Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Boosting global corn yields depends on improving nutrient balance

17.09.2014

Ensuring that corn absorbs the right balance of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is crucial to increasing global yields, a Purdue and Kansas State University study finds.

A review of data from more than 150 studies from the U.S. and other regions showed that high yields were linked to production systems in which corn plants took up key nutrients at specific ratios - nitrogen and phosphorus at a ratio of 5-to-1 and nitrogen and potassium at a ratio of 1-to-1. These nutrient uptake ratios were associated with high yields regardless of the region where the corn was grown.


Tony Vyn

"The agricultural community has put a lot of emphasis on nitrogen as a means of increasing yields, but this study highlights the greater importance of nutrient balance," said Tony Vyn, Purdue professor of agronomy. "We will not be able to continually boost global corn yields and achieve food security without providing adequate and balanced nutrients."

While corn producers in the U.S. have long relied on nitrogen fertilizers to improve yields, they should not overlook other nutrients such as potassium and phosphorus, Vyn said.

"Growers need to be as concerned about the amount of potassium available to their plants as they are about nitrogen," he said. "Corn's demand for nitrogen and potassium is similar. We need to focus on the nitrogen-potassium balance because that's where we have the greatest deficiency in terms of application, especially in the eastern Corn Belt."

The main obstacles to closing corn yield gaps - that is, reaching the potential yield projected for a particular soil and climate - around the world are the inaccessibility and cost of fertilizers and the inherent nutrient deficiencies of soils in many regions in which corn is grown, said Ignacio Ciampitti, assistant professor of agronomy at Kansas State.

"On the global scale, the potential yield response to balanced nutrient applications is big," he said. "But growers outside the U.S. should also focus on developing an integrated management program that considers factors such as optimum planting dates, plant densities and pest management."

The study revealed a sharp difference in the "indigenous" supply of nitrogen in soils in the U.S. and in other regions. In cases where no additional nitrogen fertilizers were applied, U.S. corn took up an average of 120 pounds of nitrogen per acre - compared with about 52 pounds of nitrogen per acre in regions outside the U.S. The high level of indigenous nitrogen in U.S. soils may be due to factors such as an inherently greater amount of organic matter in the soil, a history of fertilization in the Corn Belt, and the use of superior corn hybrids, Vyn said.

But despite the higher nitrogen content of U.S. soils, corn plants in the U.S. were not more efficient at absorbing nitrogen fertilizers from the soil than those in other regions. Nitrogen recovery efficiency, the measure of how much applied nitrogen the above-ground portion of a plant absorbs from the soil, was the same - 48 percent - for the U.S. and other parts of the world.

Vyn said nitrogen recovery efficiency in the U.S. is not higher partly because increasing fertilizer application rates can create a "declining return:" The more fertilizer applied, the more difficult it becomes to extract the same percentage of the nutrients in the corn.

Optimizing the timing of applications and developing alternate nitrogen sources may improve the recovery efficiency of U.S. corn production systems, he said.

Data collected from 1976 to 2012 also revealed that the efficiency with which individual corn plants absorbed and used nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus stayed relatively consistent despite plants being grown at much higher densities.

"On a per-plant basis, corn plants are not taking up more nutrients than they were in the past," Ciampitti said. "They may be taking up less because they are grown closer together, but they are more efficient at producing more grain with the same amount of nutrient uptake."

Still, growers need to keep an eye on the amount of nutrients removed at harvest to ensure soil nutrient levels don't drop to the point where future yields could suffer, Vyn said.

"Growers should not rely too heavily on modern genetics to give them the yields they expect without spending a considerable amount of effort on maintaining nutrient availability throughout the growing season."

The paper was published online in the Agronomy Journal Monday (Sept. 15) and is available athttps://www.agronomy.org/publications/aj/articles/0/0/agronj14.0025?highlight=&search-result=1.

The International Plant Nutrition Institute, Purdue University and Kansas State University provided funding for the research. 

Writer: Natalie van Hoose, 765-496-2050, nvanhoos@purdue.edu                                                            

Sources: Tony Vyn, 765-496-3757, tvyn@purdue.edu

Ignacio Ciampitti, 785-410-9354, ciampitti@ksu.edu 

ABSTRACT

Understanding global and historical nutrient use efficiencies for closing maize yield gaps

Ignacio A. Ciampitti 1; Tony J. Vyn 2

1 Department of Agronomy, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506

2 Department of Agronomy, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907

E-mail: ciampitti@ksu.edu 

Global food security must address the dual challenges of closing yield gaps (i.e., actual vs. potential yield) while improving environmental sustainability. Nutrient balance is essential for achieving global food security. Historical (in distinct "Eras" from late 1800s to 2012) and geographical (in the United States vs. remainder of world) changes in maize (Zea mays L.) grain yields and plant nutrient content (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) were characterized from studies (>150) with known plant densities. At the community scale, greater yield to nutrient content ratios (physiological efficiency, PE) were documented for United States vs. World. The U.S. historical trend displayed increasing gains for community-scale yield and nutrient uptake, except for a recent decline attributed to weather. At the individual-plant scale, geographic PE differences over time were primarily explained by changes in yield and secondarily by nutrient content changes. Despite wide variation, high-yield maize in both geographies was associated with balanced N/P (5:1) and N/K (1:1) ratios. More scope exists for maize nutrient PE gains in developing regions. Achieving balanced nutrition in optimally integrated soil-crop management cropping systems will facilitate simultaneous realization of high-yield and bio-fortification goals in maize improvement efforts.  

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson, robins89@purdue.edu
Agriculture News Page

Natalie van Hoose | Eurek Alert!

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Six-legged livestock -- sustainable food production
11.05.2017 | Faculty of Science - University of Copenhagen

nachricht Elephant Herpes: Super-Shedders Endanger Young Animals
04.05.2017 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New Method of Characterizing Graphene

Scientists have developed a new method of characterizing graphene’s properties without applying disruptive electrical contacts, allowing them to investigate both the resistance and quantum capacitance of graphene and other two-dimensional materials. Researchers from the Swiss Nanoscience Institute and the University of Basel’s Department of Physics reported their findings in the journal Physical Review Applied.

Graphene consists of a single layer of carbon atoms. It is transparent, harder than diamond and stronger than steel, yet flexible, and a significantly better...

Im Focus: Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier

The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.

The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

3D printer inks from the woods

30.05.2017 | Life Sciences

How circadian clocks communicate with each other

30.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Graphene and quantum dots put in motion a CMOS-integrated camera that can see the invisible

30.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>