The inaccessibility and cost of soil testing reduce effectiveness of fertilizer use on small-scale subsistence farms, and inadequate funding promotes adoption of soil tests in developing countries with minimal validation. For example, Mehlich-I extraction of phosphorus (P) currently used extensively in Guatemala may not be suitable for its broad range of soils. At least four alternatives are available but are relatively untested [Bray 1, Mehlich III, Olsen and pressurized hot water (PHW)]. Pressurized hot water is relatively simple and inexpensive, but is not yet tested against other extraction methods under variable P or potassium (K) fertilization levels. To determine whether PHW-extracted nutrients could be used to predict maize yield, as nutrient content and uptake, soil, plant tissue and grain samples were obtained from a multiple-site field study and calibration studies were conducted using five rates of P and three rates of K on soils incubated without plants or cropped with maize in greenhouse and field conditions. In the multiple-site field study, maize yield related significantly to PHW-extractable P (r2=0.36) and to leaf P concentration (r2=0.23), but Mehlich I did not. In the two soils used in the greenhouse study, maize yield, vegetative P concentration and total P uptake by maize were predicted by PHW extractable P (R2=0.72, 0.75 and 0.90, respectively). In the field experiment, grain yield was not improved by P or K application, but P content of maize leaf tissue did relate significantly with PHW-extracted P (R2=0.40), but Mehlich I did not. There were no yield responses to K application in any experiment, but relationships defined between extractable K for all five K-extraction procedures and soil applied K were similarly significant. In comparing P extraction methods, PHW was as good as or better than Olsen, Bray 1 and Mehlich III for relating soil P extraction to the parameters measured in these experiments, and these four alternative extraction methods were consistently better than Mehlich I. Mehlich I extraction should be replaced by one of the four alternatives tested, and PHW is the least expensive and, thus, most viable for use in Guatemala soils.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences



Date Submitted


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soil test phosphorus, small-scale agriculture, subsistence farming, Guatemala, Mehlich I, Mehlich III, Olsen, pressurized hot water, Bray-1, maize, corn, international agriculture