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Revista mexicana de ciencias agrícolas

versión impresa ISSN 2007-0934

Rev. Mex. Cienc. Agríc vol.6 no.8 Texcoco nov./dic. 2015



Physiological efficiency of N, P, K and Mg in maize H-47 and H-59

Benjamín Zamudio-González1 

Margarita Tadeo-Robledo2  § 

Alejandro Espinosa-Calderón1 

Juan Nelson Martínez Rodríguez1 

David Israel Celis Euan1 

Antonio Turrent Fernández1 

Roberto Valdivia Bernal3 

1Sitio Experimental Metepec-INIFAP. Vialidad Adolfo López Mateos. Carretera Toluca-Zitácuaro, km 4.5 C. P. 51350, Zinacantepec, Estado de México, México. Tel: 01 722 510 42 20. (;;;

2Facultad de Estudios Superiores Cuautitlán. UNAM. Carretera Cuautitlán-Teoloyucán, Cuautitlán Izcalli km 2.5. Estado de México.

3Universidad Autónoma Nayarit. (


The low efficiency of fertilizer use in agricultural soils negatively impacts productivity and sustainability of production systems. Rates of apparent physiological efficiency (EFA) were calculated regarding different fertilization treatments on the soil for hybrid H-47 and H-59. The EFA of a nutrient is the ratio of grain harvested in kg per kg of N, P, K or Mg in the crop's biomass for one hectare. We used a full factorial of five hybrid for eight fertilization treatments under the concept of "omission plot", a mode of minimum act by Leibniz. The "complete and sufficient" formula in kg ha-1 to harvest at least 10 t ha-1 of maize grain was: 240N-90P2O5-80K2O-60S-50MgO-380CaO (T8 ). With the successive omission of a macro nutrient we obtained: T1 (-N), T2 (-P), T3 (-K), T4 (-S), T5 (-Mg), T6 (-Ca) and T7 ("farmer" with 70% NPK dose of "full dose", but without S, Mg and Ca). Sowing with 90 thousand seeds per hectare in soil with "irrigation tip" on May 13th. Cobs and crop characteristics were measured in quadruplicate. With the contents of macro nutrient and biomass production of grain H-47 and H-59, calculating EFA, of treatments omission of N, P, K and Mg. The variables were analysed with SAS, separating the means by Tukey 5% test. The EFA, of all the fertility treatments were: for H-47 de 33.6/N, 232.4/P, 51.7/K and 553.4/Mg and for H-59 de 39.0/N, 181.1/P, 67.1/K and 421.8/Mg. EFA values change more associated with the genotype compared to omission of some macro nutrients.

Keywords: maize (Zea mays L.); fertilization efficiency; plant nutrition


La baja eficacia del uso de fertilizantes en suelos agrícolas impacta negativamente en la productividad y sustentabilidad de los sistemas de producción. Se calcularon los índices de la eficiencia fisiológica aparente (EFA) de diferentes tratamientos de fertilización al suelo para los híbridos H-47 y H-59. La EFA de un nutrimento es el cociente de los kg de grano cosechado por kg de N, P, K o Mg en la biomasa del cultivo para una hectárea. Se utilizó un factorial completo de cinco híbridos por ocho tratamientos de fertilización bajo el concepto de "parcelas de omisión", modalidad de la Ley del Mínimo de Leibniz. La fórmula "completa y suficiente" en kg ha-1 para cosechar al menos 10 t ha-1 de grano de maíz fue: 240N-90P2O5-80K2O-60S-50MgO-380CaO (T8). Con la sucesiva omisión de un macro nutrimento se obtuvieron: T1 (-N), T2 (-P), T3 (-K), T4 (-S), T5 (-Mg), T6 (-Ca) y T7 ("agricultor" con 70% de la dosis de NPK de "dosis completa"; pero sin S, Mg y Ca). Se sembró con 90 mil semillas por hectárea en suelo con "punta de riego" el 13 de mayo. Características de mazorca y cosecha se midieron por cuadriplicado. Con los contenidos de macro nutrimentos en biomasa y producción de grano de H-47 y H-59 se calcularon las EFA,s de tratamientos de omisión de N, P, K y Mg. Las variables se analizaron con SAS y se separaron las medias con prueba de Tukey al 5%. Las EFA, s del conjunto de los tratamientos de fertilización fueron: para H-47 de 33.6/N, 232.4/P, 51.7/K y 553.4/Mg; y para H-59 de 39.0/N, 181.1/P, 67.1/K y 421.8/Mg. Los valores de EFA cambian más asociado a genotipo en comparación a la omisión de algún macro nutrimento.

Palabras clave: maíz (Zea mays L.); eficiencia de fertilización; nutrición vegetal


The association of nutrient absorption and extraction with the yields allows improved fertilizer management to consider the genotype x environment interaction (Ciampitti and Vyn, 2011; Hill and Clérici, 2013). The excessive use of commercial fertilizer to the soil may not only cause serious environmental and ecological problems (Advent-Borve et al., 2007; Bianchini et al., 2008; Snyder et al., 2009); but also can adversely affect crop uptake of other nutrients such as Zn, Ca and K (Yu-kui et al., 2009). The efficiency of fertilizer use depends on their agronomic management, crop and fertilizer manufacturing technology to avoid losses by volatilization, leaching, fixation, precipitation, among other reactions in the soil (Roberts, 2007; Bruulsema et al., 2008).

The demand for nutrients of maize is associated with its development stages (Ritchie et al., 2002). For a better efficiency of nutrient efficiency is considered the concept of location or position without fertilizer near the roots; and synchronization or best time to apply fertilizer according to its demand (Marschner, 1994). The critical moments of maize nutrient uptake are associated with period of 4 to 6 leaves (V4-6) to 10 leaves (V10), Ritchie et al. (2002). The application of N only gives a significant increase in yield followed by the addition of P (phosphorus), but in soils having an average fertility, it's required to add base cations (K and Ca) and micronutrients (Zn and B). The addition of organic matter increases the retention of water and nutrients, improves synchrony between fertilizer application and demand for nutrients, and soil biodiversity grows (Zingore, 2011).

Nitrogen use efficiency (EFN) is related to maize genotype, environment and management issues (Carneiro et al., 2013). Guohua et al. (2008) identified efficient genotypes with low soil N supply to plants with strong roots by exploring and stored reserves of N, by a higher rate of translocation in the formation of grain and quality to maintain active green leaves after antithesis. Bolaños (1994) studied in eleven localities and concluded EFN hybrid maize yielded from 1 to 1.5 t ha-1 more grain against open-pollinated varieties; and he suggested improving seed is directed to a combination of materials with grain filling efficiency and a longer duration of the filling phase. Hefny and Aly (2008) on the study of16 crosses of maize found deficiency of N delaying flowering, accelerating senescence, reduced biomass and yield components and protein content in the grain, so cross with high efficiency of use of N must be selected.

Gallais and Hirel (2004) cited that this phenomenon quite is complex regarding the interaction of genotype-N supply and environmental burdens in relation to gene expression and enzymatic processes for the maize plant is efficient in the use of N; for this reason, studies are suggested that integrate quantitative genetics, molecular markers and genomics to various aspects of physiology and agronomic management to identify genes with qualities to give a higher N uptake rate by the roots in soils of low fertility and also have rapidly translocation to the cob, for inclusion in seed improvement programs.

The study aimed to calculate rates of apparent physiological efficiency (EFA) in different soil fertilization treatments associated with the production of the grain hybrid H-47 and H-59.

Materials and methods

The site-specific nutrient management (SSNM) is a methodology proposed by the International Plant Nutrition Institute (PII, 2009); where the farmer on the property identifies the missing amounts of nutrients in the soil to compare the maximum yield in a plot with "comprehensive, balanced and sufficient fertilization" against a succession of "nutrient omission plot" and its traditional fertilization. Five grain maize hybrids (Puma 1076, H-59, H-47, H-50 and Z-60) were tested with eight fertilization doses (Table 1). The formula of complete fertilization was used as a basis in kg ha-1 240N -90P2O5 - 80K2O - 380CaO - 50MgO- 60S (T8); and the subsequent omission of a macro-nutrient, the treatments T1(-N), T2(-P), T3(-K), T4(-S), T5(-Mg), T6(-Ca) and T7 were designed (named as fertilization of the farmer, equivalent to 70% of the dose of NPK of the "full" dose, but without Ca, Mg and S). Planting in soil with "irrigation tip" with 90 thousand seeds per hectare was made on May 13th in the town of Temascalcingo, State of Mexico at 2 372 meters. The rainfed season was established as "regular and sufficient" during the cycle.

Table 1 Soil fertilization treatments in omission plots of macro-nutrients of the farmer and complete in Temascalcingo, State of Mexico. 

The soil was analysed by the SCMS standards (1987) and were graded according to the proficient range according to Alarcon (2004). The analysis reported: 6.5 pH units (2 parts of water extraction: one dry soil, described as slightly alkaline), not salty (0.52 dS m-1), low in organic matter (1.15%) low on N ( 0.08%, micro-Kjeldahl), high in P (88 mg kg-1 Bray I), high on K (1.04 cmol kg-1 F. Flama), low on Ca2+ (5.87 cmol kg-1 EDTA) and high Mg (3.67 cmol kg-1 EDTA).

For the estimation of the apparent physiological efficiency (EFA) on omission treatments of N-P-K-Mg was made only for the hybrid H-47 and H-59; and it was calculated with the ratio of kilograms of maize grain produced per kg of N-P-K-Mg measured in tissues of the total biomass (straw cob and grain). The treatments for genetic material ofmaize (H), fertilization (F) and the interaction H x F were processed with the SAS (1998) package and the means by Tukey 5% test.

Results and discussion

The analysis allowed to declare with mathematical honesty that there was significant difference in the variables studied by the effect of the treatment of hybrid (H), fertilization (F) and the interaction H x F (Table 2).

Table 2 Statistical significance of five variables by design effect of five maize hybrids (H) x eight treatments of soil fertilization (F) and HF interaction. 

The characteristic of adjustment of the model for each variable estimated with acceptable correlation coefficients (R2), low coefficients of variation (C.V.), mean "high" values, and high significance of F calculated and the probability P> F is appreciated. The variation of experimental data comes from both the genetics of maize hybrids and crop management as well (Coutiño and Vidal, 2006).

Variables to harvest of maize hybrids and omission plots of macro-nutrients

Comparing variables harvest presented by hybrids in Table 3 and omission plots in Table 4. The H-59 produced less chaff and grain associated with low weight of 200 grains. In contrast, the Z-60 hybrid produced more straw and grain associated with higher test weight. The Puma 1076 was intermediate as it produced high straw value and weight of 200 grains but grain was low (9.35 t ha-1).

Table 3 Comparison of means of five agronomic variables by effect of five hybrids. 

£ PL= peso hectolítrico; PS200= peso de 200 semillas. Letras distintas en columnas son diferentes por Tukey al 5%.

Table 4 Comparison of means of five variables to harvest by the effect of eight treatments with omission plots of macro-nutrients to the soil in maize. 

The treatment of omission of nitrogen (N) had the lowest indicators of production: 9.04 t ha-1 straw, weighing of 200 grains (53.9 g) and grain (7.09 t ha-1). Straw production was not affected by fertilization treatments due to omission, of the farmer or complete. The same happened to the weight of 200 grains but omitting the treatment of magnesium (-Mg), numerically the lowest (56.97 g). Strictly speaking, the lack of N (7.09 t ha-1) and P (9.58 t ha-1) caused minor grain crops in comparison with the rest of the fertilization treatments. These data confirm the lack of N impact on imbalance of other nutrients according to Ciampitti and Vyn (2011).

Relevant interactions H x F

H x F interactions with higher contrast of grain production per hectare were evaluated, which are presented in Table 5. The highest grain yields were obtained with farmer fertilization x hybrid Z-60 with 11.36 t ha-1, followed by -Ca x Z-60, complete x Puma 1076, -K x Z-60. The hybrid Z-60 is judged as "robust" because it is able to hold "high grain yields" even with omission of calcium (interaction F6H5) and the omission of potassium (F3H5). Instead, the hybrid Puma 1076 scored third of interactions and as superior in statistical terms as the hybrid Z-60 (grain yield 11.30 t ha-1); but by removing sulfur in the fertilization, affected in a reduced yield of two tons of grain. This low production of maize grain with the Puma 1076 were similar to the H-50 hybrids with the omission of P and H-59 with the omission of Mg (Table 5).

Table 5 Comparison of means of the interactions with relative "higher" and "lower" grain yield of maize in Temascalcingo, State of Mexico. 

Diferencia honesta significativa de 1.68.

Apparent physiological efficiency (EFA) of H-47 and H-59 by omission of macro-nutrients.

The apparent physiological efficiency or EFA is defined as the production of grain obtained in kilograms per kilogram of certain nutrient content in the crop biomass hectare. The word "apparent" is noted because the origin and course of the process of absorption and transport is unknown; being from the complex of soil as native nutrient, due to the fertilizer addition, the mineralization of crop residues and other organic fertilizers by biological fixation, by foliar spray or other income. Unlike the concept of agricultural efficiency or EA, which is eminently practical, which is defined as the ratio of "how many kilograms of maize are grown marginally in one hectare between the kg of a nutrient added to the untreated control."

In this study, we have the hypothesis that the EFA are different for maize hybrids and for unbalanced treatment of soil fertilization under the concept of default macro-nutrients N, P, K, S, Mg and Ca. To calculate the EFA, of the hybrids H-47 and H-59 data were presented in kg ha-1 of straw production + grain= total dry biomass (0% moisture basis) and harvest index of grain I.C.G (Table 6), the average concentration of mg kg-1 of N-P-K-Mg in grain and straw of H-47 (Table 7) and H-59 (Table 8), concentration ratios N, P, K and Mg in grain/straw of two maize hybrids (Table 9), harvest indices kg ha-1 of NPKMg in total dry biomass (straw+grain) of two maize hybrids (Table 10), the average content of N, P, K and Mg in kg ha-1 of the dry biomass in straw and grain of maize H-47 (Table 11), average content in kg ha-1 of N, P, K and Mg in the dry biomass of straw and maize grain of H-59 contained in kg ha-1 NPKMg in dry biomass (straw + grain) of two maize hybrids and apparent physiological efficiency (EFA)= kg of grain to 14% moisture/kg of total dry content NPKMg biomass (straw + grain ) two maize hybrids.

The average grain yields in dry basis (0% moisture) was 9.91 t ha-1 and 8.98 t ha-1 for the H-47 and H-59, respectively (a ton of difference). The indices of grain (ICG) were virtually identical to the M-59 (0.57) vs H-47 (0.55); but is seen in H-47 in contrast the omission plot (-N) with ICG 0.50, surpassed by all the fertilization treatments, while with the M-59 the opposite happened because the (N) value of 0.58 was higher or equal to the other fertilizer treatments (Table 6). The above shows the genetic load of each hybrid that has adaptive response to the omission of some macro element according to (Gallais and Hirel, 2004; Hefny and Aly, 2008); and it is useful to adopt the best practices of site-specific fertilization (Roberts, 2007).

With italic bold fonts are distinguished the average concentrations of the respective macro-nutrients of omission regarding the NPKMg for straw and grain of the H-47 (Table 7) and H-59 (Table 8). Values are displayed in italics associated with the decrease due to the omission of a macro-element. Thus, it was associated with the omission of -P and -K to the decrease of concentrations in straw and grain, but not for -N, as it is a plastic nutrient that meets biomass production. For -Mg is inconsistent, since the H-47 itself lowered their concentrations in grain and straw but for the H-59 while the magnesium content in straw was lower (707 mg kg-1), in grain it was not like that (2 079 mg kg-1 vs -N, -P and -K, the three of them with lower values). The lack or excess of supply of any particular nutrient leads to imbalance of other essential elements, companion ion, or dysfunction according with Yu-kui et al. (2009).

The sale of the grain harvest outside of the farm represents nutrient exports. This principle also applies to the straw when not incorporated into the soil as manure or compost after being tapped to livestock diet. The concentration relations of NPKMg of grain between straw were the first ones to be present, as understanding of the partition in the plant of the macro-nutrients (Table 9), and with higher accuracy the rates of harvest of NPKMg in grain with respect to the total dry biomass (straw + grain); as exported value of nutrient outside of the farm (Table 10).

Table 6 Average of yields of dry biomass (0% straw moisture, grain and total) and grain harvest index (I.C.G) of two hybrids of maize by omission treatments. 

Table 7 Concentrations in mg kg-1 of N, P, K and Mg in the dry biomass of straw and grain of maize H-47. 

Table 8 Concentrations in mg kg-1 of N, P, K and Mg in the dry biomass of straw and grain of maize H-59. 

Table 9 Concentration relations of N, P, K and Mg in grain/straw of two maize hybrids. 

Table 10 Harvest index of NPKMg in grain/total dry biomass (straw + grain) of two-hybrids. 

The concentration ratio of macro-nutrients in grain/straw on average for H-47 and H-59 were: of N 1.41 and 1.35, respectively (is explained 1.41 kg of N in grain by 1 kg of N in straw); P of 3.46 and 4.45; K of 0.31 K in both hybrids, Mg 1.65 and 2.06 (Table 9). Sample contrast between P and K; since phosphorus was preferentially oriented to the grain of three to four times more than in the straw; while in potassium the opposite happened because only one third (0.31) was concentrated in the grain. These four macro-elements are mobile on the plant and the differences appear on the lower leaves due to the demand of organs in new formation; but the reason to the partition is mainly explained by genetics and the phenological stage of the crop (Ritchie et al., 2002; Gallais and Hirel, 2004).

The harvest index or average NPKMg content in maize grain for H-47 and H-59 were respectively: N of 0.64 and 0.63, P of 0.81 and 0.88, K of 0.28 and 0.35, Mg of 0.67 and 0.77. Two large contrasts are observed, first to H-47 with (-N) the N harvest index was only 0.51 vs the control of the farmer of 0.70; and second, for H-59 with (-K) the harvest index of K was 0.13 vs the range of 0.34 to 0.42 of all the fertilization treatments. The International Institute for Plant Nutrition (IPNI, 2009), published for a harvest of 10 t ha-1 of grain and its straw; harvest rates for NPKMg were: N of 0.66, P of 0.75, K of 0.21 Mg of 0.28; which are equivalent in that grain harvest the amounts in kg of 145N, 30P, 40K and 8mg. Data shown here agree with harvest rates for N and P, which are slightly higher for K and "very high" for Mg (2 to 3 times), indicating possible imbalance by cationic antagonism.

Net values in kg ha-1 of NPKMg in straw and grain were calculated from the biomass production and its chemical concentrations, and is presented for the H-47 in Table 11. It is noteworthy recalling the average plot was almost 10 t ha-1 of grain. The contents extracted in kg ha-1 in straw of N and K is relevant for both hybrids H-47 and H-59 with ranges of about 101-126 of N and 162-101 of K, respectively. In general, the value showed in bold italics of the omission of a macro-nutrient was reflected in lower content taken in the straw and grain. Thus, for -N of the H-47, the contents in kg ha-1 of N in straw was of 116 vs the average 126.5 and grain of 120 vs the mean of223. Similarly with -N for the H-59, the contents extracted in kg ha-1 of N where in straw of70.5 vs the average of 101, and grain of 145.3 vs the average of 172.2.

Table 11 Contents of N, P, K and Mg in kg ha-1 in dry biomass of straw and of grain maize H-47. 


The physiological apparent efficiencies EFA of NPKMg were: for H-47 kg ha-1 of maize grain per kg of macro-nutrient content in the biomass of 33.6/N, 232.4/P, 51.7/K and 553.4/ Mg; and for H-59 of 39.0/N, 181.1/P, 67.1/K and 421.8/Mg. The EFA due to the omission of macro-nutrients was similar to the average value, to the fertilization of the farmer and the full dose of "high yield", so it quite clear that, this variable is more associated with the genotype compared to the omission of a macro-nutrient.

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Received: August 2015; Accepted: November 2015

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