The Effect of Vermicompost on Reducing the Adverse Effects of Water Stress on Growth and Chemical Composition of Corn in a Calcareous Soil

Document Type : Research Article


Shiraz University


Introduction: Vermicompost is one of the important bio-fertilizer which is the product of the process of composting different organic wastes such as manures and crop residues using different earthworms. Vermicomposts, especially those are derived from animal wastes,contain the large amounts of nutrients compaired with the composts prepared from crop residues. Vermicomposts contain plant available form of nutrients such as nitrate nitrogen, exchangeable phosphorus and potassium, calcium and magnesium. Nowadays, the use of vermicompost in sustainable agriculture to improve the growth and quality of fruits and crops is very common. Drought occurs when the amount of moisture in soil and water resources and rainfall is less than what plants need for normal growth and function. Two thirds of farm lands in Iran have been located in arid and semi-arid regions with annual rainfall less than150 mm that has been distributed irregularly and unpredictable during growth season imposing water stress in most crops. It indicates the importance of water management and proposing different strategies for mitigating detrimental effect of water stress in croplands. Due to the fact that crops nutrient management under drought and water stress using organic fertilizers is an effective method in reaching to high yields in sustainable agriculture, the objective of the present study was to investigate the influence of vermicompost application on reducing the adverse effects of water stress on the growth and chemical composition of corn in a calcareous soil.
Materials and Methods: In order to study the influence of water stress and application of vermicompost on corn dry matter yield and nutrients concentration of corn shoot, a greenhouse factorial experiment (4×3) in completely randomized design with three replications was conducted in college of agriculture, Shiraz university, Shiraz, Iran. The factors consisted of four vermicompost levels (0, 10, 20 and30g kg-1soil equal to 0, 20, 40 and 60 Mg ha-1) and three moisture levels(100, 80and 60%of field capacity(FC)). The soil samples were collected (0-30 cm depth) from a calcareous soil (Fine, mixed, mesic, Typic, Calcixrepts), located at Bajgah, Shiraz, Iran. Soil samples were mixed thoroughly with different levels of vermicompost and transfred to plastic pots. Six corn seeds were planted in each pot and were thinned to three uniform plants, one week after germination. Eight weeks after germination, corn shoots were harvested, dried and recorded. Plant samples were grind using a portable grinder and transferred to the laboratory for chemical analysis. The collected data were statistically analysed using SAS software (9.1.3) package.
Results and Discussion: The results indicated that with increasing the levels of vermicompost, dry matter yield and concentrations of total nitrogen (TN), phosphorus (P), iron (Fe), copper(Cu) and zinc (Zn) in corn shoots were significantly increased. But, due to the antagonistic relationship between manganese (Mn) and Zn or Fe,concentrations of Mn were significantly decreased. However, the concentration of Mn was in the sufficiency range. The highest dry matter yield and concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus in corn shoot was observed at 30 g kg-1 vermicompost treatment, with 19, 10 and 20 % increase (compared to the control), respectively. The application of 30 g kg-1 vermicompost increased the concentrations of Zn, Cu and Fe by 41%, 90% and 75%, respectively and concentration of Mn decreased by 11.88%, compared to the control. Increasing the levels of water stress increased significantly the concentration of nutrients in corn shoot due to the reduction of corn biomass. The highest increase in nutrient concentrations was observed at 60% FC moisture level. Nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in corn shoots by 12.5and 22.5% and Zn, Cu, Fe and Mn by 25, 83, 43and29% were higher compared to those of control (100% FC), respectively. The interaction effects of water stress and vermicompost on the concentrations of shoot N and Cu were significant and both were incresead by simultanoeus application of vermicompost and levels of water stress. The applicaion of 30 g kg-1 vermicompost (about 60 ton ha-1) under 60% FC moisture level increased significantly dry matter yield and the concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, zinc, copper and iron in corn shoot by 29%,5.5%, 23, 110, 41 and 71 percent compared to the control, respectively. However, because of the antagonistic relationships,the iron or manganese concentrations were reduced, but were yet in the sufficiency range. The use of 30 g kg-1 vermicompost under 80% FC moisture level Also increased significantly the concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, zinc, iron and copper by 9, 23, 24, 59 and 43 percent compared to the control, respectively.
Conclusion: The applicaion of 30 g kg-1 vermicompost increased significantly dry matter yield and the concentration of nitrogen, phosphorus, zinc, copper and iron in corn shoot under water stress treatments. In conclusion, the application of vermicompost mitigated the detrimental effects of water stress on corn dry matter yield and concentration of nutrients due to the positive effects of compost on physical, chemical and biological properties of the calcareous soil.


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