Short-term effects of poultry litter application on silage maize yield and soil chemical properties
If properly managed, poultry litter (PL) might be a good alternative to conventional fertilizers. This paper reports on a three-year field study to compare the effects of two consecutive PL and traditional mineral fertilizer applications on silage maize (Zea mays) production and soil chemical properties. The experiment was undertaken on volcanic soil in the Central-South Region of Chile. The PL was applied at doses of 10, 15 and 20 Mg ha-1, with and without mineral fertilizer to 50 m2 plots, and the outcomes compared with those obtained with two rates of nitrogen mineral fertilizer equivalent to the mid and high PL rates. Maize yield showed a positive response to all treatments, although the mean yield obtained with the PL treatments was higher than with the mineral fertilizer in the third year, in which no fertilizers were applied. The whole plant N concentration of the PL plants was significantly higher than that of the plants that received mineral fertilizer (this was the only nutrient variable for which such differences were found), but the values were not related to the amount of PL applied. After two annual applications of PL, slight increases in soil-available inorganic N and P were observed. However, the values obtained were low, highlighting the high P fixation capacity of the soil as well as its high capacity to stabilise organic matter. No other soil variables studied were significantly affected by any of the treatments.