The rapidly increasing population and associated quest for food and feed in China has led to increased soil cultivation and nitrogen (N) fertilizer use, and as a consequence to increased wind erosion and unbalanced crop nutrition. In the study presented here, we explored the long-term effects of various combinations of maize stover, cattle manure and nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertilizer applications on maize (Zea mays L.) yield and nutrient and water use efficiencies under reduced tillage practices. In a companion paper, we present the effects on nutrient balances and soil fertility characteristics. The ongoing factorial field trial was conducted at Shouyang Dryland Farming Experimental Station in northern China from 1993 onwards. The incomplete, determinant-optimal design comprised 12 treatments, including a control treatment, in duplicate. Grain yields and N, P, and potassium (K) uptakes and N, P and K use efficiencies were greatly influenced by the amount of rain during the growing season (GSR), and by soil water at sowing (SWS). There were highly significant interactions between GSR and added stover and manure, expressed in complex annual variations in grain yield and N, P and K use efficiencies. Annual mean grain yields ranged from 3,000 kg ha¿1 to 10,000 kg ha¿1 and treatment mean yields from 4,500 kg ha¿1 to 7,000 kg ha¿1. Balanced combination of stover (3,000¿6,000 kg), manure (1,500¿6,000 kg) and N fertilizer (105 kg) gave the highest yield. Stover and manure were important for supplying K, but the effects differed greatly between years. Overall mean N recovery efficiency (NRE) ranged from 28% to 54%, depending on N source. NRE in wet years ranged from 50% to 90%. In conclusion, balanced combinations of stover, manure and NP fertilizer gave the highest yield and NRE. Reduced tillage with adding stover and manure in autumn prior to ploughing is effective in minimizing labor requirement and wind erosion. The potentials of split applications of N fertilizer, targeted to the need of the growing crop (response farming), should be explored to further increase the N use efficiency.
- nitrogen use efficiency
- soil fertility