Reference Values of Grain Nutrient Content and Removal for Corn
Unchanged reference values of grain nutrient contents for corn have been used for over 20 years, despite yield increases, the development of new hybrids, and modifications to cropping systems, especially the establishment of in-season second crops and the wide adoption of no-tillage. This study measured macro- and micronutrient contents in corn grains from different regions, in the first (summer) and second (fall) crop, to update the reference values of estimated nutrient removal. A secondary objective was to determine whether there were correlations between grain nutrient contents and grain yields and densities. In this study, 175 corn grain samples of experiments on cultivar evaluation and 22 samples from soil management trials from five states (SP, PR, MG, MT, and MS) were used. Grain nutrient contents were ranked as follows: N > K > P > Mg > S (g kg−1) and Ca > Zn > Fe > Mn > B > Cu (mg kg−1). Content values for half of the nutrients analyzed were negatively correlated with yield and/or seed weight, whereas grain density was not correlated with nutrient contents. For the first crop of corn, the N, S, and Cu contents clearly decreased with increases in grain yield and seed weight, indicating a lower nutrient removal at higher yields. The great variability of results among environments makes it difficult to differentiate between the first and second crop of corn. The reference values currently in use overestimate the removal of N, P, K, Ca, Mg, S, and Zn grain contents, but underestimate Cu and B in corn. The results of this study can be used to update the reference values of nutrient contents of corn grains to better estimate nutrient removal from the soil.