Effect of Application of Different Nutrients on Growth and Yield Parameters of Maize (Zea Mays), Case of Kandara Murang’a County
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Soil fertility is a major challenge depressing yields in small hold farms of Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth and yield parameters are key indicators of soil fertility status in most agro ecosystems. A study was conducted in Murang’a County Kandara Sub-County in Kenya. This was to determine the effects of applying different nutrients on growth and yield of maize. The study was done in 2013 during the long rains season (LR13) and the short rains season (SR13). Twenty-three farmers were randomly selected for the study. The experiment was laid out in randomized complete block design (RCBD) with 8 treatments (control, NPK+ CaMgS micronutrient fertilizer (Ca, Mg, S, B, Mn, Cu, Zn,), NPK+ Manure, NPK+ Lime, NPK, NP, NK, and PK). Soil was sampled before establishment of the trials at a depth of 0–20 cm. The soil samples were analyzed for pH, total carbon, macro, and secondary nutrients. Treatment inputs were applied at rates of 100 kg ha-1 N, 30 kg ha-1 P, 60 kg ha-1 K, 10 kg ha-1 Ca, 10 kg ha-1 Mg, 5 kg ha-1 S, 10 t ha-1 manure and 1 t ha-1 lime. Data on maize plant height, leaf number, and basal diameter was collected at 14, 28, 42, 56 and 70 days after planting (DAP). Grain and stover yield was collected at physiological maturity. The results showed that control, PK and NK treatment achieved means that were significantly different (p<0.05) for leaf number and bio-volume during the 2 cropping seasons. The grain and stover yields for control, NK and PK showed significant differences (p<0.05) during the two cropping seasons. Simple linear regression analysis between grain yield and leaf number achieved a coefficient of determination (R2 ) of 0.9 during both seasons. The coefficient of determination (R2 ) between bio-volume and grain yield at 42 DAP was 0.8 for LR13 season and 0.9 for SR1, respectively. The yield response to nitrogen application was 1.87 Mg ha-1 in the LR13 season and 1.90 Mg ha-1 during the SR13 season. The yield response (yield loss) for phosphorus was 0.84 Mg ha-1 in the LR13 season and 0.81 Mg ha-1 during the SR13 season. It was concluded that absence of N and P nutrients significantly affects maize leaf number and bio-volume and eventually these effects influence the achieved grain yield. The results of the study show the need to adopt specific nutrient application instead of the former use of blanket recommendation for whole regions.