Plant and Soil

, 314:143 | Cite as

Assessment of nutrient deficiencies in maize in nutrient omission trials and long-term field experiments in the West African Savanna

  • G. Nziguheba
  • B. K. Tossah
  • J. Diels
  • A. C. Franke
  • K. Aihou
  • E. N. O. Iwuafor
  • C. Nwoke
  • R. Merckx
Regular Article


Low soil fertility is one of the main constraints to crop production in the West African savanna. However, the response of major cereals to fertilizer applications is often far below the potential yields. Low fertilizer efficiency, inadequacy of current fertilizer recommendations, and the ignorance of nutrients other than N, P, and K may limit crop production. Nutrient limitations to maize production were identified in on-farm trials in Togo and in several long-term experiments in Nigeria and Benin. Maize ear leaf samples were analyzed for macro and micro-nutrients, and the Diagnosis and Recommendation Integrated Systems (DRIS) was applied to rank nutrients according to their degree of limitation to maize. In the on-farm trials, both yield and DRIS results indicated that, when N is supplied, P limited maize production in all fields, reducing yields by 31% on average. Sulfur was limiting in 81% of the fields and was responsible for an average yield reduction of 20%. In the long-term experiments where N, P, and K had been annually applied, Ca and Mg indices were strongly negative, indicative of deficiency. Zn indices were negative in all trials. Despite N-fertilizer additions, N indices remained negative in some of the long-term experiments, pointing to low efficiency of applied fertilizers. There was a direct link between DRIS indices and the management imposed in the different experiments, indicating that DRIS is a useful approach to reveal nutrient deficiencies or imbalances in maize in the region.


DRIS Ear leaves Fertilizers Nutrient indices Organic inputs 



The authors are very grateful to the Belgian Doctorate General for Development Cooperation (DGDC) for funding the balanced nutrient management project under which this work was conducted. The funding was provided to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). The core of the plant analysis was conducted at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KULeuven) in Belgium.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Nziguheba
    • 1
  • B. K. Tossah
    • 2
  • J. Diels
    • 3
  • A. C. Franke
    • 4
  • K. Aihou
    • 5
  • E. N. O. Iwuafor
    • 6
  • C. Nwoke
    • 1
  • R. Merckx
    • 3
    • 7
  1. 1.IITA-Ibadan, Nigeria. c/o Lambourn, Carolyn HouseCroydonUK
  2. 2.ITRALomeTogo
  3. 3.Katholieke Universiteit LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  4. 4.University of WageningenWageningenThe Netherlands
  5. 5.INRABCotonouBenin
  6. 6.IARZariaNigeria
  7. 7.HeverleeBelgium

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