From Agronomists of the
Potash & Phosphate Institute
655 Engineering Drive, Suite 110
Norcross, Georgia 30092-2837
Phone (770) 447-0335

Fall 2002, No. 3


Phosphorus is just as important as nitrogen for wheat production. Early season phosphorus nutrition is especially critical. Without an adequate phosphorus supply early in its development, wheat experiences growth restrictions from which it may never recover, even if phosphorus supplies become adequate later.

Wheat produces two kinds of stems: 1) the main stem, and 2) a variable number of tillers. The kinds and numbers of tillers developed by the wheat crop are determined early in the growing season. Factors such as phosphorus or nitrogen deficiency, hard soil, or planting too deep can create stresses that reduce the initiation of tillers.

Of all the tillers formed, grain from the T1 and T2 tillers (originating from the bases of the first and second leaves, respectively) accounts for about half of the final yield. The other half comes from grain from the main stem.

On deficient soils, phosphorus fertilization increases phosphorus uptake. Early in the season, when the number of tillers initiated–and thus potential yield–is being determined, phosphorus from fertilizer may account for more than 50 percent of the total phosphorus in the plant. If phosphorus supplies in the plant become deficient, the initiation of T1 and T2 tillers can be significantly inhibited, cutting into sources of approximately half of the final yield.

Wheat takes up phosphorus throughout the growing season. Total uptake by wheat is about 0.68 pounds of P2O5 per bushel. Harvesting grain removes phosphorus from the field at a rate of about 0.50 pounds P2O5 per bushel. Banding phosphorus near the seed provides ready access to phosphorus supplies during early season growth. Maintaining adequate phosphorus supplies throughout the soil ensures phosphorus will be adequate to meet plant needs during the remainder of the season.

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For more information, contact Dr. T. Scott Murrell, Northcentral Director, PPI, 3579 Commonwealth Road, Woodbury, MN 55125. Phone: (651) 264-1936. E-mail:
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