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Journal of Integrative Agriculture  2019, Vol. 18 Issue (5): 1120-1129    DOI: 10.1016/S2095-3119(18)61977-X
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Interaction effect of nitrogen form and planting density on plant growth and nutrient uptake in maize seedlings
WANG Peng, WANG Zhang-kui, SUN Xi-chao, MU Xiao-huan, CHEN Huan, CHEN Fan-jun, Yuan Lixing, MI Guo-hua
Department of Plant Nutrition, College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, P.R.China
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High planting density is essential to increasing maize grain yield.  However, single plants suffer from insufficient light under high planting density.  Ammonium (NH4+) assimilation consumes less energy converted from radiation than nitrate (NO3).  It is hypothesized that a mixed NO3/NH4+supply is more important to improving plant growth and population productivity under high vs. low planting density.  Maize plants were grown under hydroponic conditions at two planting densities (low density: 208 plants m–2 and high density: 667 plants m–2) and three nitrogen forms (nitrate only, 75/25NO3/NH4+ and ammonium only).  A significant interaction effect was found between planting density and N form on plant biomass.  Compared to nitrate only, 75/25NO3/NH4+ increased per-plant biomass by 44% under low density, but by 81% under high density.  Treatment with 75/25NO3/NH4+ increased plant ATP, photosynthetic rate, and carbon amount per plant by 31, 7, and 44% under low density, respectively, but by 51, 23, and 95% under high density.  Accordingly, carbon level per plant under 75/25NO3/NH4+ was improved, which increased leaf area, specific leaf weight and total root length, especially for high planting density, increased by 57, 17 and 63%, respectively.  Furthermore, under low density, 75/25NO3/NH4+ increased nitrogen uptake rate, while under high density, 75/25NO3/NH4+ increased nitrogen, phosphorus, copper and iron uptake rates.  By increasing energy use efficiency, an optimum NO3/NH4+ ratio can improve plant growth and nutrient uptake efficiency, especially under high planting density.  In summary, an appropriate supply of NH4+ in addition to nitrate can greatly improve plant growth and promote population productivity of maize under high planting density, and therefore a mixed N form is recommended for high-yielding maize management in the field.
Keywords:  maize        planting density        NO3/NH4+ ratio        carbon        nutrient uptake        root morphology  
Received: 24 January 2018   Accepted:
Fund: This work is supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (2015CB150402) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31672221 and 31421092).
Corresponding Authors:  Correspondence MI Guo-hua, E-mail:   
About author:  WANG Peng, Tel: +86-10-62734554, E-mail:;

Cite this article: 

WANG Peng, WANG Zhang-kui, SUN Xi-chao, MU Xiao-huan, CHEN Huan, CHEN Fan-jun, Yuan Lixing, MI Guo-hua. 2019. Interaction effect of nitrogen form and planting density on plant growth and nutrient uptake in maize seedlings. Journal of Integrative Agriculture, 18(5): 1120-1129.

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