Application of liquid cattle manure and inorganic fertilizers affect dry matter, nitrogen accumulation, and partitioning in maize

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Efficient use of N applied in the form of organic and inorganic fertilizers is important in maize (Zea mays L.) production to maximize producer's economic returns and maintain soil and water quality. A field study was conducted for three consecutive years (2003–2005) in Thessaloniki, Greece to investigate whether liquid cattle manure can be used to replace inorganic fertilizers and also whether inorganic fertilizer can be applied preplant or as a combination of preplant and sidedress and can affect maize growth, development and N use efficiency. The treatments were control (unfertilized), liquid dairy cattle manure (Manure), application of 260 kg N ha−1year−1 as basal dressing (N-single), application of 130 kg ha−1year−1N as basal dressing before sowing and 130 kg N ha−1 when plants were at the eight-leaf stage (V8) (N-split). In 2 out of the 3 years of the study there was a significant positive effect of fertilizer application on maize growth, development, N uptake, and partitioning compared with the control. Dry matter production was increased by an average of 39% during the 2 years in plots fertilized either with manure or inorganic fertilizers than the control plots. Also from the yield components kernel weight per ear and number of kernels per ear were increased by an average of 35% and 32%, respectively in the fertilized plots compared with the control plots. Chlorophyll level was affected as it was increased by an average of 18%, 14%, and 18% at the ten-leaf stage (V10), silking and milk stage, respectively in the fertilization treatments compared with the control. Similar trend was observed in the other parameters that were studied. No differences were found between the manure and the different times of N application which indicates that manure can be used to replace inorganic fertilizer. Applying N either preplant in a single application or in split application (half of N preplant and half as sidedress) did not have any effect on any characteristics that were studied indicating that preplant application can be used as it is more cost effective. The present study indicates that liquid cattle manure can be used to replace inorganic fertilizers and also that there was no difference between preplant and sidedress application of N.

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