National economy of Pakistan

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Introduction

Soil, being a pivotal natural resource for agriculture, has a prime importance in food security and national economy of Pakistan. Out of 79.6 million hectare (m ha) geographical area of the country (23° 53¢ to 36° 49¢ N, 61° 15¢ to 74° 50¢ E), 23.1 m ha is under cultivation (Rashid, 2005). The soils across much of the cultivated areas in the country are developed of calcareous alluvium and loess, and are low in organic matter as well as in many essential plant nutrients (Rashid and Ahmad, 1994). Multiple factors, like free carbonates, low organic matter, high pH, and continuous nutrient mining with intensive cultivation coupled with inadequate and imbalanced fertilizer use, are conducive to nutrient deficiencies in crops. The climate, except for in some high mountains in the north, is mostly arid to semi-arid. About 80 % of the cultivated area is irrigated, mostly through canal/river water, and the rest is rainfed. Potohar is an important part of rainfed zone and covers an area of 1.8 m ha. The climate of Potohar ranges from semi-arid to sub-humid. Rainfall is erratic and about 60 to 70 % of total is received during the monsoon Nizami et al. (2004). The winter rains are gentle showers of long duration and are useful for crop production. Maize and wheat are the major crops of Potohar region besides other minor crops.

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Maize is the third most important cereal crop after wheat and rice in Pakistan. It is grown on 1.22 m ha with an average yield of 2.9 t ha-1 (FAO, 2007). Maize is also considered an important industrial crop as 60 % of its produce is used in starch and food industries especially for poultry feed. The average maize yield in Pakistan is lower as compared to that in developed countries. Whereas in rainfed region, its yield is about 54 % lower than irrigated area (GOP, 2005) which is mainly due to moisture stress and low soil fertility

Globally, as well as locally, the limited availability of additional land for crop production, along with declining yields of major food crops including maize, have heightened concerns about agriculture's ability to feed ever increasing population. Declining soil fertility has also raised concerns about the sustainability of agricultural production at current levels. Thus, strategies for increasing and sustaining agricultural productivity will have to focus on using available nutrient resources more efficiently and effectively, than in the past. In this scenario, integrated plant nutrient management (IPNM) is advocated as viable approach for proper plant growth and productivity, together with soil resource sustainability. In essence, IPNM strives for seeking an optimal nutrient supply from the soil, crop residues and locally available manures, and topped up, where necessary, with a supply from inorganic fertilizers. This approach would be conducive to attain higher crop productivity, prevent soil degradation, and meet the future food needs (Gruhn et al., 2000). Thus, IPNM seeks to increase agricultural production as well as safeguard the environment for future generations.

Sustainability of any major crops like maize is widely questioned without using organic manures in conjunction with mineral fertilizers. Achieving a balance between nutrient requirements of the plants and nutrient supplies from the soil is essential for attaining and maintaining high crop yields and good soil fertility, preventing environmental degradation, and thus, sustaining soil productivity over the long run. Manures increase the soil available macronutrients viz N, P, and K, and thus concentration of these nutrients in plant tissues (Matsi et al., 2003). Optimum manure application rates to soil depend on many factors, including the crop yield target, nature and amount of mineral fertilizers used, soil available nutrient status, amount and composition of manure, and the fraction of manure nutrients that could become available. Contrarily, continuous cropping with mineral fertilizer use only may lead to decreasing yields, which can be ameliorated by conjunctive use of organic manures with inorganic fertilizers (Saleque et al., 2004). However, the appropriate combination of mineral fertilizers, organic manures, varies according to the system of land use and ecological, social and economic conditions (Roy, 1995). Presently, we have little information regarding the impact of integrated use of chemical fertilizers and organic manures on long-term productivity of maize in the rainfed region of the country.

Zinc deficiency in agricultural crops has become a common disorder in a wide variety of soils (Sillanpaa and Vlek, 1985; Takkar and Walker, 1993; Welch and Graham, 2002) including that of Pakistan (Anonymous, 1998; Rafique et al. 2006). About 50 % of the soils used for cereal production in the world (Graham and Welch, 1996) as well as in Pakistan (Anonymous, 1998) contain low levels of plant-available Zn which reduce not only grain yield but also nutritional quality of grains. Areas with recognized Zn deficiency are increasing with time. Most cultivated soils in Pakistan are exhibiting multiple nutrient deficiencies inclusive of Zn (Rashid, 1996; Rafique et al., 2006) because of alkaline-calcareous nature and low organic matter content of soils, nutrient mining with intensive cropping, and inadequate and imbalanced fertilizer use. Such soil and crop management conditions are prevalent in many arid and semi arid regions of the world.

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This has serious implication for human health and even the plant grown in Zn deficiency soils tend to accumulate heavy metals which again create health problem.

Hidden zinc deficiency, where yields of many crops may be reduced up to 40% without the occurrence of distinct leaf symptoms is a major problem, because farmers may not be aware of the cause of declining yields. It is therefore, important that cause of low availability of zinc in arable soils be investigated. For the purpose of meeting crop requirement, Zn is often applied to soil as fertilizer. Its concentration in soil solution and its availability to crops is controlled by the energy with which it is adsorbed on colloidal surfaces. This in turns depends upon the soil characteristics, especially CEC, nature and content of clay, and oxides of Fe, Al and Mn and CaCO3 (Harter, 1991; Hazara and Manual, 1996). For a particular trace element, the relationship between its portion associated with the soil colloids and present in soil solution is obviously of great importance in determining its availability to plants. The bioavailability of trace metal in the soil is governed by sorption/desorption phenomena. Zinc concentration in soil solution and its availability to crops is controlled by sorption and desorption reaction over the surface of the soil colloidal materials (Swift and Mclaren, 1991). Although desorption rather than adsorption is likely to control the amount and rate of release of Zn into soil solution for plant uptake, only a few studies examined the process in detail (Dang et al., 1994).

In plants, zinc plays a key role as a structural constituent or regulatory co-factor in a wide range of enzymes in many important biochemical pathways (Brown et al., 1991). These are mainly involved in i) carbohydrate metabolism, protein metabulism, auxin production, Protein formation, maintenance of the integrity of biological membrane and resistance to infection by certain pathogens. Zinc containing enzymes activities are also inhibited due to zinc deficiency. Zinc is involved in detoxification of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and it is also important for reducing the production of free radicals by super-oxide radical producing enzymes (Cakmak, 2000; Wang and Jin, 2005). So the investigation on Zn effect on super-oxide dismutase enzyme carries a great importance.

Similarly, the activity of nitrate reductase is also affected with N deficiency. Nitrate reductase is responsible for reduction of nitrate to ammonia. When other factors remain constant, nitrate reductase activity appears to be inducible by nitrate (Blavins et al., 1974 and Hiatta et al., 1974). Therefore, investigating the activity of nitrate reductase is important under nitrogen deficiency system. Keeping in view the preceding areas of research the objectives of this study were to:

  • Determine Zn requirement of maize under rainfed agricultural system.
  • Increase fertilizer use efficiency through use of organic and inorganic sources of nitrogen.
  • Reduce the chemical fertilizer use and protecting of environment.
  • Investigate the zinc role in activation of antioxidant enzyme (SOD).
  • Evaluate integrated use of organic and inorganic N and Zn fertilizers for maize production in economic turn.

Introduction

Soil, being a pivotal natural resource for agriculture, has a prime importance in food security and national economy of Pakistan. Out of 80.0 million hectare (Mha) geographical area of the country (lat. 23° 53¢ to 36° 49¢ N, long. 61° 15¢ to 74° 50¢ E), 23.1 Mha is cultivated (Rashid, 2005). The soils across much of the cultivated areas in the country are developed of calcareous alluvium and loess, and are low in organic matter as well as in many essential plant nutrients (Rashid and Ahmad, 1994). Multiple factors, like free carbonates, low organic matter, high pH, and continuous nutrient mining with intensive cultivation coupled with inadequate and imbalanced fertilizer use, are conducive to nutrient deficiencies in crops. The climate, except for in some high mountains in the north, is mostly arid to semi-arid. About 80% of the cultivated area is irrigated, mostly through canal/river water, and the rest is rainfed. Potohar is an important part of rainfed zone and covers an area of 1.8 Mha. The climate of Potohar ranges from semi-arid to sub-humid. Rainfall is erratic and about 60 to 70% of total is received during monsoon, however, the winter rains are gentle showers of long duration and are useful for crop production. Maize and wheat are the major crops of Potohar region besides others.

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Maize is the third most important cereal crop after wheat and rice in Pakistan. It is grown on 1.22 Mha with an average yield of 2.9 t ha-1 (FAO, 2007). Maize is also considered an important industrial crop as 60% its produce is used in starch and food industries especially for poultry feed. The average maize yield in Pakistan is much less as compared with developed countries (Pingali,2001), Whereas in rainfed agriculture, its yield is about 54% lower than irrigated area (GOP,2005), which is mainly due to moisture stress and low soil fertility.

Globally, as well as locally, limited availability of additional land for crop production, alongwith declining yield growth for major food crops including maize, have heightened concerns about agriculture's ability to feed ever increasing population. Declining soil fertility has also raised concerns about the sustainability of agricultural production at current levels. Thus, strategies for increasing and sustaining agricultural productivity will have to focus on using available nutrient resources more efficiently and effectively, than in the past. In this scenario, integrated nutrient management (INM) is advocated as viable approach for proper plant growth and productivity, together soil resource sustainability. In essence, INM strives for seeking an optimal nutrient supply from the soil, crop residues and locally available manures, and topped up, where necessary, with a supply from inorganic fertilizers ? to attain higher crop productivity, prevent soil degradation, and, thereby, help meet future food needs (Gruhn et al., 2000). Thus, INM approach seeks to increase agricultural production as well as safeguard the environment for future generations.

Sustainability of any major crops like maize in Pakistan is widely questioned without using organic manures in conjunction with mineral fertilizers. Achieving a balance between nutrient requirements of the plants and nutrient supplies from the soil is essential for attaining and maintaining high crop yields and good soil fertility, preventing environmental degradation, and thus, sustaining soil productivity over the long run. Manures increase soil available macronutrients, i.e., N, P, and K, and, thus, concentration of these nutrients in plant tissues (Matsi et al., 2003). Optimum manure application rates to soil depend on many factors, including the crop yield target, nature and amount of mineral fertilizers used, soil available nutrient status, composition of manure and the fraction of manure nutrients that could become available. Contrarily, continuous cropping with mineral fertilizer use only may lead to decreasing yields, which can be ameliorated by conjunctive use of organic manures with inorganic fertilizers (Saleque et al., 2004). However, the appropriate combination of mineral fertilizers, organic manures, varies according to the system of land use and ecological, social and economic conditions (Roy, 1995). Presently, we have little information regarding the impact of integrated use of chemical fertilizers and FYM on long-term productivity of different cropping system in the country.

Zinc deficiency in agricultural crops is a common disorder in a wide variety of soils (Sillanpaa and Vlek 1985; Takkar and Walker 1993; Welch and Graham 2002) including Pakistan (Anonymous 1998; Rafique et al. 2006). About 50% of the soils used for cereal production in the world (Graham and Welch 1996) as well as in Pakistan (Anonymous 1998) contain low levels of plant-available Zn which reduce not only grain yield but also nutritional quality of grains. Areas with recognized Zn deficiency are increasing with time. Most cultivated soils in Pakistan are exhibiting multiple nutrient deficiencies inclusive of Zn (Rashid 1996; Rafique et al. 2006) because of alkaline-calcareous nature and low organic matter content of soils, nutrient mining with intensive cropping, and inadequate and imbalanced fertilizer use. Such soil and crop management conditions are prevalent in many arid and semi arid regions of the world.

This has serious implication for human health even plant grow in Zn deficiency soils tend to accumulate heavy metals which again create health problem.

Hidden Zinc deficiency where yields of many crops may be reduced upto 40% without the occurrence of distinct leaf symptoms is a major problem, because farmers may not be aware the cause of declining yields. It is therefore, important that cause of low availability of zinc of arable soils be investigated. For the purpose Zn is often applied to soil as fertilizer. Its concentration in soil solution and its availability to crops is controlled by the energy with which it is adsorbed on colloidal surfaces. This in turns depends upon the soil characteristics, especially CEC, nature and content of clay and different oxides of Fe, Al & Mn and CaCO3 contents (Harter., 1991; Hazara and Mandal, 1996). For a particular trace element, the relationship between the portion associated with the soil colloids and present in soil solution is obviously of great importance in determining its availability to plants. The bioavailability of trace metal in the soil is governed by sorption/adsorption phenomena. Zinc concentration in soil solution and its availability to crops is controlled by sorption & desorption reaction over the surface of the soil colloidal materials (Swift and Mclaren, 1991). Although desorption rather than adsorption likely to control the amount and rate of release of Zn into soil solution for plant uptake, only a few studies examined the process in detail (Dang et al., 1994).

In plants, zinc plays a key role as a structural constituent or regulatory co-factor in a wide range of enzymes in many important biochemical pathways (Brown et al., 1991). These are mainly involved in i) carbohydrate metabolism, protein metabulism, auxin, Protein formation, maintenance of the integrity of biological membrane and resistance to infection by certain pathogens. Zinc containing enzymes activities are also inhibited due to zinc deficiency. Zinc is involved in detoxification of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and it is also important for reducing the production of free radicals by super-oxide radical producing enzymes (Cakmak, 2000; Wang and Jin, 2005). So the investigation on Zn effect on super-oxide dismutase enzymes carries a great importance. Similarly, the activity of nitrate reductase is also affected with N deficiency. Nitrate reductase is responsible for reduction of nitrate to ammonia. When other factors remain constant, nitrate reductase activity appears to be inducible by nitrate (Blavins et al., 1974) and (Hiatta et al., 1974). Therefore, investigating the activity of nitrate reductase is important one under nitrogen deficiency system. Keeping in view the preceding areas of research the objectives of this study were to.

  • Evaluate zinc deficiency effect on rainfed Maize.
  • Increase fertilizer use efficiency through integrated nutrient management.
  • Reduce the chemical fertilizer use for protection of environmental hazards.
  • Investigate the zinc role in activation of enzymes experiment SOD and NR.
  • Know the sorption and adsorption capacity of different soil series.
  • Evaluate the response of maize to Zn application and determined the Zn requirement of maize.
  • Investigate the beneficial effect of conjugative use of mineral and organic fertilizers for Maize production under rainfed conduction.
  • Analyzed the economic of N and Zn fertilizers use in Maize production.
  • Analyzed the impact of organic and mineral N sources and zinc on soil characteristics.

Literature cited

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  • Blevins, D.G., A.J. Hiatta, and R,H, Lows. 1974. The influence of nitrate and dioxide uptake on expressed pH, organic acid synthesis and Potassium accumulation in higher plants. Plant Physiol. 54: 82-87.
  • Brumanere, G.K., G. Titles, L. Herms, and P.M. Clayton. 1983. Adsorption, desorption and/or precipitation dissolution processes of zinc in sols. Geothermal 31:337-354.
  • Cakmak, I. 2000. Possible role of zinc in protecting plant cells from damage by reactive oxygen species. New Pythol.146: 185-205.
  • Dang. Y.P, R.C. Dulal, D.G. Edusards, and K.G. Tillar. 1994, Kinetics of zinc desorption from vertisols. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 58: 1392-1399.
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  • Takkar, P.N., and C.D. Walker, 1993. The distribution and correction of zinc deficiency. p. 151-165. In A.D. Robson (ed.) Zinc in Soils and Plants. Kluwer Academic Publishers, London, England.
  • Tiwari, V.N., L.K. Lehri, K.N. Tiwari, and R.M. upadhay. 2001. Integrated nitrogen management through natural green manuring under wheat mung been cropping sequence. J. Indian Soc. Soil Sci. 49: 271-275.-
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