Controlled-release potassium chloride (CRK) has been shown to improve potassium (K) use efficiency (KUE) and crop yields. However, its widespread use has limited by its high manufacturing costs. To help address this problem and to find the best techniques for using CRK, we mixed it with traditional potassium chloride (KCl) in 1:1 ratios in a five-year field test to find the resulting KUE, bleeding sap, yields, and economic returns of maize (Zea mays L.). There were six treatments subjected to varying K fertilization: full-dose, traditional KCl; full-dose, CRK; reduced-dose, CRK; full-dose, mixed CRK and traditional KCl; reduced-dose, mixed CRK and traditional KCl; and the control, which had no added K fertilizer. Applying high dose, mixed CRK and traditional KCl and high dose, CRK to maize significantly increased grain yields 14.0% and 7.2%, respectively, compared with the traditional KCl treatment during 2014–2018. When the K was provided at the low rate (reduced by one-third), the low dose, mixed CRK and traditional KCl and low dose, CRK treatments led to the same yields as the traditional KCl treatment. However, crude starch contents of the mixed CRK and traditional KCl and CRK treatments each were significantly increased compared with the traditional KCl treatment in 2018. Mean KUE increased 30.5%–56.5% for mixed CRK and traditional KCl treatments, compared with traditional KCl during 2016–2018. Mean net profits from the high dose, mixed CRK and traditional KCl treatment significantly increased 18.9%, when K was provided by the lower rate of mixed CRK and traditional KCl led to the same net profit, compared with traditional KCl treatment from the 2016–2018 years. During the milky maturity stage of maize plants, bleeding sap in the high dose, mixed CRK and traditional KCl treatment were 47.5% and 23.4% lower than from the traditional KCl and high dose, CRK treatments, respectively. Meanwhile, the high dose, mixed CRK and traditional KCl and high dose, CRK treatments significantly increased soil available K levels compared with the traditional KCl treatment, hence, meeting the nutrient demands of maize plants during their later growth stages. The exchangeable Ca2+ levels within the soil near the surface was also maximized by the long-term application of mixed CRK and traditional KCl treatments. Hence, applying mixed CRK and traditional KCl fertilizers were recommended for maintaining continued nutrient absorption soil fertility, sustainable increases in crops yields and for maximizing net profits.
Zeli Li, Zhiguang Liu, Min Zhang, Chengliang Li, Yuncong C. Li, Yongshan Wan, and Cliff G. Martin
Soil and Tillage Research 196(104438) (2019)
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