Growing Wheat crop nutrition advice

Everything you need to know about wheat fertilization, best practices, suitable products, field trials and more

Advice for growing Wheat (Triticum spp.)

  • Optimal pH for winter wheat is 6.5.

  • Yields of most cultivars can be markedly reduced where pH is below 5.5, mainly due to susceptibility to P, Mo and Ca deficiencies.

  • In pH >7.5 deficiencies of B, Cu, Fe, Mn, P and Zn are likely to appear. Wheat can be grown on practically all soil types.

  • Winter wheat is widely grown throughout temperate zones (in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, up to 60 °N), and at higher elevations in some tropical/sub-tropical areas.

  • The most favorable temperature for flowering, grain initiation, grain formation, and maturing is at 68–77 °F.

Nutrient requirements 

Estimated nutrient uptake (kg/ha): 

Variety Yield N
Winter wheat Total biomass: 6.1 tons/acre

Yield: 100 bushels/acre
Spring wheat Total biomass: 4.0 tons/acre

Yield: 67 bushels/acre

*Whole above-ground part of plant

Source: Adapted from Aigner et al., 1988

Dynamic of nutrient uptake over a crop season in wheat

Reference: Hirzel and Undurraga, 2013

Role of nutrients

Key parameterNP2O5K2OMgCS
Protein content ++++++++++
Vegetative growth +++++++++
Root system+++++++

+ = improving

– = decreasing

+/- = different results, depending on the rate of nutrient applied 

Source: IPI bulletin – Cereals 

Source: Whinter wheat – Crop advice sheet (Agronomy Campus) 

Nutrient deficiencies

NitrogenPlants are pale green to yellow with chlorosis beginning on lower leaves and progressing upwards as the deficiency intensifies; plants have spindly stems and growth is slow.
Phosphorus P deficient plants may remain darker green than normal plants and develop purple discoloration first on the underside and later throughout. Leaf tips may die back when P deficiency is severe. Plants grow slowly, stems are thin and shortened and maturity is delayed. P deficient plants also exhibit poor tillering.
PotassiumK deficiency is initially manifested as chlorosis on the older leaves and progresses upwards as the deficiency intensifies. .The leaves eventually become streaked and take on a scorched appearance along the leaf margins. Chlorotic areas may develop throughout the leaf. Deficiency symptoms can occur in young leaves of some fast-maturing high-yielding varieties. Stems of deficient plants are weak and tend to lodge.
SulfurSymptoms are similar to nitrogen deficiency, but the chlorosis is uniform and general, throughout the entire plant, including younger leaves. Sulfur deficiency is most likely on sandy, free draining and soils low in organic matter.
CalciumCa deficiency is very rare on small grains. Plants are severely stunted, and new leaves exude a gelatinous-like material, causing new leaves to stick together. Because Ca deficiency is favored by low pH (<5.2) and low soil Ca, aluminum-, and manganese- toxicity symptoms will usually be exhibited before Ca deficiency symptoms.
MagnesiumTypically, Mg deficiency is found on soils with a pH of less than about 5.2. Also, wheat is unable to absorb adequate Mg in cool, wet springs.
Zinc Cereals Zn deficiency generally shows up in early growth stages, when plant is only ~10 cm high, appearing first as yellow streaks in the young leaves, with a white to yellowish tip. White spots often appear on the leaves, or along their edges, and a portion of the marginal area may die. The entire plant is frequently stunted.
BoronTerminal shoots die. Leaves die back from tips, and young leaves remain rolled. (Similar to calcium deficiency) B- deficient plants produce very thin ears with much reduced grain yield.
CopperCu deficiency tends to appear in the youngest leaves. Leaf twisting and white leaf tipping. Severe yield reduction. Copper deficiency may be due to low soil availability, or low total soil copper, and is problematic on light, acidic soils, low soil organic matter, granite parent materials, and dry soil.
IronIron deficiency starts out as an interveinal chlorosis of the youngest leaves, evolves into an overall chlorosis, and ends as a die-back of the chlorotic leaves.
ManganeseAt early stages, light chlorosis appears on the young leaves. At more severe cases, mature leaves show netted veins. Then leaves develop brown-grey necrosis along the veins. Chlorotic flecks pattern, concentrated mainly at the leaf base.


The influence of nutrient for wheat resistance 

Disease Pathogen Increase
Take-all disease Gaeumannomyces graminis var. tritici N-NH4, Mn, Cu, Cl N-NO3
Fusariosis Fusarium ssp. Zn, Cl K
Powdery mildew of cerealesErysiphe graminis K, S, Mn N, Zn
Black stem rust Puccinia graminis K, S
Brown rust Puccinia recondite f. sp. TriticiK, Mn, Cl Cu
Septoria tritici K, Cl P

Source: Datnoff L., Elmer W., Huber D., 2007: Mineral nutrition and plant disease, ASP Press, St. Paul, USA, 278 s. 

Healty winter wheat at growing stage
Wheat field close-up

Wheat Trials

Polysulphate on Winter Wheat
UK, 2018


Yield Increase


Here are some frequently asked questions we received from farmers regarding wheat

  • In order to achieve the best yield we must supply the elements in the proper quantity and timing. A soil analysis can help to prevent any deficiencies. 

  • The protein content is linked to nitrogen and sulfur. So, it is important that the plant has nitrogen and sulfur available in an adequate ratio during plant development and grain filling. 

  • Yes, it could be useful particularly in low organic matter soil but it is important to consider the nutrient analysis of the organic matter source in the fertilization program to avoid unnecessary nutrient inputs from fertilizer applications. 

  • In some areas with high content of potassium in the soil it is possible to achieve high yield even without potassium fertilization. However, potassium chloride (potash) fertilizer is an important source of chloride for areas where this nutrient is also limiting to wheat and alternative strategies may be needed if potassium fertilizer is not used. 

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