Evaluation of Composted Cattle Manure Rate on Bulb Onion Grown with Reduced Rates of Chemical Fertilizer

in HortTechnology

A field experiment was conducted to evaluate yield performance and soil fertility of onion (Allium cepa) grown with beef cattle manure compost (CMC) under a reduced rate of chemical fertilizer for sustainable production in the 2006–07 growing season. Chemical fertilizer application rate was reduced to a third of the recommended rate of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Treatments consisted of five levels of CMC (0, 20, 40, 60, and 80 Mg·ha−1). There was a significant increasing effect on growth and yield parameters by applying CMC compared with 0 Mg·ha−1. In addition, there was also a significant increasing quadratic effect on yield on increasing CMC rates from 0 to 80 Mg·ha−1 with an R2 of 0.46. Maximum marketable yield was 62.7 Mg·ha−1 at 40 Mg·ha−1 CMC, which was due to increased stand reduction and unmarketable bulbs as well as decreased bulb weight at higher rates of CMC. The CMC rates had no effect on bulb dry weight and N or P concentration in the bulb and leaf. Furthermore, there was an increasing linear effect on soil pH, and organic matter (OM), available P, and exchangeable cations throughout vegetative growth and at harvest. We concluded that the excessive application of CMC did not affect onion yield and accumulated soil fertility.

Abstract

A field experiment was conducted to evaluate yield performance and soil fertility of onion (Allium cepa) grown with beef cattle manure compost (CMC) under a reduced rate of chemical fertilizer for sustainable production in the 2006–07 growing season. Chemical fertilizer application rate was reduced to a third of the recommended rate of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Treatments consisted of five levels of CMC (0, 20, 40, 60, and 80 Mg·ha−1). There was a significant increasing effect on growth and yield parameters by applying CMC compared with 0 Mg·ha−1. In addition, there was also a significant increasing quadratic effect on yield on increasing CMC rates from 0 to 80 Mg·ha−1 with an R2 of 0.46. Maximum marketable yield was 62.7 Mg·ha−1 at 40 Mg·ha−1 CMC, which was due to increased stand reduction and unmarketable bulbs as well as decreased bulb weight at higher rates of CMC. The CMC rates had no effect on bulb dry weight and N or P concentration in the bulb and leaf. Furthermore, there was an increasing linear effect on soil pH, and organic matter (OM), available P, and exchangeable cations throughout vegetative growth and at harvest. We concluded that the excessive application of CMC did not affect onion yield and accumulated soil fertility.

Onion fertility has been an important subject with regards to onion productivity worldwide. In particular, onion has a shallow branched root system with most roots in the top 30 cm of soil (Portas, 1973; Weaver and Brunner, 1927). Characteristically, such a root system leads to the low density of roots in onion. This shallow root system means onion requires more fertilizer to produce the crop (Brewster, 2008; Greenwood et al., 1982).

For sustainable crop production, pesticides and herbicides are not allowed and application rates of mineral fertilizers are restricted legally in Korea. N, P, and K application rates for onion production are recommended as 240, 34, and 128 kg·ha−1, respectively, where 67% of N and 60% of K fertilizer are applied in two split sidedressings [Rural Development Administration (RDA, 2006)]. In addition, the quantity of mineral fertilizer should be reduced to a third based on the recommended rates of N, P, and K to produce certified products without agricultural chemicals. Thus, nutrient management for sustainable crop production depends on compost from animal manures or organic fertilizers. Compost can serve as an alternative to mineral fertilizers for improving soil structure (Dauda et al., 2008) and microbial biomass (Suresh et al., 2004). The rate, timing, and technique of application can be controlled by the grower; however, compost quality can vary considerably within the same source and different sources at various times of the year (Gaskell and Smith, 2007). Gaskell and Smith (2007) stated that the N availability from compost to the succeeding crop was variable, ranging from negative to low N recovery rates of 4% to 15%, to a high rate of 57%. Wallace (2006) developed guidelines for using the carbon to N (C:N) ratio of the compost to determine its availability.

Moreover, the response of onion crops to manure depends on N availability for crop growth. N availability from manure varies greatly depending on the type of animal, type and amount of bedding, and age and storage conditions of the manure (Bary et al., 2000). Characterization of chemical constituents for inputs of the manure may help predict intermediate-term mineralization rates (Palm et al., 2001). However, the process may vary with weather conditions such as rainfall and temperature (Rosen and Allen, 2007). Long-term manure application based on N can result in the accumulation of other nutrients such as P and K in soil and eventually reach excessive levels (Bary et al., 2000). Further, over applying manure may also increase the risk of contaminating surface or groundwater with P (Biberacher et al., 2009).

Yield response to compost is greater in soils with low fertility, but response varies depending on the compost source (Gallardo-Lara and Nogales, 1987). When onion plants were grown in plots of sandy loam soil, compost applied over a two-year period at cumulative totals of 37 Mg·ha−1 increased marketable yield (Bevacqua and Mellano, 1993). There was a significant linear effect on total onion yield with increasing fresh poultry litter applications from 0 to 22 Mg·ha−1 (Boyhan et al., 2010). However, onion yield response to animal manure or compost rates was not always positive (Abdelrazzag, 2002; Gambo et al., 2008). Vidigal et al. (2010) reported that the application of 43 Mg·ha−1 swine compost resulted in onion bulbs with greater size and higher marketable yield.

Although growers supporting sustainable agriculture have been trying to increase onion yield by increased compost application, the effect of compost may not be sufficient in the short term. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of composted beef manure on the yield of intermediate-day onion and soil fertility under reduced chemical fertilization rates during short-term practices.

Materials and methods

Field experiment.

The present experiment was conducted at the Onion Research Institute’s experimental farm, Changnyeong district, Korea (lat. 35°55′N, long. 128°47′E) during the 2006–07 seasons. The experimental site has been under continuous cultivation including rice (Oryza sativa) and onion. Top soil texture was silt loam with an OM content of 17.8 g·kg−1, pH 7.4, 5.3 mg·kg−1 residual nitrate nitrogen (NO3-N), 104 mg·kg−1 available P, and 0.50 cmol·kg−1 exchangeable K before planting. Seeds of ʻChangnyeongsindaegoʼ onion, an open-pollinated cultivar for fall transplanting, were sown on 8 Sept. 2006, and transplanted in seven rows on 8 Nov. 2006 at a spacing of 15 cm in-row and 20 cm between rows. Beds were mulched with a sheet of transparent polyethylene. The bed size was 12 × 1.4 m, accommodating 560 plants per plot.

Experimental design.

Treatments included CMC applied at rates of 0, 20, 40, 60, and 80 Mg·ha−1 on a fresh weight basis. The composted cattle manure was obtained from a local compost producer. It included rice hull as bedding and was collected from a concrete floor and decomposed for about six months. Cattle manure compost sample analysis and nutrient rate applied at 20 Mg·ha−1 are shown in Table 1.

Table 1.

Chemical properties of composted cattle manure compost on dry weight basis and nutrients applied by 20 Mg·ha−1 (8.9 tons/acre) rate.

Table 1.

Chemical fertilizer rates of 80 kg·ha−1 N, 11.4 kg·ha−1 P, and 42.5 kg·ha−1 K based on the recommended rates of N, P, and K were applied in all treatments (RDA, 2006). Compost, fused phosphate fertilizer (P), one third of the urea (N), and 40% of potassium sulfate (K) were applied preplant with the rest split into two equal applications in February and March. The experimental design was a randomized complete block with three replicates. Irrigation was performed once at transplanting, while weeding and other cultural practices were completed as necessary.

Sampling and analysis.

Onion height, number of leaves, bulb diameter, and fresh weight were measured on 4 Apr. [147 d after transplanting (DAT)], 25 Apr. (165 DAT), 7 May (189 DAT), and 8 June (210 DAT) with 10 plants per replicate. The soil samples were collected for chemical analysis from the surface layer (0–15 cm) at the same time plant growth was measured and before fertilization. Harvesting was conducted after 80% of the tops had broken over at the neck on 8 June 2007. Onions were pulled from a 3.15 m2 (2.25 × 1.4 m) area per experimental unit and placed on top of the ground for 2 d before removing tops. They were individually weighed and their bulb diameters were determined. Damaged, diseased, bolted, and doubled onions were culled as unmarketable yield.

After measuring plant height (centimeters) and bulb diameter (millimeters), onion plants were separated into the bulb and green leaves, followed by measuring fresh leaf weight (grams/plant) and bulb weight (grams/plant) on an individual plot basis. The samples at harvest were dried to a constant weight at 70 °C. The dried samples were ground, weighed, and dissolved in hydrogen sulfate (H2SO4) and hydrogen dioxide (H2O2). Total N was measured by the Kjeldahl method. P was measured colorimetrically with an ammonium–vanadate–molybdate method (Gericke and Kurmies, 1952).

Air-dried soil samples were analyzed for pH, electrical conductivity (EC), OM, NO3-N, available P, and exchangeable K. Organic matter was determined by the Tyurin method (Schollenberger, 1927) and NO3-N content by reflectometry (RQ plus; Merck, Whitehouse Station, NJ). The Lancaster method (RDA, 2002) was used in determining available P. An atomic absorption spectrophotometer was used to measure exchangeable cations. Soil pH and EC were measured by both an electrometer and a conductivity meter.

Results and discussion

Plant growth and bulb yield.

Data presented in Table 2 indicate the response of growth characters based on different rates of CMC. The number of leaves and bulb diameter increased with increasing CMC rates at the vegetative growth stage (147 and 165 DAT). However, during the late growth stage (189 DAT), only the number of leaves was affected by CMC rates.

Table 2.

Changes in number of onion leaves, plant height, and bulb diameter as affected by cattle manure compost rates.

Table 2.

An examination of the top, bulb, and root weight showed a quadratic function at 189 DAT (Table 3). Bulb weight showed a quadratic effect at 210 DAT as well. The quadratic equation for marketable yield was y = −32.748x2 + 298.26x + 5406.2 and R2 = 0.46 (Fig. 1). The derived value of this equation was 45.5 Mg·ha−1 CMC and its maximum yield was 60.9 Mg·ha−1. However, according to Fisher’s protected least significant difference, maximum calculated yield does not differ from yields at 20 or 40 Mg·ha−1 CMC. In addition, stand reduction was negatively affected by increasing CMC (Table 4). The CMC rate of 80 Mg·ha−1 resulted in a significant increase in stand reduction compared with 20 or 40 Mg·ha−1 (P ≤ 0.05). This result was presumably because of an increased salt concentration at higher CMC rates. P uptake in onion bulb tissue was significantly higher at 40 Mg·ha−1 CMC than the control but did not increase with higher CMC rates. Furthermore, N levels in bulb and leaf tissue did not differ significantly over the range of CMC application rates.

Table 3.

Changes in top, bulb, and root weights of onion on fresh basis as affected by cattle manure compost rates.

Table 3.
Table 4.

Comparison of cattle manure compost rate effects on onion bulb yield, stand reduction, bulb dry matter, and tissue nutrient uptakes.

Table 4.
Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.

Marketable onion bulb yield response to cattle manure compost rates with quadratic curve, regression equation and R2 values (* represents P < 0.05); 1 Mg·ha−1 = 0.4461 ton/acre.

Citation: HortTechnology hortte 22, 6; 10.21273/HORTTECH.22.6.798

For the production of organic short-day onion, there was a significant linear effect on total onion yield by increasing the application of poultry litter from 0 to 25 Mg·ha−1 with an R2 of 0.719 (Boyhan et al., 2010). The result might be due to the absence of chemical fertilizer application with organic onion production and high nutrient content (32 g·kg−1 N, 23 g·kg−1 P, 26 g·kg−1 K) in the poultry litter used for onion production. Also, the authors mentioned that most growers had reported adequate yield response with a poultry litter application of 10–15 Mg·ha−1. Even though compost or animal manure were effective at improving soil OM content and soil fertility, especially in regards to long-term applications (Haynes and Naidu, 1998; Prasad, 2009), the effectiveness of animal manure on bulb onion production was not always positive. According to Abdelrazzag (2002), increasing rates of chicken manure tended to reduce onion yield, and high sheep manure rates did not significantly enhance the yield either. Those results could be due to the harmful effect of increased EC because of manure application. Gambo et al. (2008) reported that increasing rates of farmyard manure did not have significantly positive effects on onion bulb yield. Also, in an organic system trial with five rates of organic compost (0–60 Mg·ha−1), the calculated maximum yield of marketable bulbs was obtained with 43.4 Mg·ha−1 of swine manure (Vidigal et al., 2010). Similarly, the onion bulb yield was not significantly influenced by gamma-irradiated sewage sludge or farmyard manure rates of 5, 10, and 15 Mg·ha−1 (Rathod et al., 2008).

According to Sullivan et al. (2001), in the Pacific northwestern United States, manure or compost application before seeding onion was not recommended because salts from manure or compost might reduce seed germination and increase water stress. Last, the transplanted onion in our research showed a significantly higher stand reduction at 80 Mg·ha−1 than at 40 Mg·ha−1 of manure.

Soil chemical properties.

The OM and available P content were significantly affected by increasing CMC rates at both 147 and 210 DAT (Table 5). Manure rates had a linear effect on soil nutrients, P, and K at the vegetative growth stage (147 DAT). However, NO3-N content was not significantly different among treatments.

Table 5.

Influence of cattle manure compost rates on soil pH, organic matter (OM), and nutrient content at vegetative stage [147 d after transplanting (DAT)] and at harvest (210 DAT).

Table 5.

Nitrate-N availability is highly variable. Also, N mineralization is dynamic based on soil conditions. The release or immobilization of N from compost depends on compost quality, such as age, stability, and feedstock used (Prasad, 2009). The estimated percent of total N that is potentially mineralized after application depends on the compost C:N ratio (Wallace, 2006). According to this assumption, a C:N ratio of 15.0, which is equivalent to that of CMC in our study, could produce a mineralized N rate of 10% or less from organic N in the first year. The very low mineralization of N was observed in our study, which had low soil NO3-N content at the vegetative stage. This may be a result of the higher N consumption by microorganisms during manure decomposition in soil than N released from manure during the vegetative growth stage. In addition, soil available P and exchangeable K were linearly affected by increasing CMC application with an R2 of 0.37 and 0.54, respectively, at the vegetative growth stage. P deficient onion appears stunted and develops slowly. Normally, onion is affected by P during the early growth stages since root systems are limited and cool soil temperature reduces P diffusion or movement to root surfaces (Brown, 2000). However, the effectiveness of P application in soil was not always evident (Al-Moshileh, 2001; Boyhan, 2007; Lee et al., 2003). Onion generally absorbs equal amounts of N and K (Salo et al., 2002; Sullivan et al., 2001) and in some studies, more K than N (Lee, 2010; Lee et al., 2009). Nevertheless, the K fertilization efficiency on onion yields was inconsistent among studies. Onion bulb yield increased up to 84 kg·ha−1 (Boyhan, 2007), 190 kg·ha−1 (El-Bassiony, 2006), 286 kg·ha−1 (El-Al et al., 2010). By contrast, there was zero effect of K in other studies on onion with rates of 0 or 150·kg ha−1 (Al-Moshileh, 2001; Lee et al., 2003), or 50 or 150 kg·ha−1 (Amin et al., 2007). This inconsistency might be due to either the difference in preplant K content or K sources from OM in the soil.

Conclusions

Cattle manure compost improved yield of intermediate-day onion and soil fertility under reduced rates of chemical fertilizer. However, CMC application over 40 Mg·ha−1 did not increase onion bulb yield but accumulated soil nutrients. Further long-term studies should be carried out to clarify residual and beneficial effects from compost regarding crop and soil quality.

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Literature cited

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    • Search Google Scholar
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    • Search Google Scholar
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    • Search Google Scholar
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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Contributor Notes

Corresponding author. E-mail: organicjt@hotmail.com.

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    Marketable onion bulb yield response to cattle manure compost rates with quadratic curve, regression equation and R2 values (* represents P < 0.05); 1 Mg·ha−1 = 0.4461 ton/acre.

  • AbdelrazzagA.2002Effect of chicken manure, sheep manure and inorganic fertilizer on yield and nutrients uptake by onionPak. J. Biol. Sci.5266268

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Al-MoshilehA.M.P.2001Effect of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertilizers on onion productivity in central region of Saudi ArabiaAssiut J. Agr. Sci.32291305

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • AminM.R.HasaM.K.NaherQ.HossainM.A.NoorZ.U.2007Response of onion to NPKS fertilizers in low ganges river flood plain soilIntl. J. Sustainable Crop Production21114

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BaryA.I.CoggerC.G.SullivanD.M.2000Fertilizing with manure. Washington State Univ. Coop. Ext. Pacific Northwest Ext. Publ. 533

  • BevacquaR.F.MellanoV.J.1993Sewage sludge compost’s cumulative effects on crop growth and soil propertiesCompost Sci. Util.13440

  • BiberacherM.WarneckeS.BrauckmannH.J.BrollG.2009A linear optimization model for animal farm manure transports in regions with high intensity animal farming. 18th World Intl. Mathematics and Computers in Simulation (IMACS)/Modeling and Simulation (MOSIM) Congr. Cairns Australia. p. 470–476

  • BoyhanG.E.2007Effects of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium rates and fertilizer sources on yield and leaf nutrient status of short-day onionsHortScience42653660

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BoyhanG.E.HicksR.J.TorranceR.L.RinerC.M.HillR.2010Evaluation of poultry litter and organic fertilizer rate and source for production of organic intermediate-day onionsHortTechnology20304307

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BrewsterJ.L.2008Onions and other vegetable alliums. 2nd ed. CABI. Wallingford UK

  • BrownB.2000Southern Idaho fertilizer guide: Onions. Coop. Ext. System Agr. Expt. Sta. Univ. Idaho CIS1081

  • DaudaS.N.AjayiF.A.NdoE.2008Growth and yield of water melon (Citrullus lanatus) as affected by poultry manure applicationJ. Agr. Soc. Sci.4121124

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • El-AlF.S.A.ShaheenA.M.RizkF.A.HafezM.M.2010Influence of irrigation intervals and potassium fertilization on productivity and quality of onion plantIntl. J. Academic Res.2110116

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • El-BassionyA.M.2006Effect of potassium fertilization on growth, yield and quality of onion plantsJ. Appl. Sci. Res.2780785

  • Gallardo-LaraF.NogalesR.1987Effect of the application of town refuse compost on the soil-plant system: A reviewBiol. Wastes193562

  • GamboB.A.MagajiM.D.YakubuA.I.DikkoA.U.2008Effects of farmyard manure, nitrogen and weed interference on the growth and yield of onion (Allium cepa L.) at the Sokoto Rima ValleyJ. Sustainable Dev. Agr. Environ.38792

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • GaskellM.SmithR.2007Nitrogen sources for organic vegetable cropsHortTechnology17431441

  • GerickeS.KurmiesB.1952The colorimetric phosphorus analysis with ammonium-vandate-molybdate and its application in plant analysisPlant Fert. Soil59235247

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • GreenwoodD.J.GerwitzA.StoneD.A.BarnesA.1982Root development of vegetable cropsPlant Soil687596

  • HaynesR.J.NaiduR.1998Influence of lime, fertilizer and manure applications on soil organic matter content and soil physical condition: A reviewNutr. Cycl. Agroecosyst.51123137

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • LeeJ.2010Effect of application methods of organic fertilizer on growth, soil chemical properties and microbial densities in organic bulb onion productionSci. Hort.124299305

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • LeeJ.T.HaI.J.KimH.D.MoonJ.S.LeeS.D.2009Times and frequencies of additional fertilization to improve nutrient efficiency of organic liquid fertilizer for onion organic cultivationKorean J. Hort. Sci. Technol.273036

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • LeeJ.T.HaI.J.LeeC.J.MoonJ.S.ChoY.C.2003Effect of N, P2O5, and K2O application rates and top dressing time on growth and yield of onion (Allium cepa L.) under spring culture in low landKorean J. Hort. Sci. Technol.21260266

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • PalmC.A.GachengoC.N.DelveR.J.CadischG.GillerK.E.2001Organic inputs for soil fertility management in tropical agroecosystems: Application of an organic resource databaseAgr. Ecosyst. Environ.832742

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • PortasC.A.M.1973Development of root systems during the growth of some vegetable cropsPlant Soil39507518

  • PrasadM.2009A literature review on the availability of nitrogen from compost in relation to the nitrate regulations SI 378 of 2006. EPA STRIVE Programme 2007-2013. Small Scale Study Rpt. Environmental Protection Agency Johnstown Castle Ireland

  • RathodP.H.PatelJ.C.ShahM.R.JhalaA.J.2008Recycling gamma irradiated sewage sludge as fertilizer: A case study using onion (Alium cepa)Appl. Soil Ecol.41223233

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • RosenC.J.AllenD.L.2007Exploring the benefits of organic nutrient sources for crop production and soil qualityHortTechnology17422430

  • Rural Development Administration2002Methods of soil and plant analysis (in Korean). Natl. Inst. Agr. Sci. Technol. Suwon Korea

  • Rural Development Administration2006The standard of fertilizer application on crop species (in Korean). Natl. Inst. Agr. Sci. Technol. Suwon Korea

  • SaloT.SuojalaT.KallelaM.2002The effect of fertigation on yield and nutrient uptake of cabbage, carrot and onionActa Hort.571235241

  • SchollenbergerC.J.1927A rapid approximate method for determining soil organic matterSoil Sci.246568

  • SullivanD.M.BrownB.D.ShockC.C.HorneckD.A.StevensR.G.PelterG.Q.FeibertE.B.G.2001Nutrient management for onions in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon State Univ. Washington State Univ. Univ. of Idaho Pacific Northwest Ext. Publ. 546

  • SureshK.D.SnehG.KrishnK.K.MoolC.M.2004Microbial biomass carbon and microbial activities of soils receiving chemical fertilizers and organic amendmentsArch. Agron. Soil Sci.50641647

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • VidigalS.M.SediyamaM.A.N.PedrosaM.W.SantosM.R.2010Onion yield in organic system using compost of swine manureHorticultura Brasileira28168173

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