Biochar and Nitrification Inhibitors Coated Urea: A Promising Approach for Improving Spring Maize Production under Rain Fed Conditions

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Aamir Khan, Muhammad Akmal, Khalid Saifullah Khan, Ghulam Qadir

Abstract

Low nitrogen levels in the soil is a major factor which adversly affect the productivity of crops in rainfed areas. Lack of nitrogen, low organic matter, inadequate fertilization, and nitrogen losses in the form of nitrate leaching, ammonia volatilization and nitrous oxide gas emission are some major causes of poor soil N contents. However, improving soil fertility and increasing nitrogen availability are major challenge for improving crop yields. This can be achieved through a variety of methods, including the application of biochar and nitrification inhibitors coated urea. Thus, keeping in mind the importance of both amendments present study was designed to cover the knowledge gap regarding effect of two different types of biochar, NI and their coated urea on maize growth and yield. A field experiment was conducted to evaluate the individual or combined effect of two different sources (plant & animal) of biochar and nitrification inhibitors (nitrpyrin and neem-seed oil) and their coated urea on the production of maize in sandy loam soil  under the rain fed condition. The study included 10 treatments: addition of urea alone (non-coated) or combined with biochar coated urea (BCU) and nitrification inhibitor coated urea (NICU) to the soil and a control without the addition of N fertilizer following RCBD. Characterization of both types of biochar and their coated urea by XRD, FTIR, and SEM analysis  showed that coating of biochar over urea granules delayed urea hydrolysis process and significantly increase retention of  N for crop during growth. Results showed that CDB+NI coated urea played an imperative role in enhancing maize plant height, number of leaves and number of grains/cob over control, and sole application of amendments. A significant enhancement in grains 4389 kg ha-1, biological 8925 kg ha-1 and stover yield 4536 kg ha-1 validated the effectivesnes of CDB+NI coated urea over non-coated urea . In conclusion, CDB+NI coated urea is an effective amendment for increasing the nitrogen use efficiency, growth, and yield attributes of maize. More investigations are recommended to declare CDB+NI coated urea as a best treatment in different soil textures and agroclimates for maize cultivation.

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