Good wheat yield? Basic fertilization with NPK!

What does wheat need?

We have already written many times about the most important crop managing factors, as the yield of wheat – which is our most important field crop – depends on them. The most relevant effect of these factors has plant nutrition, because in 30% depends on that, how much yield we harvest next summer. 

The table shows both the nutrient uptake by the plant and the extraction per tonne of grain yield. Wheat is extremely sensitive to N deficiency; however, phosphorus and sulphate also play an important role. For example, wheat with a production target of 8t/ha (14% crude protein) consumes 8*30=240kg N/ha. Assuming an average N replenishment from the soil (for example 50 N/ha) and additional N availability by means of a legume as a preceding crop (e.g. 30 N/ha), fertilization of 160kg N/ha is required. With the harvest, 8*22=176kg N/ha leave the field. We also should not forget about the copper, manganese and zinc demand of the wheat.

It is worth to use NPK as basic application

Complex fertilizers are essential for winter wheat basic fertilization in order to provide the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that is essential for the initial development of plants and for the safe survival of winter.

Of our cultivated plants, wheat reacts most sensitively to nitrogen, which is important for the formation of the vegetative mass, especially in the phase of tillering and shooting. However, the formation of ear buds begins already during tillering, so at this time the expected yield is already determined. The nutrients necessary for the development of the ear buds need to be continuously provided, the nitrogen deficiency in tillering phase is difficult to make up later. It is therefore strongly recommended to apply 30-50 kg/ha of nitrogen in autumn, especially if there is a large amount of residuals left on the soil. The remaining part of N shall be distributed in spring, if possible, divided into 2-3 applications.

Wheat, especially at the beginning of its development, needs phosphorus. Proper phosphorus fertilization can result in up to 1 tonne of extra crop yield per hectare, which is not negligible. Especially on soils with low humus content is important to apply phosphorus, since in such soils most of the phosphorus is present in organic form and is not available for the plants, while fertilizer provides immediately available phosphorus. Also nitrogen can be utilized by plants only if the phosphorus supply is sufficient, so it is important to provide enough phosphorus during the autumn basic fertilization to reach and maintain a favorable nutrient ratio.

Potassium plays a key role in winter hardness, as one of its most important functions is to improve the water management of plants, thereby increasing stress- and frost tolerance. In areas where soil phosphorus and potassium content is medium or better, NPK fertilizer COMPLEX 15/15/15 +7SO3+Zn can be a cost-effective and simple solution, as proven by our field trials.

Graph 1 shows the results of our winter wheat field trials from Nagyréde. Plots that received NPK basic fertilizer in autumn brought a significant excess of about 2 t/ha extra yield compared to the control and 0.8 ton/ha compared to the plots fertilized just with nitrogen, while the already high gluten content increased slightly but further. The figure also shows the cost-effectiveness: the benefit of the parcels with 180 kg/ha nitrogen and autumn NPK application was around 30,000 HUF per hectare compared to the control, but even compared to the parcels fertilized just with N remained 10-12,000 HUF more in the farmer's pocket.
NPK + Sulphur

This year's crop results were greatly influenced by the unfavorable weather conditions during the growing season: there was late sowing because of less rain, late emergence, a dry spring, rainy May with Fusarium, but despite all of these, there was a measurable effect of NPK fertilization in the average of our field trial results. Graph 2 shows that 180 kg/ha of nitrogen, 30-30 kg/ha of phosphorus and potassium were found to be most effective in the country average. The application of N+S fertilizers during the first spring fertilization should also be considered, especially on soils with low sulphur content. In our case, the application of sulphur caused a slight increase in both yield and protein content in the average of field trials, but there were single results, where this difference was more significant.

Summary: Ensure NPK fertilizer for autumn basic fertilization of wheat! Borealis L.A.T recommends the following cost effective, high quality products with excellent spreading pattern: COMPLEX 15/15/15 +7SO3+Zn, COMPLEX 14/10/20 +10SO3, COMPLEX 20/20 +7SO3+Zn. 80% of the phosphorus and the whole of potassium content of our fertilizers are water-soluble, so they are immediately available for the plants for a rapid and vigorous early development.