Localized nutrient supply can facilitate root proliferation and increase nitrogen-use efficiency in compacted soil

Xiaobin Wu, Hongbo Li, Zed Rengel, William R. Whalley, Haigang Li, Fusuo Zhang, Jianbo Shen, Kemo Jin

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Soil compaction constrains root growth and crop yield. Previous studies have shown that localized nutrient supply can significantly improve maize plant growth in field conditions at the early growth stage. However, this promoting effect has not been tested in the compacted soil. We describe 2-year field experimentation on a fluvo-aquic soil in the North China Plain to investigate the effect of localized vs. broadcast ammonium and phosphorus supply on maize under three soil compaction treatments (NC: non-compacted, C: compacted and SC: severely compacted) during 2012 and 2013. Results showed that compared with broadcast ammonium and phosphorus (BNP), localized ammonium and phosphorus supply (LNP) resulted in significantly higher PFPN in the NC (by 31–37%), C (by 43–44%) and SC (by 45%) treatments at harvest. When soil was compacted (C and SC), the enhancement of nitrogen (N) utilization in the LNP treatment was attributed to the increased root growth, including greater specific root length (a greater proportion of fine roots), lower root tissue density and deeper rooting at the seedling stage, especially in the compacted treatment (C). The enhanced root penetration capacity contributed to the increased N and water uptake from the deep soil layers. Our study highlighted the importance of nutrient management for mitigating negative impacts of soil compaction on crops, and will underpin new soil compaction management practices by considering optimal fertilization to strengthen the root-soil interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105198
JournalSoil and Tillage Research
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


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