The ability to utilise foliar-applied phosphorus (P) as a strategy to increase the P status and yield of grain crops grown in dryland regions with variable climates is attractive. Several P formulations with varying pH, accompanying cations and adjuvants were tested for their effectiveness as foliar fertilisers for wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) plants, first under controlled and then under field conditions. Experiments under controlled conditions suggested that several formulations with specific chemistries offered promise with respect to wheat fertiliser-P recovery and biomass responses. These formulations were then evaluated in two field experiments, and although wheat grown at the sites showed substantive responses to soil-applied P, there was no significant grain-yield response to foliar-applied P. Following the limited responses to foliar-applied fertiliser in the field, we used an isotopic dilution technique to test the hypothesis that the variation in responses of wheat to foliar addition of P could be explained by a mechanism of substitution, whereby root P uptake is downregulated when P is taken up through the leaves, but this was proven not to be the case. We conclude that foliar P application cannot be used as a tactical fertiliser application to boost grain yield of wheat in dryland regions.
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Vol. 71 • No. 9