Maize yield and economic return with controlled-release urea

  • Hongyin Zhou
  • Min Zhang
  • Zhiguang LiuEmail author
  • Wenkui Zheng
  • Qiang Zhu
  • Yongshan Wan
Original Article


Balancing fertilization of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and the use of controlled-release fertilizers are valuable practices for increasing yield and nutrient use efficiency. This 8-year field study was conducted using a mixture of controlled-release urea and soluble urea to evaluate maize yields, net returns and nutrient interactions in the North China Plain. The treatments included nitrogen application rates at 0, 150, 300 and 450 kg ha−1 using mixture; phosphorus application rates at 0, 16, 32 and 48 kg ha−1; and potassium application rates at 0, 125, 250 and 375 kg ha−1. The treatment using only soluble urea as the nitrogen source represented the standard farming practice in the region, with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium being applied at 300, 16 and 250 kg ha−1, respectively. The results showed that the net return of the treatment with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium being applied at 300, 16 and 250 kg ha−1, was increased by 14.8% over that of the farming practice treatment. Notably, controlled-release urea reduced the risks of decreased yields associated with price fluctuations. Multiple regression analysis results (R2 = 0.9726, P = 0.009) suggested that the coefficients of nitrogen × phosphorus, nitrogen × potassium were synergistic, while that of phosphorus × potassium was antagonistic. The interaction effects of the two factors decreased in the order nitrogen × potassium > nitrogen × phosphorus > phosphorus × potassium. The optimal maize yield was 9.2–9.3 t ha−1 at nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium application rates of 276–290, 27–29 and 210–226 kg ha−1, respectively. This study demonstrates that balanced fertilization based on controlled-release urea and soluble urea blend can improve maize yields and net returns.


Nutrient interaction Economic returns Potential yield Nutrient use efficiency Long-term fertilizer experiment 



We thank Cliff G. Martin for review of this manuscript.


The present study was funded by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant Nos. 2017YFD0200706 and 2018YFD0200604) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41571236).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest, and there is no conflict of interest with Kingenta. This manuscript has been approved for publication by all the authors. All the listed authors have approved the enclosed manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hongyin Zhou
    • 1
  • Min Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Zhiguang Liu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Wenkui Zheng
    • 1
  • Qiang Zhu
    • 3
  • Yongshan Wan
    • 4
  1. 1.National Engineering Laboratory for Efficient Utilization of Soil and Fertilizer Resources, College of Resources and EnvironmentShandong Agricultural UniversityTai’anChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Nutrition Resources Integrated UtilizationKingenta Ecological Engineering Group Co., Ltd.LinshuChina
  3. 3.College of Resources and EnvironmentHuazhong Agricultural UniversityWuhanChina
  4. 4.Department of Soil and Water Science, Tropical Research and Education Center, IFASUniversity of FloridaHomesteadUSA

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