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Maximizing maize quality, productivity and profitability through a combined use of compost and nitrogen fertilizer in a semi-arid environment in Pakistan

Abstract

In Pakistan, low crop yields are a common problem of sandy-loam arid and semi-arid agroecosystems. Poor nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) and widespread soil nitrogen (N) deficiency resulting from higher N losses are the main reasons for low yields. Compost may offer a nutrient source in this context as it is relatively stable, has a high NUE and crop N uptake, and may contribute to lower N losses in this region. This research conducted during 2011 and 2012, focused on application of N from poultry manure compost (PMC) and pressmud compost (PrMC) with urea in different ratios (0:0, 100:0, 75:25, 50:50, 25:75, 0:100) for sustainable maize production under the semi-arid conditions of Faisalabad. Overall, combined use of PMC and PrMC with urea in the 2 years increased the grain yield relative to the application of PMC and PrMC on their own. The greatest plant N uptake during the two years from PMC and urea at 25:75 was equivalent to mineral N management (0:100), and it resulted in maximum total grain yield (218.6%) and grain protein (19.8%). This resulted in the lowest N loss from the soil, and the largest NUE (19.1 kg kg−1). Economically, this treatment also provided the greatest net income (932 US$ ha−1), and a benefit cost ratio (2.1). Based on these results, PMC and urea at 25:75 was considered highly beneficial in increasing maize yield while reducing the loss of less-stable N from the soil, increasing NUE and N uptake in inherently poor soils. However, further evaluation is needed to decide whether this N nutrition strategy can be adopted on a wider scale.

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Acknowledgements

The authors are thankful to the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan for providing funds under the Grant: Indigenous 5000 Ph.D. Fellowship (Pin No. 117-6089-AV7-073), which supported this study. We are also grateful to the CGIAR Research Program on Maize, which provided time for Dr. Christian Thierfelder to contribute to the study.

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Iqbal, S., Thierfelder, C., Khan, H.Z. et al. Maximizing maize quality, productivity and profitability through a combined use of compost and nitrogen fertilizer in a semi-arid environment in Pakistan. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 107, 197–213 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10705-017-9829-y

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Keywords

  • Compost
  • Nitrogen
  • Income
  • Nitrogen use efficiency
  • Pakistan