Chloride as a topdressing nutrient for wheat

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With wheat prospects looking reasonably good so far this season in many areas of the state, producers may be wondering if it would pay to add chloride to their topdressing blend. Chloride is a highly mobile nutrient in soils so split or topdress application may be beneficial, especially in regions of sufficient precipitation or with coarse texture soils that may cause leaching.

One of the main benefits from good chloride (Cl) nutrition is the improvement in overall disease resistance in wheat. Wheat response to chloride is usually expressed in improved color, suppression of fungal diseases, and increased yield. It is difficult to predict whether chloride would significantly increase wheat yields unless there has been a recent soil test analysis for this nutrient. Chloride fertilization based on soil testing is slowly becoming more common in Kansas.

As with nitrate and sulfate, chloride soil testing is recommended using a 0-24" profile sample. More field testing is needed, particularly in western Kansas, to determine the extent of the chloride-deficient areas, and to improve soil test correlations and calibrations. But based on current data, the probability of a response to Cl in dryland wheat production in central Kansas is higher than in western Kansas.

The interpretation of the Cl test and corresponding fertilizer recommendations for wheat are given in the table below. Chloride fertilizer is recommended when the soil test is below 6 ppm, or 45 pounds soil chloride in the 24-inch sample depth. Dry or liquid fertilizer sources are all plant available immediately. Potassium chloride (potash) and ammonium chloride are the most commonly available and widely used fertilizer products, though other products such as calcium, magnesium and sodium chloride can also be used.

Figure 1. Relative wheat grain yield as affected by total chloride supply (soil + fertilizer) in Kansas.


Soil Test Chloride Interpretations for Wheat in Kansas


Soil Chloride in a 0-24 inch sample

Chloride Recommended




lbs Cl/acre














Deficiency symptoms appear as leaf spotting and are referred to as physiological leaf spot.

K-State has done considerable research on Cl applications to wheat since the early 1980’s, mostly in the eastern half of the state. Results have varied, but there have been economic yield responses in almost all cases where soil test Cl levels have been less than 30 lbs/acre. Deficiencies were most likely to be found on fields with no history of potash (KCl) applications. Early studies showed that there are variety differences in response to Cl, but no recent studies have been done on this.

For more information, see “Chloride in Kansas: Plant, Soil, and Fertilizer Considerations,” MF2570:


Dave Mengel, Soil Fertility Specialist

Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, Nutrient Management Specialist