Effects of different manure application rates on soil properties, nutrient use, and crop yield during dryland maize farming.
Problems associated with conventional agricultural management (i.e. frequent conventional tillage and excessive inorganic fertiliser application) have led to land degradation, soil organic matter loss, and structure deterioration, which affect air quality, water quality, and nutrient flow and, ultimately, crop growth (Golchin et al. 1995). Organic farming is increasingly popular because of perceived health and environmental benefits, especially in arid areas (Zhao et al. 2009). Therefore, effective fertiliser application management must be a major consideration for improving environmental health and ensuring sustainable development. Manure application is an important organic farming management practice for improving soil quality (Shiralipour et al. 1992; Carpenter-Boggs et al. 2000).
The effects of manure on crop yield and growth have been reported as similar to, or less than, those of inorganic fertilisers, although the effects are dependent on the amounts of manure or nitrogen (N) applied (Randall et al. 2000; Griffin et al. 2002). In general, the crop availability of N from manure is less than from inorganic fertilisers (Beauchamp 1983; Jokela 1992). However, the application of manure to soils can improve their chemical and physical properties (Randall et al. 2000; Eghball 2002; Butler and Muir 2006), thereby increasing crop yields, plant nutrient concentrations, and nutrient uptake (Griffin et al. 2002; Butler and Muir 2006). Manure is also highly effective for maintaining the soil nutrient equilibrium and improving its fertility status (Mohammadi et al. 201 la). However, inappropriate use of manure may have serious effects on the soil environment, including soil degradation, organic matter loss, and soil and water contamination. Edmeades (2003) found that N and phosphorus (P) leaching occurred when manure application rate exceeded nutrient uptake by crops. Therefore, balanced application of manure can improve the soil structure and enhance soil quality, and it may be a highly effective method for promoting the stable and sustainable development of agriculture.
The 14-year field trials conducted by Edmeades (2003) found no significant difference between crops produced with chemical fertilisers or manures when the N levels were equivalent. Manure and chemical fertiliser have advantages and disadvantages, but the application of a combination of chemical fertiliser and manure is now a major research focus. Thus, the present study investigated the effects of different application rates of manure combined with conventional chemical fertiliser on soil properties, nutrient use, and crop yield in the Weibei Highlands of China. We aimed to provide a scientific basis for improvement of soil fertility.
Materials and methods
A 4-year field experiment was conducted with maize (Zea mays L.) between 2007 and 2010 at the Ganjing Research Station of North-west A&F University, Heyang, Shaanxi, China (35[degrees]24'N, 110[degrees]17'E; 850m altitude). The mean annual temperature was 9-10[degrees]C. The experimental site was characterised by low and erratic rainfall with droughts occurring at different stages of maize growth. The long-term mean annual rainfall at the site was 571.9mm, and the mean annual evaporation was 1832.8 mm. Most of the rainfall occurred from July to September. During 2007-2010, the rainfall during the maize growth period was 398.3, 350.8, 379.1, and 390.7mm in each year, respectively.
The experimental field was flat according to the FAO/UNESCO Soil Classification (FAO/UNESCO 1993), and the soil was a dark loessial soil with 26.8% sand, 41.9% silt, and 21.3% clay. An analysis of soil samples taken from the same experimental area in October 2006 showed that the top 20 cm of soil had the following characteristics: ph 8.1, soil organic carbon 8.3 g/kg, total N 0.8 g/kg, total P 0.5 g/kg, total potassium (K) 8.4 g/kg, available N 46.5 mg/kg, available P 9.0 mg/kg, and available K 106.2 mg/kg.
The experiment was designed as a randomised block with three replicates. Each plot was 4 m wide and 6 m long. Five treatments were initiated in 2007: (i) no fertiliser application (NF); (ii) application of chemical fertilisers only (CF-only); (iii) application of manure at a low rate of 7500kg/ha in combination with chemical fertilisers (LM); (iv) application of manure at a medium rate of 15 000 kg/ha in combination with chemical fertilisers (MM); (v) application of manure at a high rate of 22500kg/ha in combination with chemical fertilisers (HM).
Fertiliser and crop management
The N and P rates of the chemical fertilisers were 255 and 90 kg/ha, respectively. Fresh chicken manure was used, which contained (g/kg): organic matter 579.6, N 12.6, P 6.4, and K 13.4. The manure was applied to the soil ~6 months before the maize was planted, to facilitate decomposition of the manure. Thus, the manure was applied in October 2006 and after maize harvesting at the end of September during 2007-2009. Chemical fertilisers were applied separately at rates of 102 kg N and 90 kg P/ha before sowing the maize. Nitrogen fertiliser was applied again at a rate of 153 kg/ha at the stage of development when maize formed spear-shaped tops (late July). The nutrient contents of the manures and chemical fertilisers used for different treatments are shown in Table 1.
In each experimental year, maize (cv. Shendan 16) was planted at a rate of 49500plants/ha in mid-April and harvested in mid-September. No irrigation was provided in any of the experimental years. Manual weeding was performed as required throughout the experiment.
Sampling and analysis
Soil samples were collected from the surface layers (0-20 cm) of ail plots immediately after maize harvest (i.e. before manure application) in September each year. Soil samples were collected from four points in each plot replicate and mixed to produce a composite sample. Approximately 500 g of soil was subsampled from the mixed composite sample by quartering. Approximately 200g of this soil subsample was then used for aggregate analysis, while the remainder was sieved, mixed, and stored immediately at 4[degrees]C, before analysing its enzymatic activity.
The enzyme activity values were calculated based on the oven-dried (105[degrees]C) weight of the soil. Urease and alkaline phosphatase activities were determined according to the method of Tabatabai (1994). Invertase activity was determined by colourimetric analysis using 3,5-dinitrosalicylic acid (Guan et al. 1986).
The size distribution of water-stable aggregates was estimated by the wet sieving method (Yoder 1936), using a set of sieves with mesh sizes of 5, 2, 1,0.5, and 0.25 mm. Briefly, aggregates of 5-8 mm size were separated initially from the bulk soil by dry sieving. Approximately 50 g of this aggregate size class was then placed in the first sieve of the set, and it was gently moistened from below to avoid the sudden rupture of aggregates. After soaking the soil for 10 min, the set was shaken in water for 10 min at 30 oscillations/min. The percentage weight of water-stable aggregates retained on sieves that measured >0.25 mm in diameter was expressed as the >0.25-mm water-stable aggregates.
Three random soil samples were collected from each plot replicate using a 54-mm-diameter steel core-sampling tube that was manually driven down to a depth of 20 cm. Soil cores were weighed wet, dried at 105[degrees]C for 48 h, and weighed again to determine the bulk density (Ferraro and Ghersa 2007).
The grain yield and biomass yield were determined by manually harvesting three 3-m row lengths, which were selected randomly from each plot. Three representative plants with uniform growth were also selected, and separate samples of their roots, stalks, leaves, and ears/cobs were collected, oven-dried at 80[degrees]C for 72 h, and then weighed. The total N concentration in maize plants was determined by Kjeldahl digestion (Olsen and Sommers 1982). The total N content (g/kg) of the crop was multiplied by the biomass (kg/ha) to determine the N uptake (kg/ha). Residual N (kg/ha) was calculated by subtracting the total N uptake of maize plants from the N fertiliser application rate.
Data for each year were tested for differences by the analysis of variance (ANOVA) procedure using SAS 6.2 (SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC). Duncan's new multiple range test was performed to separate mean values if the F-test indicated statistical significance at the P = 0.05 level.
Soil bulk density
Soil bulk density was not statistically different among treatments during the first two experimental years (Fig. 1). The HM treatment significantly (P<0.05) decreased the soil bulk density after the third year, and reduced it by 4.8% and 5.6% in 2009 and 2010, respectively, compared with the NF treatment, and reduced it by 4.8% compared with the CF-only treatment in 2010. The MM and LM treatments resulted in a slightly lower bulk soil density than NF and CF-only, although the differences were not significant.
Water-stable aggregates >0.25 mm
As shown in Fig. 2, the manure combined with chemical fertiliser treatments significantly increased the >0.25-mm water-stable aggregate content, and the content was higher with increasing manure application rates. Compared with NF, HM increased the >0.25-mm water-stable aggregate content by 28.9-57.6%, MM increased it by 16.7-35.9%, and LM increased it by 8.5-20.0% during 2007-2010. HM and MM also significantly increased the soil >0.25-mm water-stable aggregate content compared with CF-only during 20072010, i.e. HM by 20.3-43.3% and MM by 8.9-23.5%. The >0.25-mm water-stable aggregate content was not different between LM and CF-only during 2007-10, whereas MM increased the content by 9.1% compared with CF-only during 2010. During the experimental period, HM increased the content by 18.8-35.6% compared with LM and by 10.5-19.9% compared with MM, while MM increased it by 6.7-16.4% compared with LM.
Soil organic matter
Soil organic matter is highly beneficial for the chemical, biological, and physical properties of soils, thereby affecting the potential yield of soils. The effect of manure on soil organic matter is shown in Fig. 3, where the soil organic matter content increased with the amount of manure applied. The soil organic matter content of LM was slightly higher than NF and CF-only, although the difference was significant in 2010 only. The soil organic matter content of MM was significantly higher than NF and CF-only in 20092010, i.e. 5.2-7.7% and 4.6-6.0%, respectively. Compared with the CF-only and NF treatments, HM significantly increased the soil organic matter content by 5.1-11.2% and 4.5-9.5%, respectively, in 2007-2010. There was a significant difference between MM and HM for each of the four experimental years.
Soil enzyme activities
The manure treatments had higher soil urease, alkaline phosphatase, and invertase activities than the NF and CF-only treatments, and soil enzyme activities increased with the amount of manure applied (Fig. 4). Soil urease, alkaline phosphatase, and invertase activities were always highest with HM throughout the four experimental years, i.e. the enzyme activities increased by 9.4-20.0%, 17.4-0.0%, and 5.9-13.2%, respectively, compared with NF, and by 8.2-17.1%, 15.7-33.8%, and 5.2-11.5% compared with CF-only. Compared with NF and CF-only, respectively, MM treatments significantly increased soil urease activity by 8.8-14.0% and 6.9-12.1% in 2008-2010, soil alkaline phosphatase activity by 8.7-29.2% and 7.1-23.5% in 2007-2010, and soil invertase activity by 7.37-11.17% and 6.18-9.43% in 2009-2010. Compared with NF and CF-only, respectively, the LM treatment significantly increased soil urease activity by 7.7-11.6% and 5.7-8.9% in 2009-2010, soil alkaline phosphatase activity by 9.0-18.5% and 5.8-13.2% in 2008-2010, and soil invertase activity by 7.7% and 6.0% in 2010 only. There were no significant differences between CF-only and NF throughout the four experimental years.
Grain yield and biomass
Application of organic manure significantly increased maize yield and biomass. The grain yield and biomass of stalks and leaves increased with manure application rate, whereas the biomass of cobs and roots varied in different years (Table 2). Compared with NF, CF-only significantly increased the grain yield by 15.4-18.1% in 2007-2010. There were no significant differences in the biomass of stalks and leaves, cobs, and roots with CF-only and NF during 2007-2008, whereas biomass was significantly higher with CF-only than with NF in 2009-2010, for stalks and leaves by 13.9-16.5%, cobs by 6.9 11.4%, and roots by 3.7-14.5%. During 2007-2010, LM significantly increased the grain yield and biomass of stalks and leaves, cobs, and roots by 83.9-96.3%, 49.6-87.0%, 26.2-98.1%, and 28.4-145.2%, respectively, compared with NF, and by 59.2-66.7%, 37.4-60.6%, 18.0-57.7%, 23.9-94.9%, respectively, compared with CF-only. Treatment MM significantly increased the grain yield and the biomass of stalks and leaves, cobs, and roots by 118.5-135.7%, 61.6-105.0%, 29.9-103.3%, and 33.9-128.4%, respectively, compared with CF-only. In the experimental years when the biomass increased, there was little difference between the MM and HM treatments. The grain yield and biomass with MM were significantly higher than those with HM during 2010.
Table 3 shows that the total N concentration in maize grain, stalks and leaves, cobs, and roots was significantly influenced by the manure rate during the study period. The total N concentration varied among the experimental years but increased with the manure rate. Compared with NF, CF-only significantly increased the N concentration of grain and of stalks and leaves by 1.6-3.9% and 10.8-24.6%, respectively, whereas there were no significant differences in maize cob and root N uptake with CF-only and NF.
Treatment LM increased the N concentration of grain, stalks and leaves, and cobs by 5.5-14.2%, 4.8-26.2%, and 11.8-15.9%, respectively, compared with NF, whereas there were no significant differences in the N concentration of roots with LM and NF. Compared with CF-only, LM increased the N concentration of grain, stalks and leaves, cobs, and roots by 3.0-9.9%, 1.3-8.2%, 3.6-13.5%, and 6.5-13.1%, respectively, while MM increased them by 15.8-18.6%, 3.9-24.7%, 36-32.6% and 7.5-18.5%, respectively. Treatment HM produced slightly higher N concentrations than MM, but there were no significant differences.
Table 4 shows that N uptake with manure treatments was significantly higher than with the CF-only treatment during 2007-2010. The N uptake with CF-only was 116.1-138.3 kg/ ha during the 4-year study; LM, MM, and HM increased N uptake by 78.2 95.4, 179.3 189.8, and 172.0-242.9kg/ha, respectively, compared with CF-only. The residual N level in the soil with the HM treatment was significant higher than with CF-only, LM, and MM treatments during the study period, although there were no significant differences between CF-only, LM, and MM in 2008-2010.
Soil organic matter content is dynamic and it responds effectively to changes in soil management, tillage, and plant production (Baker et al. 2007). This is important for renewing the 'nutrient fund,' improving the soil structure, maintaining a good tilth, and minimising erosion (Mohammadi et al. 2011a). Manure is an organic source of nutrients which increases the soil organic matter and enhances soil quality. In the current study, the continuous application of manure significantly increased soil organic matter content, which increased with the amount of manure applied. This was because the decomposed manure contained an abundance of relatively stable organic carbon, which readily accumulated in the soil and significantly affected the soil organic matter content (Wu et al. 2005).
Soil aggregation and soil organic matter are closely linked (Caravaca et al. 2002). An increase in the soil organic matter leads to an improvement in the nutrient status of the soil, increased microbial activity, and increased cohesion and better aggregate stability (Oades and Waters 1991; Spaccini et al. 2004; Sullivan 1990). The improved aggregate stability would result in better protection against erosion of soil after manure treatments (Bronick and Lal 2005; Ferreras et al. 2006; Hati et al. 2007). The current study found a strongly significant, positive correlation between organic matter content and the >0.25-mm water-stable aggregate content. The organic manure treatments significantly increased the >0.25-mm water-stable aggregate content, which increased with the increasing level of manure application. This result agreed with that reported by Benbi et al. (1998). Rose (1991) showed that manure could increase the soil organic matter content, enhance soil porosity, and decrease soil bulk density. In the current experiment, the bulk density was significantly lower with the HM treatment than the NF treatment after the third year, and it was also lower than the CF-only treatment after the fourth year. This improvement was attributable to the combination of manure and chemical fertiliser, which increased the organic matter content of the soil and improved soil aggregate structure (Tiarks and Chesnin 1974; Schjonning et al. 1994), thereby leading to a higher micropore volume, increased root growth, and a lower soil bulk density.
Soil enzyme activities can react more rapidly than other variables to changes in soil management, which means enzyme activities may be useful early indicators of biological changes (Bandick and Dick 1999; Masciandaro et al. 2004). Related studies have shown that the long-term application of manure improves the physical and chemical properties of soil (Zaller and Kopke 2004; Kihanda et al. 2006) if it provides a suitable environment for microbial growth (Goyal et al. 1993), thereby enhancing soil enzyme activities. In our experiment, we found that the soil urease, alkaline phosphatase, and invertase activities were higher with the manure treatments than with the NF and CF. treatments. These results agreed with those reported by Mohammadi et al. (201 lb). We also found that the number of years with increasing soil enzyme activity levels was increased with manure treatments. This may be due to the cumulative effect of organic matter build-up after manure application each year (Kihanda et al. 2006).
Many studies have reported that the combined application of chemical fertiliser and manure has a major effect on the N, P, and K contents of corn plants (Evans et al. 1977; Sutton et al. 1986). Culley et al. (1981) and Motavalli et al. (1989) reported that the addition of liquid manure increased the N, P, and K uptakes of corn plants in a similar manner to the recommended inorganic fertiliser. We showed that manure treatments could increase maize grain yield and biomass yield, while they also significantly increased the total N concentration in maize grain, stalks and leaves, cobs, and roots compared with CF-only. Our results were consistent with Li et al. (2008), who found that an organic-inorganic compound fertiliser increased maize grain yield and biomass yield, and Kato (2012) who found that the N content of grain with manure treatments was significantly higher than with conventional fertiliser and a low-level manure treatment.
Song and Fan (2004) reported that organic fertiliser could support the consolidation of soil N due to soil microbial activities, and it reduced volatile ammonia, thereby enhancing N-utilisation efficiency. Other studies have shown that low levels of residual N in the soil can provide an N source for the next crop, whereas high levels of residual N constitute a serious waste of resources and a source of environmental pollution (Deigdao 1994; Menelik 1994). We found that the N uptake levels with the HM, MM, and LM treatments were significantly higher than with the CF-only and NF treatments. The residual N levels in the soil after crop harvest with the MM and LM treatments were slightly higher than with the CF-only treatment, although the differences were not significant. However, the residual N level in the soil with the HM treatment was significant higher than with the CF-only, LM, and MM treatments, because the HM treatment did not increase the yield accordingly.
Combined application of manure and chemical fertiliser can improve the soil structure and increase the soil organic matter content and enzyme activities, and these effects were much more evident with increasing rates of manure application. Manure combined with chemical fertiliser also significantly increased the crop biomass and total N concentration in the plant organs, thereby improving the N fertiliser utilisation. However, when the increase in crop yield did not offset the high fertiliser rate, a superabundance of N accumulated in the soil, readily causing environmental pollution. From the perspective of soil environment conservation, the medium manure application (15000kg/ha) in combination with chemical fertiliser (i.e. MM) could improve the soil properties and increase crop yield, but with no significant increase in the residual N level compared with the low application of manure (LM) and chemical fertiliser (CF-only). Therefore, the medium manure application is the most appropriate soil fertiliser rate for dryland maize production.
Received 13 September 2011, accepted 21 July 2012, published online 25 September 2012
We acknowledge the financial support provided by the 'Eleventh Five-Year' Plan of the People's Republic of China (Grant No. 2006BAD29B03), the 'Twelfth Five-Year' Science and Technology Support Plan of the People's Republic of China (Grant No. 201 IBAD29B09), the 'Twelfth Five-Year' 863 Plan of the People's Republic of China (Grant No. 2011NXC01-16), and the programs of Shaanxi Province (2010NKC-03, 2011NXC01-16). We thank Dr Duncan E. Jackson for improving the English language content of this manuscript.
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Xianqing Hou (A,B) *, Xiaojuan Wang (A,B), *, Rong Li (A,B), Zhikuan Jia (A,B,D), Lianyou Liang (C), Junpeng Wang (A,B), Junfeng Nie (A,B), Xin Chen (A,B), and Zhen Wang (A,B)
(A) China Water-Saving Agricultural Academy in Arid Areas, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, Shaanxi, China.
(B) Key Laboratory of Crop Physi-ecology and Tillage Science in Northwestern loess Plateau, Ministry of Agriculture, Yangling, Shaanxi, China.
(C) College of Resources and Environment, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, Shaanxi, China.
(D) Corresponding author. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
* X. J. Wang and X. Q. Hou contributed equally to this work.
Table 1. Nutrient content (kg-ha) of the manures and chemical fertilisers under different fertilisers treatments NF, No fertiliser; CF-only, chemical fertiliser-only; LM, low manure; MM, medium manure; HM, high manure; OM, organic matter; N, total nitrogen; P, phosphorus; K, potassium Treatment Manure Fertiliser Total nutrients OM N P K N P K OM N P K NF -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- CF-only -- -- -- -- 255 90 -- -- 255 90 -- LM 4347 94 48 101 255 90 -- 4347 349 138 101 MM 8694 189 95 202 255 90 -- 8694 444 185 202 HM 13 041 283 143 302 255 90 -- 13 041 538 233 302 Table 2. Maize grain yield and biomass (kg/ha) of crop organs as a function of the different fertiliser treatments during 2007-10 NF, No fertiliser; CF-only, chemical fertiliser-only; LM, low manure; MM, medium manure; HM, high manure. Within columns, means followed by the same letter are not significantly different at P=0.05 Year Treatment Grain Stalk and leaf Cob Root 2007 NF 4107d 3745c 905b 495a CF-only 4741d 3775c 1137b 537a LM 7620c 5603b 1793a 896a MM 10457b 7739a 1882a 837a HM 12788a 8686a 1930a 724a 2008 NF 4944d 4591c 1413c 353b CF-only 5711d 4908c 1248c 444b LM 9091c 6926b 1905b 866a MM 12939b 8880a 2537a 1015a HM 14317a 9361a 2478a 1377a 2009 NF 4672c 5580c 1557a 1168b CF-only 5503c 6357c 1665a 1211b LM 9172b 8735b 1965a 1965a MM 12973a 10270a 2162a 1622ab HM 13153a 10469a 2416a 805b 2010 NF 5093c 3804c 1193b 516b CF-only 6017c 4430c 1329b 591b LM 9801b 7112b 1821ab 867ab MM 13147a 9075a 2327a 1047a HM 12634a 7721b 2106a 936a Table 3. Nitrogen content (g/kg) of maize organ as a function of the different fertiliser treatments during 2007-10 NF, No fertiliser; CF-only, chemical fertiliser-only; LM, low manure; MM, medium manure; HM, high manure. Within columns, means followed by the same letter are not significantly different at P=0.05 Year Treatment Grain Stalk and leaf Cob Root 2007 NF 15.5c 7.4b 4.4b 4.6b CF-only 16.1c 8.5b 4.6b 4.6b LM 17.7b 9.2b 5.1ab 4.3b MM 19.0a 10.6a 6.1a 5.3a HM 19.5a 10.8a 6.2a 5.4a 2008 NF 12.8b 8.3b 5.1a 8.4a CF-only 13.3b 9.2b 5.5a 8.0a LM 13.7b 9.7ab 5.7a 8.2a MM 15.4a 10.2a 5.7a 8.6a HM 15.7a 10.0a 5.7a 8.7a 2009 NF 12.7b 8.3ab 5.2b 5.3b CF-only 12.9b 8.2ab 5.2b 5.4b LM 13.4b 8.7a 5.9a 6.1a MM 15.3a 9.3a 6.1a 6.4a HM 15.9a 9.3a 6.3a 6.4a 2010 NF 14.0b 6.1b 6.9a 6.1b CF-only 14.6b 7.6a 6.5a 6.1b LM 15.9b 7.7a 6.9a 6.9a MM 17.3a 7.9a 7.4a 6.9a HM 17.6a 7.9a 7.5a 7.0a Table 4. Nitrogen uptake (kg-ha) by maize and the residual N (kg-ha) calculated by difference for soil for each of the different fertilisers treatments during 2007-10 NF, No fertiliser; CF-only, chemical fertiliser-only; LM, low manure; MM, medium manure; HM, high manure. Within columns, means followed by the same letter are not significantly different at P=0.05 Treatment 2007 2008 N uptake of N residual N uptake of N residual maize of soil maize of soil CF-only 116.3d 138.7b 132.0c 123b LM 199.4c 149.6b 209.7b 139.3b MM 296.4b 147.6b 312.2b 131.8b HM 359.0a 179.0a 344.1a 193.9a Treatment 2009 2010 N uptake of N residual N uptake of N residual maize of soil maize of soil CF-only 139.2c 115.8b 133.9c 121.1b LM 223.4b 125.6b 229.1b 119.9b MM 317.6a 126.4b 323.8a 120.2b HM 326.9a 211.1a 305.7a 232.3a
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|Author:||Hou, Xianqing; Wang, Xiaojuan; Li, Rong; Jia, Zhikuan; Liang, Lianyou; Wang, Junpeng; Nie, Junfeng;|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2012|
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