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This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 74 No. 3, p. 492-499
    Received: Oct 5, 1981

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Economic and Agronomic Impacts of Varied Philosophies of Soil Testing1

  1. R. A. Olson,
  2. K. D. Frank,
  3. P. H. Grabouski and
  4. G. W. Rehm2



Philosophical differences exist in the interpretation and recommendations made from soil test values acquired by different organizations that provide advice to farmers on fertilizer use. It was the objective of this sfudy to evaluate the economic and agronomic impacts of these varied philosophies with particular reference to concepts of cation ratio, nutrient maintenance, and nutrient sufficiency level. Field experiments were conducted during 1973-1980 on four major soils of Nebraska comparing yields of corn (Zea mays L.) grown with fertilizer treatments as recommended by five soil testing laboratories operating in the state. The 29 field comparisons revealed no real yield differences despite wide variation in number, rate, and cost of nutrients applied. Since soil test levels are increasing or at least holding steady with the “nutrient sufficiency” approach to soil testing, we find no economic or agronomic basis for the “balance” or “maintenance” concepts on these representative soils of the western Corn Belt. Not to be overlooked are environmental implications nor the waste of energy and resources from any approach responsible for excessive fertilizer use. It is recognized that reserves of available nutrients in the deep subsoils and underlying soil-forming materials in this region have a substantial bearing on soil test calibration and that different calibrations may exist with less favorable subsoil rooting conditions.

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