Optimizing Water and Nitrogen Use for Sustainable Wheat Production

Final report for SW16-031

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2016: $249,939.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2018
Grant Recipient: University of Idaho
Region: Western
State: Idaho
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Olga Walsh
University of Idaho
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Project Information

Abstract:

All field and lab based activities have been completed. The study was conducted at two locations in Idaho and one location in Montana. Several research and extension publications have bee released for publication. Two research publications are currently in review. One is focused on the water and nitrogen in relation to wheat crop yield and the other - focused on wheat root growth and development. Extensive number of wheat root samples has been analyzed and will allow for comprehensive peer-reviewed paper. In our experiments conducted in 2016 and 2017, soil residual nitrogen (N) at 0-2 feet prior to planting ranged from 80 to 130 lb N/acre, which allowed for more N application to increase grain yield, according to the University of Idaho guideline for hard spring wheat fertilization under irrigated conditions. However, one hard white and one hard red varieties of spring wheat failed to show increases in grain yield in response to various N rates from residual N (zero N application) to a high N rate of 250 lb/ac (soil residual N plus N application) (Yang et al., 2018). Consistently, aboveground biomass and its N concentration at harvest were not different among the N rates.
These results may suggest that N applications overtime have built up soil N fertility, and residual N from previous crops might be plenty for the following wheat crop. For N fertilization, soil residual N is usually quantified at 0 to 1 or 0 to 2 feet, whereas the root system of wheat can reach as deep as 6 feet. Thus, soil residual N located at 3 to 4 feet can be used by wheat, which is seldom counted towards N input. On the other hand, to improve grain yield, N uptake has been genetically increased through breeding efforts over the last a few decades, so the N requirement for optimal yield in recently developed varieties may not be as high as old varieties. Thus, it is imperative to investigate N requirement for optimal grain yield with considerations of soil residual N from a deep soil profile and differences in N uptake among recently developed varieties.  We plan to continue working on identifying best management strategies for wheat.

 

Project Objectives:
  • To evaluate the effects of N rates and drip-irrigation treatments on hard red spring wheat plant growth and yield
  • To develop sensor-based methods to predict yield and grain protein content in varying N and water environments, and to determine the minimum N and water required to maintain wheat grain yield and quality
  • To develop empirical models predicting yield loss due to N stress and yield loss due to water stress

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Xi Liang
  • Jessica Torrion

Research

Research conclusions:

Impacts

Products:

Walsh O.S., Jessica A. Torrion, Xi Liang, Jordan R. McClintick-Chess, Steven M. Blanscet. 2018. Spring Wheat Root Growth and Development as Affected by Varied Nitrogen and Water Applications. (in preparation)

Walsh O.S., Jessica A. Torrion, Xi Liang, Jordan R. McClintick-Chess, Steven M. Blanscet. 2018. Response of Spring Wheat Grain Yield and Quality to Varied Nitrogen and Water Applications. (in preparation)

Torrion J.A, X.Liang, O.S. Walsh, B.B.V. de Almeda, and A. Sapkota. 2018. Association of Nitrogen and Water on Wheat with High Grain Protein Content Gene. Field Crops. (submitted).

Rogers S.W., B. Dari, and O.S. Walsh. 2017. Managing Fertilizer Nitrogen Applications for Spring Barley and Wheat. Idaho Grain Magazine. Winter 2017. pp. 31-32.

Walsh O.S., J. Torrion, X. Liang, J. McClintick, S. Blanscet. 2017. Response of Spring Wheat to Varied Nitrogen and Water Applications. Proc. Western Nutrient Management Conference.

Walsh O.S., Jessica A. Torrion, Xi Liang, Jordan R. McClintick, Steven M. Blanscet. Response of Spring Wheat to Varied Nitrogen and Water Applications. 2017. of the Agrophysics Trends Conference.

Walsh O.S., J.A. Torrion, X. Liang, J. R. McClintick-Chess, and S.M. Blanscet. 2016. Sensor-Based Technologies for Improving Water and Nitrogen Use Efficiency. Proc. of the ASA-CSSA-SSSA International Annual meetings.

Liang Xi, Walsh O.S., O’Brien K., and J. Torrion. Response of Spring Wheat to Varied Nitrogen and Water Applications. 2017.  Proc. of the ASA International Annual meetings

Ondoua R. N. and O.S. Walsh. 2017. Precision Agriculture, Advances, and Limitations: Lessons to the Stakeholders. Crops & Soils. 50(3). pp.40-47

Walsh O.S., J.A. Torrion, X. Liang, J. R. McClintick-Chess, and S.M. Blanscet. 2016. Sensor-Based Technologies for Improving Water and Nitrogen Use Efficiency. Proc. of the ASA-CSSA-SSSA International Annual meetings.

Walsh O. S., K. Belmont, J. McClintick-Chess. 2016. Sensor-Based Technologies for Improving Water and Nitrogen Use Efficiency. Proc. International Conference on Precision Agriculture.

Walsh O.S., K.M. Belmont, J.R. McClintick-Chess. 2016. Improving Water and Nitrogen Use Efficiency in Wheat. Proc. Idaho Nutrient Management Conference

Walsh O.S., K.M. Belmont, J.R. McClintick-Chess. 2016. Improving Water and Nitrogen Use Efficiency in Wheat. Western Crop Science Society Conference, Albuquerque, AZ, June 11-13, 2016.

Other Products:

Farming in Water-Limiting Environment. Southern Idaho Cropping School, Caldwell, ID, February 9, 2016.

Precision Nitrogen Fertilizer and Water Application in Cereal Crops Far West Agribusiness Association, Winter Conference, Twin Falls, ID, January 14, 2016.

Accomplishments

·        Field studies were initiated in Idaho and Montana. Experimental plots were arranged in a split-plot design with 4 replications: four N levels (112, 168, 224, and 280 kg N ha-1) and four water regimes (100%, 75%, 50% and 0% ET). Spring wheat (var. Alturas) was planted in March 2016 at 168 kg seed ha-1. Irrigation was applied via subsurface drip system. Several crop physiological parameters including plant height, leaf area index, chlorophyll content, canopy spectral reflectance, above ground biomass, N uptake, water and N use efficiency and grain yield and quality was measured at early tillering, late tillering and anthesis. 

·        At all three locations, the lowest grain yields were obtained with 0% ET treatments, independent of the N rate applied.

·        For all locations, ET has significantly affected grain yield, and there were no significant differences in yield associated with N rate

·        N has significantly affected grain protein content, and there were no significant differences in grain protein associated with ET.

·        The models will be developed upon collecting the 2017 data.

Participation Summary
2 Farmers participating in research

Education

Educational approach:

Field demonstrations were conducted at Parma, Aberdeen and Kalispell locations in the summer of 2017. Three cropping Schools were held in Idaho in the fall of 2017 and in winter of 2017. Three field days were held in Idaho and Montana in 2018. Numerous presentations were made to growers and extension personnel. An extension publication focused on grain quality has been published. 

Educational & Outreach Activities

50 Consultations
2 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
3 Journal articles
8 On-farm demonstrations
3 Published press articles, newsletters
5 Tours
26 Webinars / talks / presentations
7 Workshop field days
4 Other educational activities

Participation Summary:

465 Farmers
128 Ag professionals participated

Learning Outcomes

35 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key areas taught:
  • Efficient water use
  • Improved nutrient use efficiency
Key changes:
  • Improved nutrient use efficiency

  • Efficient water use

Project Outcomes

35 Farmers intend/plan to change their practice(s)
1 Grant received that built upon this project
12 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

The project has helped to highlight the importance of soil and water conservation and the necessity to improve nutrient use efficiency in cereal crops, to ensure sustainable production (agronomic, economic, and environmental). Several growers are encouraged to implement efficient irrigation systems such as subsurface drip, which help to improve water use efficiency by approximately 60%.

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.