In eastern Canada, the use of fertilizer N has been identified as the most energy-consuming component of maize (Zea mays L.) grain production. As the economic and environmental costs of excessive N fertilization rise, there is an increased emphasis on selection of hybrids with greater N use efficiency (NUE; defined as the ratio of the amount of 15N recovered in grain or stover dry matter to the amount of fertilizer 15N applied to the soil in this study). Using an 15N-labelling approach, a field study was conducted on a tile-drained Brandon loam soil (Typic Endoaquoll) on the Central Experimental Farm at Ottawa, Canada (45°22′ N, 75°43′ W) in 1993 and 1994. Fertilizer N uptake and partitioning within the plant in relation to dry matter changes were monitored during development of a current stay-green maize hybrid and an older early-senescing hybrid grown with three fertilizer N levels (0, 100, 200 kg N ha-1). Dry matter, N concentration and15 N atom% enrichment of plant components were determined at five growth stages. The current stay-green hybrid, ‘Pioneer 3902’ had greater NUE than the old early-senescing hybrid, ‘Pride 5’, which was associated with 24% more dry matter production and 20% more N uptake during grain fill for Pioneer 3902. There was no indication of greater allocation of N to the grain in Pioneer 3902. Our data suggest that prolonged maintenance of green leaf area for photosynthate production during grain fill and the ability to take up available soil N later in grain filling are characteristics of maize hybrids with greater NUE.
dry matter partitioningmaize15Nnitrogen uptakenitrogen use efficiencysenescenceZea mays