Soil & Tillage Research vol:70 issue:2 pages:175-184
In Belgium, growing silage maize in a monoculture often results in increased soil compaction. The aim of our research was to quantify the effects of this soil compaction on the dry matter (DM) yields and the nitrogen use of silage maize (Zea mays L.). On a sandy loam soil of the experimental site of Ghent University (Belgium), silage maize was grown on plots with traditional soil tillage (T), on artificially compacted plots (C) and on subsoiled plots (S). The artificial compaction, induced by multiple wheel-to-wheet passages with a tractor, increased the soil penetration resistance up to more than 1.5 MPa in the zone of 0-35 cm of soil depth. Subsoiling broke an existing plough pan (at 35-45 cm of soil depth). During the growing season, the release of soil mineral nitrogen by mineralisation was substantially lower on the C plots than on the T and S plots. Silage maize plants on the compacted soil were smaller and flowering was delayed. The induced soil compaction caused a DM yield loss of 2.37 Mg ha(-1) (-13.2%) and decreased N uptake by 46.2 kg ha(-1) (-23.2%) compared to the T plots. Maize plants on compacted soil had a lower, suboptimal nitrogen content. Compared with the traditional soil tillage that avoided heavy compaction, subsoiling offered no significant benefits for the silage maize crop. It was concluded that avoiding heavy soil compaction in silage maize is a major strategy for maintaining crop yields and for enhancing N use efficiency. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.