Special Issue "Fertilizer Application on Crop Yield"

A special issue of Agronomy (ISSN 2073-4395). This special issue belongs to the section "Soil and Plant Nutrition".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 August 2018).

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A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Jagadish Timsina
Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia
Interests: cropping systems; fertilizer and nutrient management; cereals and legumes; crop/systems simulation modelling

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Inorganic fertilizers consume at least one-third of the total energy used by agriculture globally. Increased fertilizer application can increase crop yields and improve global food security, and has potential to eliminate hunger and poverty. Luxury amount of fertilizer application however can contribute to groundwater pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, eutrophication, deposition and disruptions to natural ecosystems, and soil acidification over time. In contrast, insufficient application can decrease crop yields. Both extremes have raised broader concerns regarding soil and environmental degradation, nutrient deficiencies, increased fertilizer costs and decreased profits. To develop practical recommendations for farmers, yield responses to applied fertilizers from inorganic and organic sources, indigenous nutrient supply from soil, and nutrient use efficiency (NUE) require consideration. These factors form the basis of precision or field-specific nutrient management approaches, which could aid in the development of more precise and spatially appropriate fertilizer recommendations. Inadequate knowledge of these factors has constrained efforts to develop precision nutrient management recommendations that aim to rationalize input costs, increase yield and profits, and reduce environmental externalities.

Over the years, advances have been made in understanding the crop yield response to fertilizers and NUE in varying farmers’ management practices. However, small farmers in many countries still think fertilizers are expensive inputs and degrade soils, and thus the policy makers want to promote organic fertilizers instead of inorganic fertilizers. There is lack of sufficient scientific understanding regarding the need and benefit of inorganic fertilizers over organic fertilizers to meet nutrient demand of high-yielding crops. A balanced application of inorganic and organic fertilizers maybe be advocated to increase yields and profits, and reduce soil and environmental degradation.

This Special Issue will focus on “Fertilizer Application on Crop Yield”. We welcome papers resulting from novel and innovative research, reviews and opinion pieces covering all related topics including inorganic and organic fertilizer application and management solutions, NUE and crop yield response, case studies from the field, and policy positions. Papers should demonstrate that organic fertilizers alone will not be sufficient for increased yield and profits and that either the balanced application of inorganic and organic fertilizers, or in situations where organic fertilizers are not available, sufficient amounts of inorganic fertilizers alone would be required but without degrading soil or environment.

Dr. Jagadish Timsina
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • Inorganic fertilizers
  • Organic fertilizers
  • Crop yield
  • Yield response
  • Nutrient use efficiency
  • Precision nutrient management

Published Papers (14 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Yields, Soil Health and Farm Profits under a Rice-Wheat System: Long-Term Effect of Fertilizers and Organic Manures Applied Alone and in Combination
Agronomy 2019, 9(1), 1; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy9010001 - 20 Dec 2018
Cited by 6
Abstract
The rice-wheat system (RWS), managed over 10.5 Mha in the Indo-Gangetic Plains of India suffers from production fatigue caused by declining soil organic matter, multi-nutrient deficiencies and diminishing factor productivity. We, therefore, conducted a long-term field experiment (1998–1999 to 2017–2018) in Modipuram, India [...] Read more.
The rice-wheat system (RWS), managed over 10.5 Mha in the Indo-Gangetic Plains of India suffers from production fatigue caused by declining soil organic matter, multi-nutrient deficiencies and diminishing factor productivity. We, therefore, conducted a long-term field experiment (1998–1999 to 2017–2018) in Modipuram, India to study the effect of continuous use of farmyard manure (FYM) as an organic fertilizer (OF), mineral fertilizers applied alone (RDF) and their combination (IPNS), as well as the inclusion of forage berseem (IPNS+B) or forage cowpea (IPNS+C) on crop yield, soil health and profits. The long-term yield trends were positive (p < 0.05) in all treatments except the control (unfertilized) in rice, and the control and RDF in wheat. Although the yields of rice, wheat and RWS were highest under IPNS treatments (IPNS, IPNS+B, IPNS+C), the maximum annual yield increase in rice (9.2%) and wheat (13.7%) was obtained under OF. A linear regression fitted to the yield data under different IPNS options revealed a highly significant (p < 0.001) annual yield increase in rice (5.1 to 6.6%) and wheat (6.8 to 7.7%) crops. Continuous rice-wheat cropping with RDF brought an increase in soil bulk density (Db) over the initial Db at different soil profile depths, more so at depths of 30–45 cm, but inclusion of forage cowpea or berseem in every third year (IPNS+B or C) helped to decrease Db, not only in surface (0–15 cm) but also in sub-surface (15–30 and 30–45 cm depth) soil. Whereas soil organic carbon (SOC) increased under OF, IPNS and IPNS + legume (B or C) treatments, it remained unaffected under RDF after 20 RW cycles. The inclusion of legumes along with IPNS not only helped to trap the NO3–N from soil layers below 45 cm but also increased its retention in the upper soil (0–15 cm depth). On the other hand, RDF had a higher NO3–N content in the lower layers (beyond 45 cm depth), indicating downward NO3–N leaching beyond the root zone. A build-up of Olsen-P was noticed under RDF at different time intervals. The soil exchangeable K and available S contents were maximal under OF and IPNS options, whereas a decline in DTPA extractable-Zn was recorded under OF. Overall, RWS economics revealed that OF treatment involved the maximum cost of cultivation (US$1174 ha−1) with the least economic net return (US$1211 ha−1). Conversely, IPNS + legume (B or C) had lowest cost of cultivation (US$707 to 765 ha−1) and a significantly higher (p < 0.05) net return (US$2233 to 2260 ha−1). The study, thus, underlines the superiority of IPNS over RDF or OF; the inclusion of legumes gives an added advantage in terms of production sustainability and soil health. Further studies involving IPNS ingredients other than FYM is needed to develop location-specific IPNS recommendations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fertilizer Application on Crop Yield) Printed Edition available
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Open AccessArticle
Assessment of Fertilizer Management Strategies Aiming to Increase Nitrogen Use Efficiency of Wheat Grown Under Conservation Agriculture
Agronomy 2018, 8(12), 304; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy8120304 - 16 Dec 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
Sustainable crop production systems can be attained by using inputs efficiently and nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) parameters are indirect measurements of sustainability of production systems. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of selected nitrogen (N) management treatments on wheat [...] Read more.
Sustainable crop production systems can be attained by using inputs efficiently and nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) parameters are indirect measurements of sustainability of production systems. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of selected nitrogen (N) management treatments on wheat yields, grain and straw N concentration, and NUE parameters, under conservation agriculture (CA). The present study was conducted at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), in northwest, Mexico. Seventeen treatments were tested which included urea sources, timing, and methods of fertilizer application. Orthogonal contrasts were used to compare groups of treatments and correlation and regression analyses were used to look at the relationships between wheat yields and NUE parameters. Contrasts run to compare wheat yields or agronomic efficiency of N (AEN) performed similarly. Sources of urea or timing of fertilizer application had a significant effect on yields or AEN (p > 0.050). However, methods of application resulted in a highly significant (p < 0.0001) difference on wheat yields and agronomic efficiency of N. NUE parameters recorded in this study were average but the productivity associated to NUE levels was high. Results in this study indicate that wheat grew under non-critically limiting N supply levels, suggesting that N mineralization and reduced N losses from the soil under CA contributed to this favorable nutritional condition, thus minimizing the importance of N management practices under stable, mature CA systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fertilizer Application on Crop Yield) Printed Edition available
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Open AccessCommunication
Soil Properties for Predicting Soil Mineral Nitrogen Dynamics Throughout a Wheat Growing Cycle in Calcareous Soils
Agronomy 2018, 8(12), 303; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy8120303 - 15 Dec 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
A better understanding of the capacity of soils to supply nitrogen (N) to wheat can enhance fertilizer recommendations. The aim of this study was to assess the soil mineral N (Nmin) dynamics throughout the wheat growing season in crucial stages for [...] Read more.
A better understanding of the capacity of soils to supply nitrogen (N) to wheat can enhance fertilizer recommendations. The aim of this study was to assess the soil mineral N (Nmin) dynamics throughout the wheat growing season in crucial stages for the plant yield and grain protein content (GPC). To this aim, we evaluated the utility of different soil properties analyzed before sowing: (i) commonly used soil physicochemical properties, (ii) potentially mineralizable N or No (aerobic incubation), and (iii) different extraction methods for estimating No. A greenhouse experiment was established using samples from 16 field soils from northern Spain. Wheat N uptake and soil Nmin concentrations were determined at following growing stages (GS): sowing, GS30, GS37, GS60, harvest, post-harvest, and pre-sowing. Pearson’s correlation analysis of the soil properties, aerobic incubations and chemical extractions with the soil Nmin dynamics and N uptake, yield and GPC was performed. In addition, correlations were performed between Nmin and the N uptake, yield, and GPC. The dynamics of soil Nmin throughout the cropping season were variable, and thus, the crop N necessities were variable. The soil Nmin values in the early wheat growth stages were well correlated with the yield, and in the late stages, they were well correlated with GPC. N0 was correlated with the late N uptake and GPC. However, the chemical methods that avoid the long periods required for N0 determinations were not correlated with the N uptake in the late wheat growth stages or GPC. Conversely, clay was positively correlated with the late Nmin values and GPC. Chemical methods were unable to estimate the available soil N in the later stages of the growing cycle. Consequently, as incubation methods are too laborious for their widespread use, further research must be conducted. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fertilizer Application on Crop Yield) Printed Edition available
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Open AccessArticle
Optimizing Potassium Application for Hybrid Rice (Oryza sativa L.) in Coastal Saline Soils of West Bengal, India
Agronomy 2018, 8(12), 292; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy8120292 - 04 Dec 2018
Abstract
The present study assesses the response of hybrid rice (variety Arize 6444) to potassium (K) application during rainy (wet) seasons of 2016 and 2017 in coastal saline soils of West Bengal, India. The study was conducted at the Regional Research Farm, Bidhan Chandra [...] Read more.
The present study assesses the response of hybrid rice (variety Arize 6444) to potassium (K) application during rainy (wet) seasons of 2016 and 2017 in coastal saline soils of West Bengal, India. The study was conducted at the Regional Research Farm, Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya, Kakdwip, West Bengal. The soil is clayeywith acidic pH (5.91), saline (Electrical conductivity/EC 1.53 dS m−1) and of high K fertility (366 kg ha−1). The experimental plots were laid out in a randomized complete block design with five (5) K treatments (0, 30, 60, 90, and 120 kg K2O ha−1) with four replications. Plant height, dry matter (DM) in different plant parts, number of tillers, and grain yield were measured in each treatment for the determination of optimum K dose. The study revealed that the stem, leaf, and grain dry matter production at 60 days after transplanting (DAT) and harvest were significantly (p ≤ 0.05) higher at 90 kg K2O ha−1 application. The number of tillers hill−1 was also higher (p ≤ 0.05) in plants fertilized with 90 kg K2O ha−1 over K omission. At harvest, grain K concentration improved (p ≤ 0.05) with K fertilization at 90 kg K2O ha−1, 116% more than the zero-K. Omission of K application from the best treatment (90 kg K2O ha−1) reduced grain yield by 3.5 t ha−1 even though the available K content was high. Potassium uptake restriction due to higher Mg content in the soil may have caused reduced uptake of K leading to yield losses. The present study also showed higher profits with 90 kg K2O ha−1 with higher net returns (US$ 452 ha−1) and benefit:cost ratio (1.75) over other treatments from hybrid rice (var. Arize 6444). From the regression equation, the economic optimum level of K (Kopt) was derived as 101.5 kg K2O ha−1 that could improve productivity of hybrid rice during the wet season in coastal saline soils of West Bengal. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fertilizer Application on Crop Yield) Printed Edition available
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Open AccessArticle
Green Manuring Effect on Changes of Soil Nitrogen Fractions, Maize Growth, and Nutrient Uptake
Agronomy 2018, 8(11), 261; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy8110261 - 12 Nov 2018
Cited by 2
Abstract
Green manure is a promising, at least partial, substitution for chemical fertilizer in agriculture, especially for nitrogen (N), which in soil can be radically changed by exogenous input. However, it is not well understood how, after green manure incorporation, soil N changes coordinate [...] Read more.
Green manure is a promising, at least partial, substitution for chemical fertilizer in agriculture, especially for nitrogen (N), which in soil can be radically changed by exogenous input. However, it is not well understood how, after green manure incorporation, soil N changes coordinate with crop N uptake and consequently contribute to fertilizer reduction in a maize–green manure rotation. A four-year field study was performed consisting of (1) control, no fertilization; (2) F100, recommended inorganic fertilization alone; (3) G, green manure incorporation alone; (4) F70 + G (70% of F100 plus G); (5) F85 + G; and (6) F100 + G. The results show that treatments with 15–30% reduction of inorganic fertilizer (i.e., F70 + G and F85 + G) had similar grain yield, dry matter (DM) accumulation, and N uptake as F100 treatment. F100 + G maize had 17% greater DM and 15% more N uptake at maturity relative to F100. Of the five soil N fractions examined, dissolved organic N (DON) and mineral N (Nmin) explained over 70% of the variation of maize DM and N accumulation. Partial least squares path modeling further revealed that soil N fractions had positive indirect effects on DM production through N uptake, which might be coordinated with improved DON and Nmin status at both early and mid-late stages of maize growth. Overall, the results highlight enhanced maize production with reduced fertilizer inputs based on green manure incorporation in temperate regions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fertilizer Application on Crop Yield) Printed Edition available
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Open AccessArticle
Bacillus Pumilus Strain TUAT-1 and Nitrogen Application in Nursery Phase Promote Growth of Rice Plants under Field Conditions
Agronomy 2018, 8(10), 216; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy8100216 - 04 Oct 2018
Cited by 5
Abstract
The aims of this study were to boost growth attributes, yield, and nutrient uptake of rice in paddy fields using a combination of Bacillus pumilus strain TUAT-1 biofertilizer and different nitrogen (N) application rates in nursery boxes. Bacillus pumilus strain TUAT-1 was applied [...] Read more.
The aims of this study were to boost growth attributes, yield, and nutrient uptake of rice in paddy fields using a combination of Bacillus pumilus strain TUAT-1 biofertilizer and different nitrogen (N) application rates in nursery boxes. Bacillus pumilus strain TUAT-1 was applied as an inoculant biofertilizer in conjunction with different rates of N fertilizer to rice seedlings in a nursery. Plant growth and yield parameters were evaluated at two stages: in 21-day-old nursery seedlings and in mature rice plants growing in a paddy field. Inoculation with TUAT-1 significantly increased the seedling growth and root morphology of 21-day-old nursery seedlings. There was a marked increase in chlorophyll content, plant height, number of tillers, and tiller biomass of rice plants with the use of TUAT-1 and N fertilizers alone, and their combinations, at the maximum tillering stage in the field. The combination of TUAT-1 and 100% N (farmer recommended rate of N) resulted in the greatest tiller number and biomass at the maximum tillering stage, and positively affected other growth attributes and yield. The growth and yield were similar in the TUAT-1 + 50% N and 100% N (uninoculated) treatments, because TUAT-1 promoted root development, which increased nutrient uptake from the soil. These results suggest that the B. pumilus strain TUAT-1 has a potential to enhance the nutritional uptake of rice by promoting the growth and development of roots. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fertilizer Application on Crop Yield) Printed Edition available
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Open AccessArticle
Phosphorus and Potassium Fertilizer Application Strategies in Corn–Soybean Rotations
Agronomy 2018, 8(9), 195; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy8090195 - 19 Sep 2018
Cited by 3
Abstract
To determine if current university fertilizer rate and timing recommendations pose a limitation to high-yield corn (Zea mays subsp. mays) and soybean (Glycine max) production, this study compared annual Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) fertilizer applications to biennial fertilizer [...] Read more.
To determine if current university fertilizer rate and timing recommendations pose a limitation to high-yield corn (Zea mays subsp. mays) and soybean (Glycine max) production, this study compared annual Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) fertilizer applications to biennial fertilizer applications, applied at 1× and 2× recommended rates in corn–soybean rotations located in Minnesota (MN), Iowa (IA), Michigan (MI), Arkansas (AR), and Louisiana (LA). At locations with either soil test P or K in the sub-optimal range, corn grain yield was significantly increased with fertilizer application at five of sixteen site years, while soybean seed yield was significantly increased with fertilizer application at one of sixteen site years. At locations with both soil test P and K at optimal or greater levels, corn grain yield was significantly increased at three of thirteen site years and soybean seed yield significantly increased at one of fourteen site years when fertilizer was applied. Site soil test values were generally inversely related to the likelihood of a yield response from fertilizer application, which is consistent with yield response frequencies outlined in state fertilizer recommendations. Soybean yields were similar regardless if fertilizer was applied in the year of crop production or before the preceding corn crop. Based on the results of this work across the US and various yield potentials, it was confirmed that the practice of applying P and K fertilizers at recommended rates biennially prior to first year corn production in a corn–soybean rotation does not appear to be a yield limiting factor in modern, high management production systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fertilizer Application on Crop Yield) Printed Edition available
Open AccessArticle
Synergistic Effect of Sulfur and Nitrogen in the Organic and Mineral Fertilization of Durum Wheat: Grain Yield and Quality Traits in the Mediterranean Environment
Agronomy 2018, 8(9), 189; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy8090189 - 14 Sep 2018
Cited by 14
Abstract
In recent years, awareness on sustainable land use has increased. Optimizing the practice of nitrogen fertilization has become crucially imperative in cropping management as a result of this current trend. The effort to improve the availability of organic nitrogen has incurred a bottleneck [...] Read more.
In recent years, awareness on sustainable land use has increased. Optimizing the practice of nitrogen fertilization has become crucially imperative in cropping management as a result of this current trend. The effort to improve the availability of organic nitrogen has incurred a bottleneck while seeking to achieve a high yield and quality performance for organic winter cereals. Field experiments were conducted, under rainfed Mediterranean conditions, over a period of two subsequent growing seasons. The objective was to investigate the effect of soil and foliar S application on the performance of three durum wheat cultivars fertilized with either organic or inorganic N. The hypothesis to be verified was if different S fertilization strategies could improve grain yield and quality when coupled with mineral or organic N fertilizer. There were three levels of treatment with mineral N fertilizer (120, 160 and 200 kg ha−1), two levels of organic N fertilizer (160 and 200 kg ha−1), two levels of S fertilizer applied to the soil (0 and 70 kg ha−1), and two levels of foliar S application at flag leaf stage (0 and 5 kg ha−1). Cultivars were Dylan, Iride and Saragolla. Analyzed traits were grain yield, yield components and quality features of grain. Overall, at the same N rate, grain yield and quality were markedly higher for mineral than organic N source. Cultivar × Year × N treatment interactions significantly affected grain yield and quality indices. Iride showed a high yield stability throughout the mineral N rates in the most favorable year (2011) and, in the same year, was the top performing cultivar in organic N treatments. Dylan was the top performing cultivar for protein content, while Saragolla for the SDS sedimentation test. Soil S fertilization had no effect on grain quality, whereas it significantly increased grain yield (+ 300 kg ha−1) when coupled with organic rather than a mineral N source. However, foliar S application at flag leaf stage did not affect grain yield, but it significantly enhanced quality indices such as test weight (81 vs. 79.9 kg hL−1), protein content (13.7% vs. 12.9 %) and SDS value (72.5 vs. 70.5 mm). A rate of 160 kg ha−1 of N (both mineral and organic) determined the optimal response for both grain yield and quality. Finally, soil and foliar application of S may help to contain the large yield and quality gap that still exists between mineral and organic fertilization of durum wheat. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fertilizer Application on Crop Yield) Printed Edition available
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Open AccessArticle
Potassium Supplying Capacity of Diverse Soils and K-Use Efficiency of Maize in South Asia
Agronomy 2018, 8(7), 121; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy8070121 - 16 Jul 2018
Cited by 4
Abstract
Increased nutrient withdrawal by rapidly expanding intensive cropping systems, in combination with imbalanced fertilization, is leading to potassium (K) depletion from agricultural soils in Asia. There is an urgent need to better understand the soil K-supplying capacity and K-use efficiency of crops to [...] Read more.
Increased nutrient withdrawal by rapidly expanding intensive cropping systems, in combination with imbalanced fertilization, is leading to potassium (K) depletion from agricultural soils in Asia. There is an urgent need to better understand the soil K-supplying capacity and K-use efficiency of crops to address this issue. Maize is increasingly being grown in rice-based systems in South Asia, particularly in Bangladesh and North East India. The high nutrient extraction, especially K, however, causes concerns for the sustainability of maize production systems in the region. The present study was designed to estimate, through a plant-based method, the magnitude, and variation in K-supplying capacity of a range of soils from the maize-growing areas and the K-use efficiency of maize in Bangladesh. Eighteen diverse soils were collected from several upazillas (or sub-districts) under 11 agro-ecological zones to examine their K-supplying capacity from the soil reserves and from K fertilization (100 mg K kg−1 soil) for successive seven maize crops grown up to V10–V12 in pots inside a net house. A validation field experiment was conducted with five levels of K (0, 40, 80, 120 and 160 kg ha−1) and two fertilizer recommendations based on “Nutrient Expert for Maize-NEM” and “Maize Crop Manager-MCM” decision support tools (DSSs) in 12 farmers’ fields in Rangpur, Rajshahi and Comilla districts in Bangladesh. Grain yield and yield attributes of maize responded significantly (p < 0.001) to K fertilizer, with grain yield increase from 18 to 79% over control in all locations. Total K uptake by plants not receiving K fertilizer, considered as potential K-supplying capacity of the soil in the pot experiment, followed the order: Modhukhali > Mithapukur > Rangpur Sadar > Dinajpur Sadar > Jhinaidah Sadar > Gangachara > Binerpota > Tarash > Gopalpur > Daudkandi > Paba > Modhupur > Nawabganj Sadar > Shibganj > Birganj > Godagari > Barura > Durgapur. Likewise, in the validation field experiment, the K-supplying capacity of soils was 83.5, 60.5 and 57.2 kg ha−1 in Rangpur, Rajshahi, and Comilla, respectively. Further, the order of K-supplying capacity for three sites was similar to the results from pot study confirming the applicability of results to other soils and maize-growing areas in Bangladesh and similar soils and areas across South Asia. Based on the results from pot and field experiments, we conclude that the site-specific K management using the fertilizer DSSs can be the better and more efficient K management strategy for maize. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fertilizer Application on Crop Yield) Printed Edition available
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Open AccessArticle
Nitrate Assimilation Limits Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) in Maize (Zea mays L.)
Agronomy 2018, 8(7), 110; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy8070110 - 01 Jul 2018
Cited by 3
Abstract
Grain yield in maize responds to N fertility in a linear-plateau fashion with nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) higher under lower N fertilities and less as grain yield plateaus. Field experiments were used to identify plant parameters relative for improved NUE in maize and [...] Read more.
Grain yield in maize responds to N fertility in a linear-plateau fashion with nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) higher under lower N fertilities and less as grain yield plateaus. Field experiments were used to identify plant parameters relative for improved NUE in maize and then experiments were performed under controlled conditions to elucidate metabolism controlling these parameters. Field experiments showed reproductive parameters, including R1 ear-weight, predictive of N response under both high and low NUE conditions. R1 ear-weight could be changed by varying nitrate concentrations early during reproductive development but from V12 onward R1 ear-weight could be changed little by increasing or decreasing nitrate fertility. Ammonia, on the other hand, could rescue R1 ear-weight as late as V15 suggesting nitrate assimilation (NA) limits ear development response to N fertility since bypassing NA can rescue R1 ear-weight. Nitrate reductase activity (NRA (in vitro)) increases linearly with nitrate fertility but in vivo nitrate reductase activity (NRA (in vivo)) follows organic N accumulation, peaking at sufficient levels of nitrate fertility. The bulk of the increase in total plant N at high levels of nitrate fertility is due to increased plant nitrate concentration. Increasing NADH levels by selective co-suppression of ubiquinone oxidoreductase 51 kDa subunit (Complex I) was associated with improved grain yield by increasing ear size, as judged by increased kernel number plant−1 (KNP), and increased NRA (in vivo) without a change in NRA (in vitro). These results support NUE is limited in maize by NA but not by nitrate uptake or NRA (in vitro). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fertilizer Application on Crop Yield) Printed Edition available
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Open AccessArticle
Maize (Zea mays L.) Response to Secondary and Micronutrients for Profitable N, P and K Fertilizer Use in Poorly Responsive Soils
Agronomy 2018, 8(4), 49; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy8040049 - 15 Apr 2018
Cited by 8
Abstract
Deficiencies of secondary and micronutrients (SMNs) are major causes of low maize yields in poorly responsive soils. This phenomenon minimizes the agronomic efficiency of N, P and K fertilizers and consequently result in a dwindling economic benefit associated with their use. Therefore, 18 [...] Read more.
Deficiencies of secondary and micronutrients (SMNs) are major causes of low maize yields in poorly responsive soils. This phenomenon minimizes the agronomic efficiency of N, P and K fertilizers and consequently result in a dwindling economic benefit associated with their use. Therefore, 18 on-farm trials were conducted in western Kenya during two cropping seasons to assess maize response to three NPK amendments; (i) N, P, K, Ca, Zn and Cu (inorganic and organic); (ii) N, P, K, Ca, Zn and Cu (inorganic) and (iii) N, P K, Zn and Cu (inorganic) and evaluate the profitability of their use compared to additions of only N, P and K fertilizers. In this set of experiments, maize response to any amendment refers to a yield increase of ≥2 t ha−1 above control and could be categorized in three clusters. Cluster 1, comprising of nine sites, maize responded to all amendments. Cluster 2, holding six sites, maize responded only to one amendment, N, P, K, Ca, Zn and Cu (inorganic). In this cluster, (2), emerging S, Mg and Cu deficiencies may still limit maize production. Cluster 3; consisting of three sites, maize responded poorly to all amendments due to relatively high soil fertility (≥17 mg P kg−1). Profitability of using NPK amendments is limited to Cluster 1 and 2 and the largest Value Cost Ratio (VCR) of 3.1 is attainable only when soil available P is below 4.72 mg kg−1. These variable responses indicate the need for developing site-specific fertilizer recommendations for improved maize production and profitability of fertilizer use in poorly responsive soils. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Integrated Nutrient Management in Rice–Wheat Cropping System: An Evidence on Sustainability in the Indian Subcontinent through Meta-Analysis
Agronomy 2019, 9(2), 71; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy9020071 - 07 Feb 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
Over years of intensive cultivation and imbalanced fertilizer use, the soils of the Indian subcontinent have become deficient in several nutrients and are impoverished in organic matter. Recently, this region has started emphasizing a shift from inorganic to organic farming to manage soil [...] Read more.
Over years of intensive cultivation and imbalanced fertilizer use, the soils of the Indian subcontinent have become deficient in several nutrients and are impoverished in organic matter. Recently, this region has started emphasizing a shift from inorganic to organic farming to manage soil health. However, owing to the steadily increasing demands for food by the overgrowing populations of this region, a complete shift to an organic farming system is not possible. The rice–wheat cropping system (RWCS) is in crisis because of falling or static yields. The nations of this region have already recognized this problem and have modified farming systems toward integrated nutrient management (INM) practices. The INM concept aims to design farming systems to ensure sustainability by improving soil health, while securing food for the population by improving crop productivity. Therefore, this paper was synthesized to quantify the impact and role of INM in improving crop productivity and sustainability of the RWCS in the context of the Indian subcontinent through meta-analysis using 338 paired data during the period of 1989–2016. The meta-analysis of the whole data for rice and wheat showed a positive increase in the grain yield of both crops with the use of INM over inorganic fertilizers only (IORA), organic fertilizers only (ORA), and control (no fertilizers; CO) treatments. The increase in grain yield was significant at p < 0.05 for rice in INM over ORA and CO treatments. For wheat, the increase in grain yield was significant at p < 0.05 in INM over IORA, ORA, and CO treatments. The yield differences in the INM treatment over IORA were 0.05 and 0.13 Mg ha−1, respectively, in rice and wheat crops. The percent yield increases in INM treatment over IORA, ORA, and CO treatments were 2.52, 29.2, and 90.9, respectively, in loamy soil and 0.60, 24.9, and 93.7, respectively, in clayey soil. The net returns increased by 121% (INM vs. CO) in rice, and 9.34% (INM vs. IORA) and 127% (INM vs. CO) in wheat crop. Use of integrated nutrient management had a positive effect on soil properties as compared to other nutrient management options. Overall, the yield gain and maintenance of soil health due to INM practices over other nutrient management practices in RWCS can be a viable nutrient management option in the Indian subcontinent. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fertilizer Application on Crop Yield) Printed Edition available
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Open AccessEditor’s ChoiceReview
Can Organic Sources of Nutrients Increase Crop Yields to Meet Global Food Demand?
Agronomy 2018, 8(10), 214; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy8100214 - 03 Oct 2018
Cited by 31
Abstract
Meeting global demand of safe and healthy food for the ever-increasing population now and into the future is currently a crucial challenge. Increasing crop production by preserving environment and mitigating climate change should thus be the main goal of today’s agriculture. Conventional farming [...] Read more.
Meeting global demand of safe and healthy food for the ever-increasing population now and into the future is currently a crucial challenge. Increasing crop production by preserving environment and mitigating climate change should thus be the main goal of today’s agriculture. Conventional farming is characterized by use of high-yielding varieties, irrigation water, chemical fertilizers and synthetic pesticides to increase yields. However, due to either over- or misuse of chemical fertilizers or pesticides in many agro-ecosystems, such farming is often blamed for land degradation and environmental pollution and for adversely affecting the health of humans, plants, animals and aquatic ecosystems. Of all inputs required for increased agricultural production, nutrients are considered to be the most important ones. Organic farming, with use of organic sources of nutrients, is proposed as a sustainable strategy for producing safe, healthy and cheaper food and for restoring soil fertility and mitigating climate change. However, there are several myths and controversies surrounding the use of organic versus inorganic sources of nutrients. The objectives of this paper are: (i) to clarify some of the myths or misconceptions about organic versus inorganic sources of nutrients and (ii) to propose alternative solutions to increase on-farm biomass production for use as organic inputs for improving soil fertility and increasing crop yields. Common myths identified by this review include that organic materials/fertilizers can: (i) supply all required macro- and micro-nutrients for plants; (ii) improve physical, chemical and microbiological properties of soils; (iii) be applied universally on all soils; (iv) always produce quality products; (v) be cheaper and affordable; and (vi) build-up of large amount of soil organic matter. Other related myths are: “legumes can use entire amount of N2 fixed from atmosphere” and “bio-fertilizers increase nutrient content of soil.” Common myths regarding chemical fertilizers are that they: (i) are not easily available and affordable, (ii) degrade land, (iii) pollute environment and (iv) adversely affect health of humans, animals and agro-ecosystems. The review reveals that, except in some cases where higher yields (and higher profits) can be found from organic farming, their yields are generally 20–50% lower than that from conventional farming. The paper demonstrates that considering the current organic sources of nutrients in the developing countries, organic nutrients alone are not enough to increase crop yields to meet global food demand and that nutrients from inorganic and organic sources should preferably be applied at 75:25 ratio. The review identifies a new and alternative concept of Evergreen Agriculture (an extension of Agroforestry System), which has potential to supply organic nutrients in much higher amounts, improve on-farm soil fertility and meet nutrient demand of high-yielding crops, sequester carbon and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, provide fodder for livestock and fuelwood for farmers and has potential to meet global food demand. Evergreen Agriculture has been widely adapted by tens of millions of farmers in several African countries and the review proposes for evaluation and scaling-up of such technology in Asian and Latin American countries too. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fertilizer Application on Crop Yield) Printed Edition available
Open AccessReview
Are Nitrogen Fertilizers Deleterious to Soil Health?
Agronomy 2018, 8(4), 48; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy8040048 - 14 Apr 2018
Cited by 15
Abstract
Soil is one of the most important natural resources and medium for plant growth. Anthropogenic interventions such as tillage, irrigation, and fertilizer application can affect the health of the soil. Use of fertilizer nitrogen (N) for crop production influences soil health primarily through [...] Read more.
Soil is one of the most important natural resources and medium for plant growth. Anthropogenic interventions such as tillage, irrigation, and fertilizer application can affect the health of the soil. Use of fertilizer nitrogen (N) for crop production influences soil health primarily through changes in organic matter content, microbial life, and acidity in the soil. Soil organic matter (SOM) constitutes the storehouse of soil N. Studies with 15N-labelled fertilizers show that in a cropping season, plants take more N from the soil than from the fertilizer. A large number of long-term field experiments prove that optimum fertilizer N application to crops neither resulted in loss of organic matter nor adversely affected microbial activity in the soil. Fertilizer N, when applied at or below the level at which maximum yields are achieved, resulted in the build-up of SOM and microbial biomass by promoting plant growth and increasing the amount of litter and root biomass added to soil. Only when fertilizer N was applied at rates more than the optimum, increased residual inorganic N accelerated the loss of SOM through its mineralization. Soil microbial life was also adversely affected at very high fertilizers rates. Optimum fertilizer use on agricultural crops reduces soil erosion but repeated application of high fertilizer N doses may lead to soil acidity, a negative soil health trait. Site-specific management strategies based on principles of synchronization of N demand by crops with N supply from all sources including soil and fertilizer could ensure high yields, along with maintenance of soil health. Balanced application of different nutrients and integrated nutrient management based on organic manures and mineral fertilizers also contributed to soil health maintenance and improvement. Thus, fertilizer N, when applied as per the need of the field crops in a balanced proportion with other nutrients and along with organic manures, if available with the farmer, maintains or improves soil health rather than being deleterious. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fertilizer Application on Crop Yield) Printed Edition available
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