BACKGROUND: This study aimed to assess longer-term (1993-2009) effects of combined applications of fertiliser, maize stover, and cattle manure on maize yields, partial nitrogen (N) and carbon (C) balances, and water and N-use efficiencies, to guide N and C input recommendations for rain-fed maize production in northern China. RESULTS: The field trial, with three factors at five levels and 12 treatments, was conducted at Shouyang Dryland-Farming Experimental Station, Shanxi, China. Data analysis revealed higher N balances but lower C balances significantly occurred in a dry year than in a wet year. Positive N balances related to higher N inputs resulted in higher soil available N, even downward to deep layers with increasing N inputs, while positive C balances due to higher C inputs could be benefit to increase soil organic C. Based on partial N balances and grain yields, N and C inputs at ranges of 100kg N ha-1 and 1.9-2.9Mg C ha-1 could be recommended for target yields of 6.7-7.2Mg ha-1 in rain-fed maize production. CONCLUSION: The study suggests that N balances close to neutral be given priority to improving N-use efficiency, and more positive C balances also be important for sustaining target yields and soil fertility levels.
- Rain-fed farming