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Effect of residual plus applied nitrogen on grain yield of maize in the Highveld Region



Effect of residual plus applied nitrogen on grain yield of maize in the Highveld Region



South African Journal of Plant & Soil 12(3): 99-104



The need in South Africa for nitrogen fertilization guidelines on a more scientific basis was the motivation for the initiation of three field trials in the 1992/93 growing season. Maize yield, as affected by five levels of nitrogen application and three types of legumes, grown in the preceding year, was determined in the 1993/94 season at three localities in the Highveld Region. Residual NO-3-N, to soil depths of 0-300 mm and 0-600 mm, was determined directly after harvest in the 1992/93 season and immediately prior to planting in the 1993/94 season. The average residual NO-3-N (before planting, 0-600 mm) of treatments, preceded by a crop of legumes, was 1.8; 5.3 and 5.7 mg kg-1, respectively, for Vredefort, Wolmaransstad and Argent and 0.5; 4.6 and 3.3 mg kg-1 for treatments preceded by maize, without nitrogen fertilization. The nitrogen advantage of preceding annual legumes was manifested in the nitrate concentrations prior to planting, since data of maize crops grown after a maize crop showed the same relationship between relative yield and residual NO-3-N as did maize grown after annual legumes. The residual NO-3-N before planting accounted for 81% of the variation in relative yield of the treatments where no nitrogen fertilizer was applied, while the residual NO-3-N after harvest accounted for only 34% of the variation in relative yield. The correlations between relative yield and residual NO-3-N to a 600-mm soil depth were always better than residual NO-3-N to 300 mm. Soil samples for the determination of residual NO-3-N should therefore be taken before planting and to a soil depth of 600 mm. Nitrogen application rate could only account for 29% of the variation in relative yield, while 72% of the variation in relative yield could be accounted for by nitrogen application rate plus residual NO-3-N. This is a clear indication that residual NO-3-N can not be ignored in nitrogen fertilizer recommendations. A combination of this data with data from Van der Walt and Du Preez (1991) resulted in a significant empirical relationship where 59% of the variation in relative yield could be accounted for by applied plus residual NO-3-N. This relationship represents data from six seasons and nine localities and can be used for adjusting nitrogen fertilizer recommendations according to residual NO-3-N.

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Accession: 002604098

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