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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

Iqbal, Shahid, Thierfelder, Christian, Khan, Haroon Zaman, Javeed, Hafiz Muhammad Rashad, Arif, Muhammad, Shehzad, Muhammad
Nutrient cycling in agroecosystems 2017 v.107 no.2 pp. 197-213
agroecosystems, composts, corn, cost benefit analysis, grain protein, grain yield, income, nitrogen, nitrogen fertilizers, nutrient use efficiency, poultry manure, profitability, semiarid zones, soil, urea, Pakistan
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.