B. Jákli, M. Hauer-Jákli, F. Böttcher, J. Meyer zur Müdehorst, M. Senbayram and K. Dittert
Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science; Volume 204, Issue 1, February 2018, Pages 99–110 (First published: 7 November 2017)
Potassium (K) fertilization is important to maintain adequate concentrations of plant available K in agricultural soils to achieve best yields and improve crop stress tolerance and water-use efficiency (WUE). Water-use efficiency (WUE) can be expressed on various spatiotemporal scales, and it is known that responses of WUE to external stress are not uniform across scales. Multiscale evaluations of the impact of varying K fertilization on the WUE of C3 crops under field conditions are missing so far. In the present field study, we evaluated effects of K fertilization on WUE of sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.) on short-termed leaf- (WUELeaf) and canopy-scales (WUECanopy) and as the agronomic ratio of white sugar yield (WSY) to in-season water use (i.e. WUEWSY). In K-fertilized plots, WUEWSY was enhanced by 15.9%. This effect is attributed to increased beet yield and WSY, as no differences in total in-season water use between fertilized and unfertilized plots were observed. Potassium (K) fertilization significantly enhanced the leaf area index, resulting in a more efficient depletion of soil moisture by roots in K-fertilized plots. As a consequence, WUELeaf was increased due to stomatal adjustment. Potassium (K) improved WUECanopy only by tendency. It is concluded that K fertilization improves the WUE of field-grown sugar beet across scales, but processes that regulate WUE are highly scale dependent.