Maize nutritional summary

The main period of nutrient uptake in maize is during stem extension or shooting however fertiliser needs to be applied before this because crop height and density means it is difficult to enter the field with conventional machinery after this time.

Uptake and removal figures vary according to the crop being grown. The difference in nutrient offtake between grain and silage maize needs to be considered when planning the nutrient programme of the following crop. There may also be significant differences in nutrient utilisation between varieties

Macronutrient uptake by maize

Macronutrient uptake in maize by growth stage

Over half of the required nitrogen, phosphorous and magnesium, and 80% of potassium, is taken up before the crop reaches the generative growth stages.

Micronutrient uptake by maize

Boron uptake in maize by growth stage

Copper uptake in maize by growth stage

Iron uptake in maize by growth stage

Mangagese uptake in maize by growth stage

Zinc uptake in maize by growth stage

Macronutrient removal by forage maize

Macronutrient removal by maize silage


Nitrogenis required in large quantities and helps to maximise DM growth and yield. Over 200kg/ha is needed to sustain a 7t/ha grain maize crop. Higher levels of nitrogen than any other nutrient – around 16kg/t - are removed in the grain  Maize grown for silage or corn cob mix will also remove similar quantities of nitrogen . Split applications work best, particularly on lighter soils to maintain good nitrogen availability. Too much late-applied nitrogen can lead to lodging and excessive late growth.


Phosphorus – while only needed in small quantities - is required at early stages of crop development to ensure good root growth and to boost shoot and leaf growth. Crops take up around 85kg P2O5/ha.


Potassium is needed in large quantities – at levels similar to those for nitrogen. Total crop uptake is around 200kg/ha. Most of this potassium is used in the leaf and stem and peak potassium-demand is during stem extension when uptake is faster than for any other nutrient. As a result, significant quantities are found in the stover and removed when the whole crop is ensiled.

While lower amounts of secondary macronutrients are required – ranging between 25-50kg/ha for a 7t/ha grain maize crop - supplies of calcium, magnesium and sulphur are important to maintain maize yield.

Micronutrient removal by forage maize

Micronutrient removal by maize silage

The key micronutrients taken up in greatest quantities are iron and manganese. These two micronutrients are also those which are lost in greatest quantities when the whole crop or straw is removed from the field. However, boron and zinc – which are the two most important micronutrients needed in relatively large quantities – are removed in greater quantities in the grain. It is increasingly common to apply zinc with the seed at planting to ensure good rooting and shoot development.

Grass and forage agronomy and fertiliser advice
Grass and forage agronomy and fertiliser advice

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