The objective was to develop and test a procedure for applying variable rates of fertilizers and evaluate yield response in coffee (Coffea arabica L.) with regard to the application of phosphorus and potassium. The work was conducted during the 2004 season in a 6.4 ha field located in central São Paulo state. Two treatments were applied with alternating strips of fixed and variable rates during the whole season: one following the fertilizing procedures recommended locally, and the other based on a grid soil sampling. A prototype pneumatic fertilizer applicator was used, carrying two conveyor belts, one for each row. Harvesting was done with a commercial harvester equipped with a customized volumetric yield monitor, separating the two treatments. Data were analyzed based on geostatistics, correlations and regressions. The procedure showed to be feasible and effective. The area that received fertilizer applications at a variable rate showed a 34% yield increase compared to the area that received a fixed rate. The variable rate fertilizer resulted in a savings of 23% in phosphate fertilizer and a 13% increase in potassium fertilizer, when compared to fixed rate fertilizer. Yield in 2005, the year after the variable rate treatments, still presented residual effect from treatments carried out during the previous cycle.
precision agriculture; yield map; soil fertility