Low nutrient use efficiency in maize as a result of imbalanced nutrition has been reported to drastically reduce yield. We implemented a nutrient omission experiment to assess the effect of nutrient application on maize yield and nutritional balance. Maize ear leaves were analyzed for nutrients, to identify nutrient balance status using the Diagnostic and Recommendation Integrated System (DRIS) approach. Results indicated that omission of N or P resulted in highly imbalanced DRIS indices respectively, and significantly lower grain yield. A strong inverse relationship between K ear leaf content with DRIS index suggests that K application negatively increases K imbalance in many situations. Imbalances of Mg, Ca and Cu were more associated with higher yielding treatments. A Which-Won-Where result show that nutrient imbalances in the diagnosis were systematically frequent when N was omitted. All the diagnosed nutrients were imbalanced even under the highest yielding NPKZn treatment; indicating further opportunity for yield increase with more balanced nutrition. Balanced nutrition of maize in the maize belt of Nigeria should target application of varying rates of N, P, K, Mg, S and Zn, depending on the soil conditions. But, because of complexities of nutrient interactions during uptake, it is hardly possible to realize a balanced nutrition. However, differentiating the application of antagonistic nutrients into foliar or soil-based methods is recommended for a more balanced maize nutrition.
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