass through a 2-mm screen. Total K was measured by creased (P 0.10) corn yield at four sites (Sites 6a, 13a, 14a,

www.soils.org/publications/sssaj 633
Table 3. Corn and soybean grain yield for each site and K treat-
and 15a) and soybean yield also at four sites (Sites 2a, 5a, 12a, ment applied the first year of 2-yr trials.
and 18a). For second-year crops (Table 3), yield increases from K
Treatment (kg K ha-1)
applied before the first-year crops were observed at five corn sites
Crop Site 0 28 56 112 168 Max
(Sites 5b, 10b, 11b, 18b, and 19b) and three soybean sites (Sites
Mg ha-1 kg K ha1
6b, 14b, and 20b). Therefore, yield responses were observed in First-year crop
nine corn sites and seven soybean sites. For the responsive first- Corn 3a 12.08 12.92 11.79 12.12 11.67 ns
year crops, the K rate that maximized yield ranged from 106 to 4a 12.74 12.79 13.07 12.46 12.45 ns
127 kg K ha-1 for corn and from 71 to 117 kg K ha-1 for soy- 6a 8.01 8.35 8.68 9.35 9.31 110
7a 12.75 12.92 12.89 13.05 13.11 ns
bean. For the responsive second-year crops, the highest K rate ap-
9a 12.69 12.69 12.30 12.20 12.91 ns
plied the first year maximized corn yield but 28 to 168 kg K ha-1 13a 10.37 11.35 11.03 11.36 10.74 127
maximized soybean yield. Mean grain yield across the respon- 14a 11.33 11.55 11.66 11.78 11.76 106
sive first-year crops showed a maximum and plateau within the 15a 11.90 11.65 12.16 12.69 12.69 106
range of K rates used (not shown). On average, corn responded 17a 10.41 10.38 9.66 10.08 10.11 ns
linearly up to 91 kg K ha-1 and soybean responded linearly up 20a 10.34 10.33 10.79 10.42 10.51 ns
Soybean 1a 3.72 3.51 3.52 3.53 3.60 ns
to 103 kg K ha-1. In the second year, the average response to K
2a 3.60 3.66 3.84 3.93 3.78 104
fertilizer applied the first year was linear for both crops (up to 5a 2.31 2.26 2.32 2.68 2.54 117
168 kg K ha-1, which was highest K rate used in the study). 8a 4.30 4.26 4.27 4.19 4.14 ns
Yield responses (Table 3) and STK levels either before K 10a 3.35 3.35 3.24 3.49 3.35 ns
fertilization or of control plots the second year (Table 2) in- 11a 3.72 3.75 3.83 3.80 3.84 ns
12a 3.02 3.06 3.18 3.24 3.18 71
dicate that according to Iowa STK interpretations (Sawyer et
16a 4.80 4.37 4.66 4.51 4.57 ns
al., 2002), responses occurred in 5 of 11 sites testing less than 18a 3.08 3.19 3.30 3.42 3.46 92
Optimum (< 131 mg K kg-1), 7 of 22 testing Optimum (130 to 19a 2.10 1.87 2.03 2.27 1.91 ns
170 mg K kg-1), and 2 of 5 testing in the lower portion of the High Second-year crop
class (173 and 181 mg K kg-1). Only two sites tested Very High, Corn 1b 12.23 12.09 11.94 11.59 11.61 ns
and no yield response was observed. The probability of a yield 2b 11.51 11.50 11.27 12.07 11.38 ns
5b 10.78 11.33 10.65 13.55 13.52 168
response for each of the STK interpretation classes is 80, 60, 25,
8b 13.43 13.49 13.32 13.69 13.61 ns
5, and <1% for Very Low, Low, Optimum, High, and Very High 10b 11.58 12.03 11.78 11.68 12.20 168
(Sawyer et al., 2002); and fertilization based on crop K removal 11b 9.36 9.39 9.78 9.82 9.98 168
is recommended to maintain an Optimum STK level. Work in 12b 5.00 4.92 4.99 5.15 5.38 ns
Minnesota showed that yield responses on a Webster soil initially 16b 11.94 11.89 11.98 12.22 12.33 ns
18b 11.47 12.48 12.04 12.10 13.27 168
testing 150 mg K kg-1 occurred in only 3 of 14 site-years (Randall
19b 11.29 12.29 11.74 11.49 12.03 28
et al., 1997). Research in Ontario showed that corn grain yield re- Soybean 3b 2.76 2.78 2.80 2.78 2.86 ns
sponded to direct K fertilization (Vyn and Janovicek, 2001) and 4b 2.89 2.83 2.89 2.89 2.87 ns
soybean grain yield to direct or residual K fertilization (Yin and 6b 2.86 2.91 3.26 3.33 3.37 76
Vyn, 2002a, 2002b) when STK levels were <135 mg K kg-1. 7b 4.40 4.33 4.33 4.36 4.21 ns
At four locations, K increased grain yield in both years 9b 4.12 4.09 4.05 4.17 4.15 ns
13b 2.43 2.47 2.38 2.39 2.41 ns
(Locations 5, 6, 14, and 18), at four locations there was response
14b 3.57 3.50 3.75 3.80 3.87 168
in the second year but not the first year (Locations 10, 11, 19, and 15b 3.93 4.12 4.11 4.14 4.09 ns
20), and at four locations there was an increase the first year but 17b 4.27 4.28 4.20 4.29 3.74 ns
not the second year (Table 3). A crop response would be expected 20b 2.89 2.77 3.09 3.13 3.24 28
in most low-testing soils and in the second year at locations with Suffixes a and b identify the first and second crop at each site,
respectively.
a first-year crop response. Such a disagreement between expecta- Max, maximizing K rate; ns, not significant K effect (P 0.10). The
tions and reality is not exceptional in field research and is explained highest or lowest rate (168 or 28 kg K ha-1, respectively) is indicated
by many site and environmental factors. High temporal variability when a linear model had the best fit or when no model fit but the
mean of the fertilized treatments differed from the control.
of crop availability of soil K, STK, and their relationship is well
known (Mallarino et al., 1991; Franzen, 2011; Mallarino et al., ror, because soil samples were analyzed in duplicates and results
2011b). These issues and perhaps high within-site STK variation verified by a third analysis.
might explain very large apparent STK decreases at Locations 4
and 11 (72 and 62 mg K kg-1) or increases at Locations 10 and 12 Grain Potassium Concentration and
(18 and 27 mg K kg-1) from the first to the second year. Possibly Removal Responses
high initial within-site STK variation was unaccounted for by the Potassium fertilization increased (P 0.10) first-year corn
composite sample taken from the entire experimental area the first grain K concentration only at Site 4a and soybean grain K con-
year. These large STK differences were not explained by testing er- centration at six sites (Sites 5a, 8a, 11a, 12a, 18a, and 19a) (Table
4). For second-year crops, grain K concentration increases due to

634 Soil Science Society of America Journal


Table 4. Corn and soybean grain K concentration for each site Table 5. Corn and soybean grain K removal for each site and K
and K treatment applied the first year of 2-yr trials. treatment applied the first year of 2-yr trials.
Treatment, kg K ha-1 Treatment (kg K ha-1)
Crop Site 0 28 56 112 168 Max Crop Site 0 28 56 112 168 Max
g K kg-1 kg K ha1 - kg K ha-1 kg K ha1
First-year crop First-year crop
Corn 3a 3.5 3.7 3.4 3.6 3.5 ns Corn 3a 42.3 47.2 40.4 43.6 40.6 ns
4a 3.3 3.4 3.4 3.6 3.7 168 4a 42.3 43.8 44.8 44.5 46.1 ns
6a 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.7 4.2 ns 6a 30.0 32.0 32.9 34.9 38.8 168
7a 1.6 1.6 1.6 1.7 1.6 ns 7a 21.0 19.2 20.3 21.7 19.5 ns
9a 2.1 2.2 2.1 2.2 2.2 ns 9a 26.4 28.4 25.3 27.1 27.9 ns
13a 3.9 3.6 3.9 3.9 3.9 ns 13a 41.6 41.2 43.2 44.2 41.6 ns
14a 3.0 3.3 3.0 3.3 3.1 ns 14a 33.7 37.9 34.7 38.6 36.2 ns
15a 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.6 2.6 ns 15a 30.7 31.2 33.7 32.7 33.0 ns
17a 2.9 3.0 3.1 3.0 3.0 ns 17a 30.7 31.2 30.0 30.5 30.0 ns
20a 3.6 3.7 3.7 3.7 3.8 ns 20a 37.5 38.0 39.6 37.0 39.6 ns
Soybean 1a 20.5 21.1 20.6 20.7 21.3 ns Soybean 1a 76.1 74.3 72.3 72.9 76.9 ns
2a 18.8 18.8 19.2 19.5 19.4 ns 2a 67.7 68.7 73.8 76.6 73.3 113
5a 14.1 15.0 16.1 17.4 17.6 168 5a 32.7 36.9 37.2 46.6 44.7 112
8a 17.8 17.7 18.1 18.0 18.4 168 8a 76.4 75.4 77.1 75.5 76.4 ns
10a 18.8 18.5 18.6 19.0 19.4 ns 10a 63.1 61.9 60.4 66.4 64.8 ns
11a 18.3 18.8 19.5 19.0 19.0 28 11a 68.1 70.5 74.4 71.9 72.9 28
12a 18.2 18.2 18.1 19.2 19.7 168 12a 54.9 55.5 57.6 60.8 62.6 168
16a 18.7 18.7 19.1 18.7 19.7 ns 16a 89.8 81.7 89.1 83.8 90.4 ns
18a 16.3 16.4 17.1 18.1 17.6 112 18a 50.1 52.5 56.4 61.8 60.7 148
19a 17.4 19.0 19.0 19.7 20.3 168 19a 36.6 35.4 38.5 44.5 38.7 28
Second-year crop Second-year crop
Corn 1b 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.0 ns Corn 1b 47.7 48.4 48.1 45.9 46.5 ns
2b 4.0 4.4 4.0 4.0 4.2 ns 2b 44.8 49.8 44.7 48.6 48.2 ns
5b 1.6 1.6 1.5 1.8 1.8 28 5b 16.6 18.4 15.7 24.3 24.6 168
8b 3.0 3.0 2.8 3.0 3.0 ns 8b 39.9 40.0 37.6 41.1 41.5 ns
10b 4.3 3.9 4.1 4.1 4.0 ns 10b 50.2 46.3 48.3 47.6 45.9 ns
11b 3.9 3.9 3.8 3.8 4.0 ns 11b 35.7 36.2 37.4 36.8 39.4 ns
12b 1.6 2.0 1.8 1.8 2.0 28 12b 7.4 10.1 9.0 9.1 10.1 ns
16b 4.1 3.9 4.1 4.2 4.1 ns 16b 48.4 46.1 49.2 50.9 49.9 ns
18b 1.3 1.5 1.5 1.8 1.7 112 18b 14.8 18.1 19.4 22.0 22.5 144
19b 1.5 1.3 1.5 1.4 1.6 ns 19b 15.9 15.6 17.0 15.7 19.0 ns
Soybean 3b 23.5 23.7 22.6 23.0 24.3 ns Soybean 3b 64.9 63.1 63.3 63.7 69.2 ns
4b 21.5 21.2 22.0 21.2 21.9 ns 4b 62.1 59.8 63.6 61.4 62.7 ns
6b 16.6 17.1 17.4 17.0 17.8 28 6b 47.5 49.7 56.7 56.5 59.9 70
7b 19.6 20.1 20.4 20.2 19.6 ns 7b 86.2 87.1 88.2 87.8 82.6 ns
9b 20.7 21.5 21.9 22.5 21.9 110 9b 85.3 88.1 88.7 93.7 90.7 28
13b 18.0 18.0 17.8 17.5 18.1 ns 13b 43.9 44.4 42.5 41.6 43.5 ns
14b 20.0 20.0 20.6 21.2 20.7 28 14b 71.2 70.2 77.2 80.7 80.0 168
15b 15.8 15.6 16.0 16.8 16.8 168 15b 62.3 64.5 65.7 69.4 68.8 109
17b 20.2 19.6 20.0 20.8 20.8 ns 17b 86.2 79.6 83.6 89.0 77.6 ns
20b 16.8 16.6 17.3 16.9 17.4 ns 20b 48.5 46.1 53.7 52.8 56.4 168
Suffixes a and b identify the first and second crop at each site, Suffixes a and b identify the first and second crop at each site,
respectively. respectively.
Max, maximizing K rate; ns, not significant K effect (P 0.10). The Max, maximizing K rate. ns, not significant K effect (P 0.10). The
highest or lowest rate (168 or 28 kg K ha -1, respectively) is indicated highest or lowest rate (168 or 28 kg K ha-1, respectively) is indicated
when a linear model had the best fit or when no model fit but the when a linear model had the best fit or when no model fit but the mean
mean of the fertilized treatments differed from the control. of the fertilized treatments differed from the control.

K applied before the first-year crop were observed at three corn a yield response, and also Sites 6b and 14b, which showed a yield
sites (Site 5b, 12b, and 18b) and four soybean sites (Sites 6b, 9b, response. Potassium fertilization increased corn grain K removal
14b, and 15b) (Table 4). The grain K concentration response (Table 5) only at three of 10 site-years (Site 5b, 6a, and 18b),
to K was infrequent for both crops, but especially for corn, and which were fewer than sites in which K increased yield. This re-
was very poorly related with the yield response. The corn grain sult can be explained by small and infrequent effects on K con-
K concentration increased at Sites 4a and 12b, which did not centration and increased variability of the combined variables.
show a yield response, and at Sites 5b and 19b, which did show However, K fertilization increased soybean K removal at 11 of
a yield response. Soybean grain K concentration increases were the 20 site-years (Sites 2a, 5a, 6b, 9b, 11a, 12a, 14b, 15b, 18a,
observed at Sites 8a, 9b, 11a, 15b, and 19a, which did not show

www.soils.org/publications/sssaj 635
Table 6. Mean corn and soybean grain K concentration and removal Table 7. Corn and soybean early DW (V5-V6) for each
across first- and second-year grain yield responsive and nonresponsive site and K treatment applied the first year of 2-yr trials.
sites for K treatments applied the first year of 2-yr trials. Treatment (kg K ha-1)
Treatment (kg K ha-1) Crop Site 0 28 56 112 168 Max
Year Response Crop 0 28 56 112 168 Max g plant-1- kg K ha1
First-year crop
Grain K concentration (g K kg-1) kg K ha-1
Corn 3a 3.07 3.55 2.9 3.51 3.39 ns
First Yes Corn 3.3 3.3 3.4 3.4 3.4 ns 4a 3.35 3.21 3.46 3.48 2.99 ns
Soybean 16.8 17.1 17.6 18.5 18.6 116 6a 2.77 2.79 2.97 3.07 3.06 132
No Corn 2.9 2.9 2.9 3.0 2.9 ns 7a 0.85 0.77 0.65 0.73 0.73 ns
Soybean 18.5 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.7 168 9a 3.48 3.28 3.72 3.65 3.58 ns
13a 9.53 10.6 9.9 9.92 9.39 ns
Second Yes Corn 2.5 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.6 ns
14a 1.53 1.71 1.62 1.66 1.7 ns
Soybean 17.8 17.9 18.4 18.4 18.6 65 15a 3.79 4.17 4.33 4.51 4.53 106
No Corn 3.3 3.4 3.3 3.4 3.5 ns 17a 3.35 3.21 3.38 3.55 3.48 ns
Soybean 19.9 20.0 20.1 20.3 20.5 168 20a 3.96 4.11 4.56 4.52 4.52 57
Grain K removal (kg K ha-1) Soybean 1a 2.83 2.81 2.84 2.63 2.71 ns
2a 2.44 2.32 2.52 2.41 2.1 ns
First Yes Corn 34.0 35.5 36.1 37.6 37.4 138
5a 2.12 2.15 2.44 2.4 2.32 ns
Soybean 51.3 53.4 56.3 61.5 60.3 110 8a 0.97 0.87 0.96 0.82 0.99 ns
No Corn 33.4 34.6 33.4 34.1 33.9 ns 10a 1.67 1.57 1.54 1.69 1.64 ns
Soybean 68.3 66.6 68.6 69.2 70.0 ns 11a 2.38 2.32 2.14 2.41 2.37 ns
Second Yes Corn 26.6 26.9 27.6 29.3 30.3 168 12a 2 2.35 2.24 2.23 2.22 28
16a 2.92 3.19 3.19 3.3 3.13 ns
Soybean 55.7 55.3 62.5 63.4 65.4 168
18a 1.49 1.51 1.54 1.71 1.59 28
No Corn 37.7 38.9 37.7 39.1 39.2 ns 19a 2.24 2.34 2.23 2.24 2.29 ns
Soybean 70.1 69.5 70.8 72.4 70.7 ns Second-year crop
M ax, maximizing K rate; ns, not significant K effect (P 0.10). The highest rate Corn 1b 5.32 5.64 5.83 5.06 5.8 ns
(168 kg K ha1) is indicated when a linear model had the best fit. 2b 6.3 6.18 6.37 6.62 6.12 ns
5b 1.54 1.8 1.8 1.98 1.82 28
19a, and 20b), which can be explained by larger and more fre- 8b 3.76 3.58 3.71 3.65 3.98 ns
quent K effects on soybean K concentrations than in corn. 10b 4.92 5.35 5.28 5.27 5.17 ns
Comparisons of K fertilization effects on corn grain yield, 11b 3.24 3.36 3.66 3.22 3.4 ns
12b 2.54 2.5 2.47 2.44 2.58 ns
K concentration, and K removal showed that responses for these 16b 6.07 6.38 5.77 5.88 6.84 ns
measurements were inconsistent across the corn sites. Results for 18b 2.3 2.55 2.6 2.45 2.83 28
soybean showed, however, that grain K concentration and K re- 19b 3.71 3.61 3.4 3.72 3.35 ns
Soybean 3b 3.72 3.7 3.72 3.57 3.64 ns
moval responses were observed at most sites with a grain yield 4b 2.68 2.85 2.87 2.42 2.25 ns
response and at some sites without a yield response. The K rate 6b 1.98 2.07 1.92 2.03 1.95 ns
that maximized corn grain yield, K concentration, and K re- 7b 2.92 2.88 2.85 3.04 2.79 ns
9b 1.76 1.62 1.83 1.78 1.61 ns
moval differed greatly across first-year yield responsive crops (91,
13b 1.32 1.4 1.43 1.42 1.44 ns
0, and 138 kg K ha-1, respectively), but differences were much 14b 2.54 2.67 2.88 2.92 2.58 ns
smaller for soybean (103, 116, and 110 kg K ha-1, respectively) 15b 2.53 2.37 2.31 2.41 2.6 ns
(Tables 3, 4, and 5). For second-year yield responsive crops, the 17b 2.67 2.5 2.56 2.79 2.8 ns
20b 2.39 2.17 2.59 2.42 2.4 ns
K rate that maximized corn grain yield, K concentration, and K Suffixes a and b identify the first and second crop at
removal were 168, 0, and 168 kg K ha-1, respectively, but for soy- each site, respectively.
bean rates were 168, 65, and 168 kg K ha-1, respectively (Tables  Max, maximizing K rate; ns, not significant K effect (P
0.10). The highest or lowest rate (168 or 28 kg K ha-1,
3, 4, and 5). These mean results confirm the greater response of
respectively) is indicated when a linear model had the
soybean grain K concentration compared with corn. best fit or when no model fit but the mean of the fertilized
Table 6 shows that K fertilization did not affect corn grain K treatments differed from the control.
concentration for averages across yield responsive or nonresponsive
sites but did increase soybean grain K concentration regardless of the both crops. This result demonstrates the stronger impact of grain K
yield response. For means across soybean yield responsive sites, there concentration response to K in soybean compared with corn. On av-
was a response up to 116 and 65 kg K ha-1 for first- and second-year erage, soybean grain K removal was 23 and 33 kg K ha-1 more than
crops, respectively, and for yield nonresponsive sites removal in- for corn in the first- and second-year crops, respectively.
creased linearly for both first- and second-year crops. In contrast to
results for grain K concentration, K removal means across sites with Corn and Soybean Early Dry Weight,
or without a yield response (Table 6) showed an increase due to K Potassium Concentration, and Potassium
fertilization for both crops but only when there was a yield response. Accumulation Responses
On average across first-year yield responsive crops, K removal re- Table 7 shows early DW (V5 to V6 stage) response to K
sponded up to 138 or 110 kg K ha-1 for corn or soybean, respec- fertilization for each site-year. Results for first-year crops showed
tively, whereas for second-year crops the responses were linear for that K fertilization increased (P 0.1) corn early DW at three

636 Soil Science Society of America Journal


Table 8. Corn and soybean early plant K concentration (V5-V6) corn growth responded up to 56 kg K ha-1 and soybean growth
for each site and K treatment applied the first year of 2-yr trials. responded up to 28 kg K ha-1. A similar study of averages for the
Treatment (kg K ha-1) second-year sites indicated that only corn DW responded and
Crop Site 0 28 56 112 168 Max only up to 28 kg K ha-1. Comparisons of corn grain yield and
g K kg-1- kg K ha1 early DW responses to K showed that K fertilization increased
First-year crop both measurements in four of five site-years that showed a DW
Corn 3a 29.5 30.6 32.3 30.7 33.1 ns response, but there were five corn site-years with a grain yield
4a 28.3 26.7 27.7 29.8 29.6 ns
response to K but no early DW response. Soybean grain yield
6a 12.4 15.9 17.1 22.7 26.3 168
responses occurred in both sites where K increased early DW the
7a 33.6 33.8 34.9 35.7 38.3 168
first year, but there were five site-years with a grain yield response
9a 28.4 28.2 32.7 30.0 36.6 168
13a 21.6 25.9 27.6 32.2 32.4 152
to K but no early DW response. Therefore, when an early DW
14a 20.6 22.8 24.0 30.4 30.0 168 response to K was observed, a subsequent response in grain yield
15a 16.5 19.5 22.4 23.7 24.6 168 was likely. However, there were grain yield responses to K at many
17a 14.7 17.0 18.8 24.3 28.5 168 sites where an early DW response was not observed. Similar re-
20a 17.9 20.4 25.2 28.4 34.3 168 sults were showed by previous research in Iowa (Mallarino et al.,
Soybean 1a 22.5 25.4 28.0 28.7 27.8 94 1999; Borges and Mallarino, 2001, 2003).
2a 24.8 28.5 28.9 31.7 27.0 138 The early plant K concentration response to K (Table 8)
5a 6.5 8.1 9.7 12.8 11.8 141 contrasted sharply with early DW responses. Potassium fertiliza-
8a 23.6 23.0 26.0 25.8 25.6 121 tion increased (P 0.10) the K concentration of young plants
10a 23.0 24.6 25.6 26.3 26.0 96
for eight first-year corn crops and nine first-year soybean crops.
11a 18.9 21.5 22.0 23.3 26.6 168
Fertilization did not increase plant K concentrations at corn
12a 17.3 16.3 17.6 19.0 18.4 168
Sites 3a and 4a nor at soybean Site 16a. Results from the second-
16a 22.6 21.5 23.2 23.1 21.4 ns
18a 12.6 14.6 16.7 19.1 21.6 168
year crops showed that residual K fertilization increased the corn
19a 11.9 12.4 12.5 15.3 16.6 168 early K concentration at all sites and soybean early K concentra-
Second-year crop tion at seven sites. Early plant K accumulation results (Table 9)
Corn 1b 21.4 20.2 24.3 27.5 30.7 168 were approximately similar to results for plant K concentration.
2b 23.0 22.6 23.7 32.4 32.1 168 Results for first-year crops showed that K fertilization increased
5b 12.6 15.9 15.1 25.8 21.6 168 K accumulation at eight corn sites and seven soybean sites.
8b 30.1 32.5 37.1 38.5 43.3 168 Fertilization did not increase plant K accumulation in corn at
10b 30.5 39.1 44.0 47.1 48.0 168 Sites 4a and 7a, nor in soybean at Sites 1a, 10a, and 16a. Results
11b 14.9 16.1 17.0 17.8 23.4 168 from second-year crops showed that K fertilization increased K
12b 17.9 21.8 21.7 23.6 25.9 168
accumulation in all corn sites and soybean K accumulation at six
16b 18.5 23.7 24.4 24.7 27.5 168
sites. Fertilization did not increase plant K accumulation in soy-
18b 15.2 17.4 19.2 22.2 28.6 168
bean at Sites 3b, 4b, 7b, and 9b.
19b 21.4 24.8 26.2 30.9 38.2 168
Soybean 3b 17.3 18.8 18.7 18.7 20.3 ns
Comparisons of yield, early DW, plant K concentration,
4b 11.4 11.6 11.7 10.9 12.0 ns and K accumulation responses to K fertilization showed that
6b 18.0 18.0 20.6 21.1 24.0 168 plant K concentration and accumulation responses to K fertil-
7b 23.9 23.9 27.1 27.2 26.1 ns ization were much more frequent than both grain yield and early
9b 30.1 32.7 30.7 33.6 35.4 168 DW responses. An interesting result was that regardless of the
13b 17.7 18.4 18.8 20.6 19.7 112 crop and direct or residual response evaluations, no grain yield
14b 15.1 15.9 17.0 21.2 21.7 168 or early DW responses to K fertilization were found when there
15b 15.2 18.7 17.8 19.7 21.4 168 was no response in plant K concentration or K accumulation.
17b 14.4 14.6 15.3 17.7 18.5 168 However, there were many sites with a K concentration or K
20b 15.6 16.9 19.2 19.8 25.1 168
accumulation response where there was no early DW or grain
Suffixes a and b identify the first and second crop at each site,
respectively. yield response. These results demonstrate luxury accumulation of
Max, maximizing K rate. ns, not significant K effect (P 0.10). The K. Luxury accumulation occurs when fertilization increases the
highest or lowest rate (168 or 28 kg K ha-1, respectively) is indicated concentration of a nutrient in a tissue without increasing DW
when a linear model had the best fit or when no model fit but the mean
yield (Macy, 1936; Steenbjerg, 1951). This has been shown for
of the fertilized treatments differed from the control.
corn and soybean before, but for fewer locations, years, and K
sites (Sites 6a, 15a, and 20a), and soybean early DW at two sites application rates (Borges and Mallarino, 2001, 2003; Mallarino
(Sites 12a and 18a). Results from the second-year crops showed et al., 1999).
that significant increases in early DW occurred only in corn at Table 10 summarizes early DW, K concentration, and K ac-
Sites 5b and 18b. Study of averages across all first-year sites where cumulation responses to K fertilization for means across grain
an early DW response was observed (not shown) indicated that yield responsive and nonresponsive sites. The only observed

www.soils.org/publications/sssaj 637
early DW response was for the yield responsive second-year Table 9. Corn and soybean early plant K accumulation (V5-V6)
for each site and K treatment applied the first year of 2-yr trials.
corn crops, and only to the lowest rate applied (28 kg K ha-1).
Treatment (kg K ha-1)
In sharp contrast, K fertilization always increased early plant
Crop Site 0 28 56 112 168 Max
and leaf K concentrations regardless of the yield response. The - mg K plant-1 kg K ha1
K concentration increase per unit of K applied was greater for First-year crop
corn than for soybean for both nonresponsive and responsive Corn 3a 90 109 93 107 113 168
sites, and for the yield responsive sites the corn K concentration 4a 95 87 96 102 90 ns
6a 34 45 51 69 80 168
responded to a much higher K rate than for soybean. The mean
7a 28 26 23 26 28 ns
early plant K accumulation reflected mainly the K concentration 9a 98 93 122 110 132 168
responses. For the first-year crops with grain yield response there 13a 207 282 275 325 310 28
was an increase up to K rates within the range of rates applied 14a 32 39 39 51 51 116
(142 and 110 kg K ha-1 for corn and soybean, respectively) and 15a 63 81 97 108 112 168
17a 50 54 64 86 99 168
linear increases for crops without a yield response. Results from
20a 71 84 116 128 155 168
second-year crops showed, however, that early corn and soybean Soybean 1a 64 71 79 75 76 ns
K accumulation responded linearly up to the highest rate applied 2a 61 66 73 76 57 128
regardless of the grain yield response. 5a 14 18 24 32 28 131
8a 23 20 25 21 26 28
Corn and Soybean Leaf Potassium Concentrations 10a 39 39 40 44 43 ns
11a 45 50 47 56 63 168
Potassium fertilization increased (P 0.10) the leaf K con- 12a 34 39 40 42 41 80
centration in all 20 first-year corn and soybean crops, in all 10 16a 67 68 74 77 67 ns
site-year corn crops, and in 9 of 10 site-year soybean crops (Table 18a 19 22 26 33 35 128
11). Fertilization did not increase soybean leaf K concentration 19a 27 29 28 34 38 168
Second-year crop
at Site 7b, which was consistent with no response for any other
Corn 1b 116 113 143 140 179 168
measurement although reasons are not clear. When leaf K con- 2b 148 139 151 216 199 130
centration data from individual first- and second-year crops were 5b 19 29 28 51 40 168
averaged for grain yield responsive or nonresponsive sites (not 8b 114 116 137 140 173 168
shown), the response trends were linear regardless of the yield 10b 152 209 232 250 249 88
11b 48 54 62 57 80 168
response and the highest K rate applied (168 kg K ha-1) maxi-
12b 46 55 53 58 67 28
mized leaf K concentration. Other research has shown that K 16b 111 152 138 144 189 168
fertilization increases corn and soybean leaf K concentration fre- 18b 35 45 51 54 81 168
quently and often regardless of a grain yield response (Randall et 19b 79 89 90 114 129 168
al., 1997; Vyn and Janovicek, 2001; Yin and Vyn, 2003). The leaf Soybean 3b 64 70 70 67 74 ns
4b 31 34 34 26 27 ns
K concentration response to K fertilization was larger and to a
6b 36 38 40 43 47 168
higher K rate than for grain yield, and there was strong evidence 7b 70 69 77 82 73 ns
for luxury accumulation of K in the leaves. 9b 54 54 56 60 58 ns
13b 23 26 27 29 29 120
Critical Tissue Potassium Concentrations 14b 39 43 49 62 57 112
15b 39 45 41 47 56 168
Figure 1 shows that the relative grain yield response of corn
17b 38 37 39 49 52 168
increased curvilinearly as the K concentration of plants at the V5- 20b 38 38 49 48 61 168
V6 stage and leaves at the R1 stage increased. The graphs for both Suffixes a and b identify the first and second crop at each site,
tissues show that data for sites with no yield response were dis- respectively.
Max, maximizing K rate. ns, not significant K effect (P 0.10). The
tinctly grouped at high relative yield values, which was expected,
highest or lowest rate (168 or 28 kg K ha-1, respectively) is indicated
but corresponded to a range of tissue K concentrations almost when a linear model had the best fit or when no model fit but the
as wide as for the yield responsive sites. The LP and QP models mean of the fertilized treatments differed from the control.
had approximately similar R2 values (0.47 and 0.49, respectively)
but identified different critical concentrations. This result (dif- ciency range of 25 to 40 g K kg-1 suggested by Jones et al. (1990).
ferent critical concentrations for models with similar R2) has Mallarino and Higashi (2009) found no correlation between the
been observed before for nutrient application rates (Cerrato and K concentration of young corn plants and grain yield in an Iowa
Blackmer, 1990), soil tests (Mallarino and Blackmer, 1992), and study with infrequent yield response to K. The critical concentra-
tissues tests (Mallarino, 1996). The critical K concentrations de- tions for corn ear leaves compare to a sufficiency range of 13 to
termined by LP and QP models were 20.2 and 25.1 g K kg-1 for 30 g K kg-1 suggested by Jones et al. (1990) and to 12.3 g K kg -1
plants and 10.2 and 11.0 g K kg-1 for leaves, respectively. The crit- reported by Mallarino and Higashi (2009). Therefore, critical K
ical concentration for young corn plants compare to an average concentrations for corn young plants and leaves determined in
of 39.8 g K kg-1 reported by Walker and Peck (1975) and a suffi- this study are lower or in the low range compared with those sug-

638 Soil Science Society of America Journal


Table 10. Mean corn and soybean early dry weight (V5 to V6), K concentration, and K cal concentrations. The determined criti-
accumulation across first- and second-year grain yield responsive and nonresponsive
sites for K treatments applied the first year of 2-yr trials. cal concentration range for soybean leaves
compares to ranges of 17.1 to 25 g K kg -1
Treatment (kg K ha-1)
by Small and Ohlrogge (1973), and 17 to
Crop year Response Crop 0 28 56 112 168 Max
Plant DW (g plant-1)- kg K ha-1
25 K kg -1 by Jones et al. (1990) and Sabbe
First Yes Corn 4.40 4.82 4.70 4.79 4.67 ns et al. (2011). Therefore, critical K concen-
Soybean 2.01 2.08 2.18 2.19 2.05 ns trations for soybean leaves determined in
No Corn 3.01 3.02 3.11 3.24 3.11 ns this study are approximately similar to
Soybean 2.17 2.18 2.15 2.18 2.19 ns those suggested by studies conducted be-
Second Yes Corn 3.14 3.33 3.35 3.33 3.31 28 fore 1990 and more recently.
Soybean 2.30 2.31 2.46 2.46 2.31 ns
No Corn 4.80 4.86 4.83 4.73 5.07 ns SUMMARY AND
Soybean 2.52 2.47 2.51 2.49 2.45 ns
CONCLUSIONS
Plant K concentration (g K kg-1)
Potassium fertilization increased corn
First Yes Corn 17.8 21.0 22.8 27.3 28.3 124
and soybean grain yield at 16 site-years
Soybean 15.3 16.9 18.2 20.7 19.7 92
when initial STK was 173 mg K kg-1).
No Corn 25.4 26.1 28.6 29.8 33.4 168
Soybean 20.4 21.4 22.9 23.7 24.0 80
When averaged across yield responsive
Second Yes Corn 18.9 22.6 24.3 28.7 32.0 168 first-year crops, corn responded up to
Soybean 16.2 16.9 19.0 20.7 23.6 168 91 kg K ha-1 and soybean responded up
No Corn 22.2 24.1 26.2 29.3 31.9 168 to 103 kg K ha-1. On average across the
Soybean 18.5 19.8 20.0 21.2 21.9 168 second-year responsive crops, both corn
Plant K accumulation (mg K plant-1) and soybean responded up to the highest
First Yes Corn 84 112 116 138 138 142 rate applied the first year (168 kg K ha-1).
Soybean 32 36 40 46 40 110 Potassium fertilization seldom increased
No Corn 72 75 86 93 103 168 corn grain K concentration and did not
Soybean 44 46 49 51 52 168
increase it on average across yield respon-
Second Yes Corn 67 85 92 105 116 168
sive sites. In soybean, however, fertilization
Soybean 37 39 46 51 55 168
increased grain K concentration in several
No Corn 107 115 124 139 161 168
Soybean 45 47 49 51 53 168
sites. Grain K concentration across yield re-
D W, dry weight; Max, maximizing K rate; ns, not significant K effect (P 0.10). The highest sponsive first- and second-year soybean re-
rate (168 kg K ha-1) is indicated when a linear model had the best fit. sponded up to 116 and 65 kg K ha-1, respec-
tively, while in sites with no yield response
gested by studies conducted before 1990, but the difference is a rate of 168 kg K ha-1 maximized K concentration for both
larger for young plants than for leaves at midseason. first- and second-year crops. Grain K removal responses followed
Figure 2 shows that the soybean relative grain yield re- more closely yield responses than K concentration responses for
sponse also increased as the K concentration of young plants at both crops. On average across yield responsive sites, 138 and
the V5-V6 stage and leaves at the R2 stage increased. As with 168 kg K ha-1 maximized corn K removal in first-year and re-
corn, graphs for both tissues show that data for sites with no sidual sites, respectively, while 110 and 168 kg K ha-1 maximized
yield response were grouped at high relative yield values but K removal in first- and second-year soybean crops, respectively.
corresponded to a range of tissue K concentrations almost as On average across sites with no yield response, however, there
wide as for the yield responsive sites. There was a statistically was no grain K removal response to K for any crop.
significant linear relationship between relative yield and the Early plant DW responses to K fertilization were infrequent
K concentration of young plants for LP and QP models, and and the responsive sites seldom coincided with yield responsive
equations and fitted lines are shown in Fig. 2. The strength of sites. Potassium fertilization frequently increased early plant K
the relationships was very poor (R2 0.17 and 0.16), however, so concentration and accumulation and also leaf K concentration
no reliable critical concentration could be determined. A simi- regardless of the yield response. However, when there was no
larly low R2 value was reported by Mallarino (2010) for Iowa early plant K concentration, early plant K accumulation, or leaf
research conducted from 1995 to 1998. Sabbe et al. (2011) sug- K concentration responses to K fertilization there were no grain
gest a sufficiency range of 15 to 22.5 g K kg -1 for young soybean yield responses either. The K fertilizer rate that maximized plant
plants for the southern region of the United States. The critical K concentration, plant K accumulation, and leaf K concentra-
K concentrations determined by LP and QP models for soy- tion ranged from 92 to 168 kg K ha-1 on average across crops and
bean leaves at the R2 stage were 17.6 and 20.0 g K kg -1, respec- sites showing a grain yield response. However, the highest K rate
tively. As with corn, the fit of LP and QP models was similar used in the study (168 kg K ha-1) often maximized values of these
(R2 0.32 for both models) but identified slightly different criti-

www.soils.org/publications/sssaj 639
Table 11. Leaf corn (R1) and soybean (R2) K concentration for
each site and K treatment applied the first year of 2-yr trials.
Treatment (kg K ha-1)
Crop Site 0 28 56 112 168 Max
g K kg-1- kg K ha1
First-year crop
Corn 3a 15.8 17.2 18.7 18.7 19.7 100
4a 10.3 10.1 10.5 12.3 12.6 168
6a 6.0 6.7 8.1 9.3 11.3 168
7a 14.1 13.6 17.0 16.4 15.9 28
9a 14.0 16.1 16.2 17.7 18.6 168
13a 17.0 19.2 19.0 20.9 21.7 168
14a 9.7 10.9 11.0 13.8 16.5 168
15a 9.8 12.1 13.0 14.3 14.7 168
17a 8.1 10.5 12.4 13.7 16.1 168
20a 11.1 13.6 16.6 17.0 19.2 168
Soybean 1a 20.3 21.2 19.3 23.7 23.9 28
2a 20.4 21.9 24.3 26.6 28.9 168
5a 11.0 12.5 13.3 20.5 19.5 168
8a 23.8 23.4 27.5 27.5 28.2 168
10a 20.3 24.9 22.6 24.1 26.0 168
11a 18.3 18.9 20.0 20.4 28.1 168
12a 23.2 23.5 25.2 25.5 26.2 81
16a 19.9 23.0 21.9 24.8 26.2 168
18a 14.5 16.3 18.8 18.9 22.4 168
19a 16.4 21.4 20.9 22.5 23.6 168
Second-year crop
Corn 1b 10.6 10.6 12.2 12.9 13.8 168
2b 10.0 10.0 11.3 12.3 12.8 168
5b 5.7 6.7 6.2 11.1 10.1 168
8b 10.6 10.5 12.8 13.8 15.0 168
10b 12.4 15.9 17.4 18.4 17.7 78
11b 10.4 10.4 10.3 11.8 13.6 168
12b na na na na na na
16b 12.1 13.8 14.7 15.4 17.7 168
18b 7.6 8.7 9.9 11.6 13.1 168
Fig. 1. Relationship between relative corn grain yield and the K
19b 11.3 13.2 13.8 14.9 16.3 168 concentration of young plants (V5 to V6 stage) and ear leaves
Soybean 3b 26.6 26.1 27.1 28.8 31.0 168 at the R1 stage. Black and white symbols indicate data for yield
4b 16.0 17.6 19.7 21.0 24.5 168 responsive and nonresponsive sites, respectively. LP, linear plateau;
6b 14.3 16.2 16.5 17.1 20.4 168 QP, quadratic plateau.
7b 27.1 27.4 29.3 28.8 27.4 ns ranges defined by LP and QP models were 20.2 and 25.1 g K kg-1
9b 21.1 20.7 21.7 25.9 26.2 168 for plants and 10.2 and 11.0 g K kg -1 for leaves, respectively. The
13b 19.6 18.7 18.9 21.4 20.8 28
K concentrations of soybean plants at the V5-V6 growth stage
14b 12.0 12.3 12.9 15.1 15.7 168
and leaves at the R2 stage also were significantly related to the
15b 14.8 15.9 15.5 17.9 18.8 168
relative yield response to K, but the strength of the relationship
17b 14.5 16.0 18.4 20.5 25.2 168
20b 15.9 16.5 19.3 18.9 21.0 168
was poorer then for corn. No reliable critical K concentration
Suffixes a and b identify the first and second crop at each site, could be determined for the young plants because the relation-
respectively. ship with yield response was very poor. The critical K concentra-
Max, maximizing K rate; ns, not significant K effect (P 0.10). The highest tion range for leaves defined by LP and QP models was 17.6 and
or lowest rate (168 or 28 kg K ha-1) is indicated when a linear model had
the best fit or when no model fit but the mean of the fertilized treatments
20.0 g K kg-1.
differed from the control. na, leaf samples were lost. Overall, the results showed large differences in the relative
magnitude of the response to K fertilization by different corn and
three measurements for corn and soybean at sites with no grain soybean plant parts. The study, which was based on many sites,
yield response to K fertilization. years, and growing conditions, identified four groups of plant
The K concentrations of corn plants at the V5-V6 growth parts each with contrastingly different responses to K fertiliza-
stage and leaves at the R1 stage were significantly related to the tion. For both crops, the K concentration and accumulation in
relative yield response to K fertilization. Critical concentration vegetative tissues showed the highest magnitude and frequency

640 Soil Science Society of America Journal


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