Evaluation of Variable Rate Fertilizer Applications in an Arizona Cotton Production System
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AbstractA project was initiated in the 2004 cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) growing season in an effort to accomplish two major objectives. The first was to continue with phosphorus (P) fertilization evaluations that have taken place in the Upper Gila River Valley for the past four seasons by continuing to document the effects of P fertilization on crop yield and fiber quality. The second objective was to investigate the feasibility of utilizing a Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology for making variable rate (VR) applications of P fertilizers based upon yield data from the previous cropping season. Yield maps from a cotton picker mounted yield monitoring system were collected from the 2003 growing season and used to develop prescription applications of P fertilizers in the 2004 season. The project was established with four treatments including a control (Treatment 1 - 0 P fertilizer applied); a VR application treatment (Treatment 2 - received 52 lbs P/acre on average); a high Uniform Rate (UR) application (Treatment 3 - 75 lbs P/acre); and a low UR application (Treatment 4 - 45 lbs P/acre). These treatments were arranged in a randomized complete block design with four replications. The size of each experimental unit was 0.7 acres. Lint yield results indicated a positive response to applied P fertilizers with treatments 2, 3, and 4 producing significantly higher yields than the control. Lint yield was not significantly affected by fertilizer application technique. Yield differences among the treatments receiving P fertilizer were minimal, particularly among treatments 2 and 3. However, it is important to note that the amount of P fertilizer used in treatment 2 was reduced by 27% with the use of the VR application technique. This produces an approximate $7/acre savings to the grower. This project will be continued in the 2005 growing season and will be expanded to investigate VR application technology in nitrogen (N) fertilization also.