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Winter Wheat Nutrient Uptake, Partitioning and Removal

Principal Investigator

Peter Johnson

Research Institution

Middlesex Soil and Crop Improvement Association


September 2018 – March 2021


  • To determine nutrient uptake and partitioning of wheat, across genotypes and different classes, at various growth stages under both high and low nitrogen (yield) environments.
  • To develop a wheat extension publication with nutrient uptake curves, nutrient dynamics and suggested management options to maximize yield and minimize environmental impact.


  • The understanding of nutrient demand and uptake timings of high yield wheat will give growers the opportunity to fine tune fertility applications, supporting even higher yields to maintain profitability and keep wheat as a viable option in crop rotations.
  • The determination of nitrogen dynamics in wheat will identify opportunities for improved nitrogen use efficiency by either reducing nitrogen rate applied or supporting higher yields, or both, all of which can reduce environmental impact of applied nitrogen.

Scientific Summary

Wheat production and genetics have changed significantly over the past decades. Current yield levels in Ontario average nearly 90 bu/ac, with high yield growers achieving yields exceeding 150 bu/ac. Wheat yield trendlines have shown a consistent increase of 1.05 bushel/acre/year. Physiological changes in the wheat plant to support higher yield may require increased nutrient uptake. Nutrient uptake and partitioning research in corn and soybean has shown significant changes in nutrient uptake with new varieties and high yields, emphasizing nitrogen timing (corn) and the importance of phosphorus uptake through grainfill (corn and soybean). These findings have helped to identify improved fertilizer management strategies in both crops. Similar opportunities exist in wheat, but very few wheat nutrient uptake studies have been completed in North America.

This project will investigate nutrient uptake, partitioning, and removal in wheat to determine current uptake patterns of high yield wheat. The information will drive best management practices (BMPs) in nitrogen application recommendations, supporting increased yields and reduced environmental impact into the future. This research will include high and low nitrogen regimes, with and without fungicide, across wheat types and differing genetic backgrounds. This will improve the understanding of the N uptake-partitioning dynamic and nitrogen use efficiency. Tissue analysis will include nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, calcium, sulphur, sodium, iron, aluminum, manganese, copper, boron, and zinc. Extension documents and a peer reviewed paper will ensure the BMPs developed in this research are available to researchers, agronomists and growers to continue to support highest possible yields with minimum environmental impact.

External Funding Partners

This project was funded in part through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (the Partnership), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of the Partnership in Ontario.