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PLoS One. 2013 Aug 2;8(8):e70569. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070569. Print 2013.

Effects of controlled-release fertiliser on nitrogen use efficiency in summer maize.

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State Key Laboratory of Crop Biology, College of Agronomy, Shandong Agricultural University, Tai'an, China.


Nitrogen (N) is a nutrient element necessary for plant growth and development. However, excessive inputs of N will lead to inefficient use and large N losses to the environment, which can adversely affect air and water quality, biodiversity and human health. To examine the effects of controlled-release fertilisers (CRF) on yield, we measured ammonia volatilisation, N use efficiency (NUE) and photosynthetic rate after anthesis in summer maize hybrid cultivar Zhengdan958. Maize was grown using common compound fertiliser (CCF), the same amount of resin-coated controlled release fertiliser (CRFIII), the same amount of sulphur-coated controlled release fertiliser (SCFIII) as CCF, 75% CRF (CRFII) and SCF (SCFII), 50% CRF (CRFI) and SCF (SCFI), and no fertiliser. We found that treatments CRFIII, SCFIII, CRFII and SCFII produced grain yields that were 13.15%, 14.15%, 9.69% and 10.04% higher than CCF. There were no significant differences in grain yield among CRFI, SCFI and CCF. We also found that the ammonia volatilisation rates of CRF were significantly lower than those of CCF. The CRF treatments reduced the emission of ammonia by 51.34% to 91.34% compared to CCF. In addition, after treatment with CRF, maize exhibited a higher net photosynthetic rate than CCF after anthesis. Agronomic NUE and apparent N recovery were higher in the CRF treatment than in the CCF treatment. The N uptake and physiological NUE of the four yield-enhanced CRF treatments were higher than those of CCF. These results suggest that the increase in NUE in the CRF treatments was generally attributable to the higher photosynthetic rate and lower ammonia volatilisation compared to CCF-treated maize.

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