Plant and Soil

, Volume 252, Issue 2, pp 215–226 | Cite as

Mineral nutrition and growth of tropical maize as affected by soil acidity

  • J. SierraEmail author
  • C. Noël
  • L. Dufour
  • H. Ozier-Lafontaine
  • C. Welcker
  • L. Desfontaines


Soil constraints linked to low pH reduce grain yield in about 10% of the maize growing area in tropical developing countries. The aim of this research was to elucidate the reasons for this maize yield reduction on an oxisol of Guadeloupe. The field experiment had two treatments: the native non-limed soil (NLI, pH 4.5, 2.1 cmol Al kg−1, corresponding to 20% Al saturation), and the same soil limed 6 years prior to the experiment (LI, pH 5.3, 0 cmol Al kg−1). The soils were fertilized with P and N. The above-ground biomass, root biomass at flowering, grain yield and yield components, leaf area index (LAI), light interception, radiation-use-efficiency (RUE), P and N uptake, soil water storage, and soil mineral N were measured during the maize cycle. The allometric relationships between shoot N concentration, LAI and above-ground biomass in LI were similar to those reported for maize cropped in temperate regions, indicating that these relationships are also useful to describe maize growth on tropical soils without Al toxicity. In NLI, soil acidity severely affected leaf appearance, leaf size and consequently the LAI, which was reduced by 60% at flowering, although the RUE was not affected. Therefore, the reduction in the above-ground biomass (30% at flowering) and grain yield (47%) were due to the lower LAI and light interception. At flowering, the root/shoot ratio was 0.25 in NLI and 0.17 in LI, and the root biomass in NLI was reduced by 64% compared to LI. Nitrogen uptake was also reduced in NLI in spite of high soil N availability. Nevertheless, shoot N concentration vs aboveground biomass showed a typical decline in both treatments. In NLI, the shoot P concentration vs above-ground biomass relationship showed an increase in the early stages, indicating that P uptake and root-shoot competition for the absorbed P in the early plant stages controlled the establishment and the development of the leaf area.

leaf area index nitrogen oxisol phosphorus radiation-use efficiency Zea mays


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Sierra
    • 1
    Email author
  • C. Noël
    • 1
  • L. Dufour
    • 1
  • H. Ozier-Lafontaine
    • 1
  • C. Welcker
    • 2
  • L. Desfontaines
    • 1
  1. 1.Unité Agropédoclimatique de la Zone CaraïbeUSA
  2. 2.Unité de Recherches en Production VégétaleINRA Antilles-Guyane, Domaine Duclos (Prise d'Eau)Petit-Bourg, Guadeloupe (French Antilles)France

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