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Journal of Integrative Agriculture  2019, Vol. 18 Issue (3): 656-666    DOI: 10.1016/S2095-3119(18)61950-1
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Effects of urea enhanced with different weathered coal-derived humic acid components on maize yield and fate of fertilizer nitrogen
ZHANG Shui-qin1, 2*, YUAN Liang1*, LI Wei1, LIN Zhi-an1, LI Yan-ting1, HU Shu-wen2, ZHAO Bing-qiang
1 Key Laboratory of Plant Nutrition and Fertilizer, Ministry of Agriculture/Institute of Agricultural Resources and Regional Planning, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, P.R.China
2 College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, P.R.China
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Humic acid (HA) is a readily available and low-cost material that is used to enhance crop production and reduce nitrogen (N) loss.  However, there is little consensus on the efficacy of different HA components.  In the current study, a soil column experiment was conducted using the 15N tracer technique in Dezhou City, Shandong Province, China, to compare the effects of urea with and without the addition of weathered coal-derived HA components on maize yield and the fate of fertilizer-derived N (fertilizer N).  The HA components were incorporated into urea by blending different HA components into molten urea to obtain the three different types of HA-enhanced urea (HAU).  At harvest, the aboveground dry biomass of plants grown with HAU was enhanced by 11.50–21.33% when compared to that of plants grown with U.  More significantly, the grain yields under the HAU treatments were 5.58–18.67% higher than the yield under the urea treatment.  These higher yields were due to an increase in the number of kernels per plant rather than the weight of individual kernels.  The uptake of fertilizer N under the HAU treatments was also higher than that under the urea treatment by 11.49–29.46%, while the unaccounted N loss decreased by 12.37–30.05%.  More fertilizer-derived N was retained in the 0–30 cm soil layer under the HAU treatments than that under the urea treatment, while less N was retained in the 30–90 cm soil layer.  The total residual amount of fertilizer N in the soil column, however, did not differ significantly between the treatments.  Of the three HAU treatments investigated, the one with an HA fraction derived from extraction with pH values ranging from 6 to 7, resulted in the best improvement in all assessment targets.  This is likely due to the abundance of the COO/C–N=O group in this HA component.
Keywords:  humic acid enhanced urea        maize        aboveground dry biomass        fertilizer N uptake        fertilizer N residue  
Received: 18 December 2017   Accepted:
Fund: This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31601827) and the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFD0200402).
Corresponding Authors:  Correspondence ZHAO Bing-qiang, Tel: +86-10-82108658, E-mail:    
About author:  ZHANG Shui-qin, E-mail:; YUAN Liang, E-mail:; * These authors contributed equally to this study.

Cite this article: 

ZHANG Shui-qin, YUAN Liang, LI Wei, LIN Zhi-an, LI Yan-ting, HU Shu-wen, ZHAO Bing-qiang. 2019. Effects of urea enhanced with different weathered coal-derived humic acid components on maize yield and fate of fertilizer nitrogen. Journal of Integrative Agriculture, 18(3): 656-666.

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