Organic manure input improves soil water and nutrients use for sustainable maize (Zea mays. L) productivity on the Loess Plateau

Xiaolin Wang, Jiakun Yan, Xiong Zhang, Suiqi Zhang, Yinglong Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Long-term chemical fertilizer input causes soil organic matter losses, structural compaction, and changes in soil water and nutrient availability, which have been subdued in the most of dry farmland in China. The concept of "more efficiency with less fertilizer input" has been proposed and is urgently needed in current agriculture. Application of chemical fertilizer combined with organic manure (OM) could be a solution for soil protection and sustainable production of dry-land maize (Zea mays. L). Field research over three consecutive years on the Loess Plateau of China was conducted to evaluate the integrated effects of chemical fertilizer strategies and additional OM input on soil nutrients availability and water use in maize. The results showed that, after harvest, soil bulk density decreased significantly with OM application, concomitant with 11.9, 18.7 and 97.8% increases in topsoil total nitrogen, organic matter, and available phosphorus contents, respectively, compared with those under equal chemical NPK input. Water use in the 1.0-1.5 m soil profile was improved, therefore, the soil conditions were better for maize root growth, leaf area and shoot biomass of individual maize plants increased significantly with OM application. Optimized NPK strategies increased grain yield and water use efficiency by 18.5 and 20.6%, respectively, compared to only chemical NP input. Furthermore, additional OM input promoted yield and water use efficiency by 8.9 and 5.8%, respectively. Addition of OM promotes sustainable soil and maize grain productivity as well as friendly soil environmental management of dry land farming.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0238042
Pages (from-to)e0238042
JournalPLoS One
Issue number8 August
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2020


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