Performance of tropical maize hybrids under conditions of low and optimum levels of nitrogen fertilizer application – grain yield, biomass production and nitrogen accumulation


Nitrogen (N) is the most limiting mineral nutrient in the soils of the major maize producing areas of West and Central Africa. Low soil N and sub-optimal application of N fertilizers lead to N deficiency and poor grain yield (GY) in maize. Maize varieties with improved grain yield under low soil N and increased performance under optimal N availability could be beneficial to low input agriculture. This study evaluated the performance of a selection of experimental and commercial hybrids under suboptimal and optimal N fertilizer applications. Significant differences were observed among the hybrids, as well as significant interactions between hybrid and N level for GY and other measured attributes, with the severity of variation increasing as the level of N decreases. Mean GY reductions across the years was 76.5% at no-N and 35.4% at low-N. Depending on N treatment, GY varied from 0.48 to 4.42 Mg ha-1, grain N content from 0.17 to 1.26 g plant-1, total N content at harvest from 0.33 to 2.00 g plant-1, above ground biomass at silking from 30.6 to 91.2 g plant-1 and at maturity from 39.9 to 191.1 g plant-1. Number of kernels was the GY component most severely reduced by N stress and had significant (p = 0.001) positive correlation with GY at all N levels. Six hybrids (4001/4008, KU1409/4008, KU1409/9613, 4008/1808, 4058/Fun 47-4, and 1824/9432) which showed consistent above average grain yields under no-N, low-N, high-N and across N levels were found and their use could further be investigated.


maize hybrids; grain yield; number of kernels; low soil N; low input agriculture

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