Biometric Responses of Soybean to Different Potassium Fertilization Management Practices in Years with High and Low Precipitation

ABSTRACT Brazilian soybean producers commonly apply maintenance potassium (K) fertilization during cultivation to restore the K taken up by plants; however, this measure can modify the morphophysiological plant characteristics, since the functions of K are closely related with plant growth and development. This study assessed the morphological changes in soybean plants in response to K rates, sowing fertilization, and the application periods of K fertilization in a Latossolo Vermelho eutroférrico (Oxisol) under a no-tillage system, located in the municipality of Floresta, Paraná. A randomized block design was used in the experiment with four replications in a fully crossed factorial design (5 × 2 × 2). The experiment was carried out in two growing seasons (2015/2016 and 2016/2017), with a total of 80 experimental units. The rates corresponded to the first factor (0, 40, 80, 120, and 160 kg ha-1 of K). The application periods (pre-sowing and post-sowing) were the second factor, and sowing fertilization (0 and 30 kg ha-1 of K) the third. The following variables were measured: shoot dry weight, leaf dry weight, stem dry weight, leaf area, specific leaf area, leaf area ratio, and leaf area index, and these biometric parameters were correlated with soybean yield. The results showed that plants well-supplied with K exploited the environment better and this may be reversed for higher yields since there were correlations between grain yield and the biometric parameters. At lower water availability, the biometric changes were more evident.