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Application of molybdenum fertilizer enhanced quality and production of alfalfa in northern China under non-irrigated conditions

Mao, Xiaotao, Li, Qingfeng, Ren, Lifei, Bai, Wenming, Zhang, Wen-Hao
Journal of plant nutrition 2018 v.41 no.8 pp. 1009-1019
Medicago sativa, acid detergent fiber, alfalfa, crop yield, crude protein, enzyme activity, field experimentation, growth and development, metabolism, molybdenum, molybdenum fertilizers, neutral detergent fiber, nitrate reductase, nitrogen, nitrogen fixation, plant growth, semiarid zones, soil, water shortages, China
Molybdenum (Mo) is an essential micro-mineral nutrient for plant growth and development. As an important legume forage, alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is frequently planted in marginal lands of northern China where water scarcity and infertile soil are limiting factors for alfalfa production. Mo plays an important role in nitrogen (N) metabolism in general and N fixation in legume species in particular. To evaluate the role of Mo fertilizer in alfalfa quality and production in semi-arid areas of northern China, we conducted a three-year field experiment in Inner Mongolia from 2012 to 2014. Mo fertilizer at the doses of 0, 150 g hm⁻², 300 g hm⁻²yr⁻¹ was applied consecutively across the three years. Application of Mo at 300 g hm⁻²yr⁻¹ significantly increased dry yield of alfalfa in 2014. Crude protein (CP) content of alfalfa without application of Mo exhibited a decline trend from 2012 to 2014. Application of Mo significantly enhanced total CP in 2012 and 2014, and delayed the reduction in total CP across the three years. In contrast to CP, Mo fertilizer had no significant effects on neutral detergent fiber and acid detergent fiber content. In addition, we found that nitrate reductase activity of alfalfa was increased by Mo fertilizer, which may account for the enhanced CP content in alfalfa. These findings highlight that application of Mo fertilizer can be an effective way to improve alfalfa production and quality in semi-arid areas in northern China.