Slurry injection to optimize nutrient use efficiency in maize: Regional performance of manure based fertilizer strategies

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Title: Slurry injection to optimize nutrient use efficiency in maize: Regional performance of manure based fertilizer strategies
Other Titles: Gülleunterfußdüngung zur Steigerung der Nährstoffnutzungseffizienz im Maisanbau: Regionale Leistungsfähigkeit güllebasierter Düngungssysteme
Authors: Federolf, Carl-Philipp
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Thesis advisor: Prof. Dr. Gabriele Broll
Thesis referee: Prof. Dr. Dieter Trautz
Abstract: The expansion of livestock husbandry and biogas production in large parts of northwestern Germany during the last two decades increased the amount of accruing manure, as well as the demand for maize as fodder crop and substrate for biogas plants. To overcome phosphorus deficiency symptoms during early growth of maize, farmers commonly apply mineral starter fertilizers containing ammonium-nitrogen and phosphorus on top of the usual manure applications required to meet crop nutrient demand. This practice typically leads to overfertilization of N and P and the excess nutrients are then prone to be lost into the environment. Recent developments of agricultural machinery allow for the injection of slurry bands into the soil prior to maize planting. Due to high concentrations of ammonium and phosphorus in the manure band, chemical transformation and translocation of these nutrients is reduced. When the bands are placed near the seeds, even the radicles can access the applied nutrients. Hence, application of mineral starter fertilizers might be obviated. Earlier investigations showed insufficient knowledge of nutrient transformations in manure bands and their consequences on crop growth. To resolve these problems a research project at the University of Applied Sciences Osnabrück was conducted in close cooperation with the local agricultural extension services, machinery producers and farmers. In a series of field trials, broadcasting of liquid manure was compared to injection with and without a nitrification inhibitor in three consecutive growing seasons (2013 to 2015). The trials were conducted in a split-plot design, where all liquid manure treatments were divided in subplots with and without a mineral starter fertilizer. Biomass samplings at eight leaves stage and harvest gave insight into the performance of the treatments. Compared to broadcast application with starter fertilizer, manure injection showed slightly retarded early growth in some trials. However, yields and nitrogen uptake at harvest were similar. When a nitrification inhibitor was added to the injected manure, early growth was not retarded, yields were alike broadcast and injection treatments, but nitrogen uptake was higher in all seasons (on average ~7%). To further investigate nitrogen dynamics and crop growth, another field trial was conducted on a sandy soil close to Osnabrück in 2014 and 2015. Manure injection with and without a nitrification inhibitor was compared to broadcast application with mineral starter fertilizer and an unfertilized control treatment. Plant samplings were taken at regular intervals. Major precipitation events in May and June 2014 led to significant nitrate leaching, especially in the broadcast treatment. Manure injection delayed the nitrification of slurry ammonium and consequently the translocation out of the root zone. Thus, plants in injection treatments could accumulate more nitrogen in their biomass and showed less nitrogen deficiency symptoms. This led to increased yield (+16.5%) and nitrogen uptake (+9.6%) for injection treatment with nitrification inhibitor compared to broadcast treatment. In 2015, low temperatures impaired seminal root growth and phosphorus availability. The mineral starter fertilizer in the broadcast treatment led to better early growth than injected slurry. When a nitrification inhibitor was added to the injected manure, less P deficiency symptoms were observed, and the crop growth was only slightly retarded. Due to the high compensation potential of silage maize, these differences were equalized until harvest. Nevertheless, the mean apparent nitrogen recovery efficiency of both seasons was higher in injection treatments with and without nitrification inhibitor, compared to broadcast with mineral starter fertilizer (48%, 56% and 43%, respectively). To ease the handling of field trial series by decreasing the number of tissue samplings, the use of a handheld sensor was tested during vegetative growth of maize. In the series of field trials with the local extension service, the derived vegetation index showed significant correlations to biomass and nitrogen uptake at eight leaves stage. Measurements of the vegetative growth observed during the nitrogen dynamics trial showed that the sensor needs sufficient leaf area to deliver precise data, but also tends to saturate when maize tassels evolve. The best estimates were found between six and ten leaves. Thus, the sensor can be a valuable tool to reduce numbers of tissue samples and, thus, time and effort needed in fertilization trials. Altogether, these results should encourage farmers to obviate mineral starter fertilizers by using manure injection when cropping maize on sandy soils. The advantages that come along with manure injection based on the present research indicate higher shares of manure nutrients find their way into the plants due to delayed biochemical transformations. These nutrients are consequently not lost into the environment. Nitrification inhibitors have shown a positive effect on crop performance and led to a further reduction of nitrogen losses. However, further knowledge of their decomposition with special regard to the ecological impact of their compounds and metabolites need to be thoroughly evaluated.
Subject Keywords: Liquid manure; Maize; Fertilization; Phosphorus; Nitrification inhibitor; Nitrate leaching; Vegetation index
Issue Date: 16-Nov-2018
License name: Namensnennung-Nicht-kommerziell 3.0 Deutschland
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Type of publication: Dissertation oder Habilitation [doctoralThesis]
Appears in Collections:FB01 - E-Dissertationen

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