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This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 70 No. 5, p. 787-791
    Received: Oct 26, 1977

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Effect of Foliar Fertilization on Photosynthesis, Leaf Nutrition, and Yield of Soybeans1

  1. K. J. Boote,
  2. R. N. Gallaher,
  3. W. K. Robertson,
  4. K. Hinson and
  5. L. C. Hammond2



Foliar fertilization (FF) was reported to increase seed yields of soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] in field experiments in Iowa, but yield increases were not consistent. The researchers hypothesized that FF should minimize nutrient depletion from leaves during seed development, and thereby delay the resulting decrease in leaf photosynthesis. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a field experiment in 1976 to determine the effect of FF on leaf element concentrations, gross leaf photosynthesis (Pg), and soybean seed yield. Five weekly foliar sprays were applied during the seed-filling period of ‘Bragg’ soybean grown at Gainesville, Florida on Kendrick loamy sand (loamy, siliceous, hyperthermic grossarenic paleudult). At weekly intervals, we sampled upper leaves and total canopy leaves and analyzed them for N, P, and K, and measured Pg of upper leaves in mid-day sun with a 14CO2 gas flow technique. Foliar applications of N, P, K, and S increased the N, P, and K concentration of total canopy leaves from 3.28, 0.24, and 0.92% to 3.48, 0.29, and 1.32%, respectively. FF significantly increased upper leaf Pg only at two late sample dates when seed growth was nearly complete and most leaves had already senesced and dropped. Even though nutrient concentrations were increased, FF did not significantly affect yields nor did it extend Pg duration or delay maturity. Treated soybeans yielded 3617 kg/ha compared to 3825 kg/ha for control soybeans. Leaf Pg and concentrations of N and P in leaves progressively decreased during seed-filling until maturity but K did not decline. Leaf Pg was positively correlated with N (r = 0.87) and approached zero at approximately 1.75% N, a concentration similar to that of senesced, recently abscised leaves. Maximum Pg was predicted at 4.6 to 6.0% leaf N. Leaf Pg and percent P were also positively correlated. The relationship of Pg to leaf N during N removal from leaves can potentially be used to model photosynthetic decline during seed-filling.

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