Compost Amended with N Enhances Maize Productivity and Soil Properties in Semi‐Arid Agriculture
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Declining soil fertility and crop yields are common in arid and semi-arid areas. Sustainable technologies that halt or reverse this trend are required to ensure food security. The use of compost for soil amendment should build soil resilience to drought. However, manure (which is a raw material in compost production) is used as a fuel in many semiarid regions of the world. To encourage farmers to change from using manure or composts as fuel to adopting them as soil additives, it will be necessary to demonstrate the production benefits associated with such additives. A 2-yr field experiment was conducted in a semi-arid (steppe) desert environment in Pakistan on sandy-loamy soils. Poultry manure compost (PMC), pressmud compost (PrMC), and urea (U) were compared in a maize-maize (Zea mays L.) cropping system. The PMC and PrMC application increased soil organic carbon (SOC) and N as well as the soil's moisture content, but decreased the soil electrical conductivity (ECe) and pH after 2 yr. Replacing 25% of the U with PMC increased the mineral N and mean crop growth rate by 46%, the net assimilation rate by 30% and the yield by 219%, compared to the control. These results were comparable to applications of U alone and PMC with urea in a 25:75 application ratio. These results demonstrate that in semiarid regions, adding manure or compost as a soil additive improves the soil's yield potential.
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