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Acta Agronomica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (8): 1551-1562.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1006.2021.03053


Effects of plastic film mulching on leaf metabolic profiles of maize in the Loess Plateau with two planting densities

NIU Li1,2,3(), BAI Wen-Bo1, LI Xia2, DUAN Feng-Ying2, HOU Peng2, ZHAO Ru-Lang4, WANG Yong-Hong4, ZHAO Ming2, LI Shao-Kun2, SONG Ji-Qing1,*(), ZHOU Wen-Bin2,*()   

  1. 1Key Laboratory of Prevention and Control of Residual Pollution in Agricultural Film, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs/Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Agriculture, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, China
    2Institute of Crop Sciences, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, China
    3College of Water Resources and Civil Engineering, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100083, China
    4Ningxia Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences, Crops Research Institute, Yongning 750105, Ningxia, China
  • Received:2020-09-11 Accepted:2020-12-01 Online:2021-08-12 Published:2021-01-04
  • Contact: SONG Ji-Qing,ZHOU Wen-Bin E-mail:niulipipi@163.com;songjiqing@caas.cn;zhouwenbin@caas.cn
  • Supported by:
    National Key Research and Development Program of China(2016YFD0300102)


In the Loess Plateau, the study of leaf metabolomics under plastic mulching is an important step to explore the mechanism of plastic film mulching to increase grain yield in maize. Metabolomics analysis was performed on the leaves of two maize cultivars (Zhengdan 958 and Xianyu 335) under two planting densities (7.5×104 and 10.5×104 plant hm-2) and two mulching modes (plastic film mulching and no mulching ) at silking stage using gas chromatography-quadrupole-time of flight mass spectrometry (GC-QTOF) technology. In term of the number of differential metabolites, the response of Xianyu 335 to plastic film mulching was greater than that of Zhengdan 958. The higher planting density reduced the difference in leaf metabolism between plastic film mulching and no mulching. The principal component analysis revealed that both the mulching treatment and the cultivar had significant impacts on the composition of the metabolites. The separation of metabolic spectrum along plastic film mulching was mainly driven by organic acids such as citric acid and amino acids; the separation along cultivar was mainly driven by alkanoic acids and phenols. Correlation analysis indicated that resveratrol, phytol and glucose-6-phosphate had significant positive correlations with maize grain yield, whereas glycerol had a significant negative correlation with it. Under plastic film mulching condition, the levels of valine, isoleucine and methionine related to respiration and elimination of photorespiration products; isocitrate related to tricarboxylic acid cycle, methionine, N-acetylaspartic acid and other metabolites that could reduce photoinhibition showed an overall increasing trend. These results indicated that, under plastic film mulching condition, the antioxidant and energy metabolism-related metabolites played important roles in increasing grain yield. The elimination of photorespiration products and the accumulation of metabolites to alleviate photoinhibition were the metabolic bases for the increase of net photosynthetic rate in maize leaves.

Key words: plastic film mulching, leaf, metabolome, yield, antioxidant, maize

Fig. 1

Schematic diagram of the different plastic film mulching modes in the study The maize was grown in the furrows of ridge-furrow construction with wide - narrow rows. A: FM, ridge-furrow construction with alternating wide (80 cm) and narrow (40 cm) ridges and full plastic film mulching; B: NM, ridge-furrow construction with alternating wide (80 cm) and narrow (40 cm) ridges and no mulching."

Fig. 2

Principal component analysis (PCA) of the metabolic profile of maize leaves under different treatments A: scores of the first principal component (PC1) and the second principal component (PC2). B: the top ten negative and metabolites of PC1. C: the top ten negative and metabolites of PC2. FMZL: ZD958 with low planting density and plastic film mulching; FMZH: ZD958 with high planting density and plastic film mulching; FMXL: XY335 with low planting density and plastic film mulching; FMXH: XY335 with high planting density and plastic film mulching; NMZL: ZD958 with low planting density and no mulching; NMZH: ZD958 with high planting density and no mulching; NMXL: XY335 with low planting density and no mulching; NMXH: XY335 with high planting density and no mulching. Among them, green represents lower expression abundance, and red represents higher expression abundance."

Fig. 3

Number of differential metabolites between different treatment groups Treatments are the same as those given in Fig. 2."

Fig. 4

Venn diagram of metabolites with significant differences between different treatments Treatments are the same as those given in Fig. 2. The numbers indicate the numbers of metabolites with significant differences between the two treatments."

Fig. 5

Hierarchical cluster analysis of 41 major metabolites and representative substances of main classification under plastic film mulching and no mulching conditions in maize leaves Treatments are the same as those given in Fig. 2. Among them, green represents lower expression abundance, and red represents higher expression abundance."

Fig. 6

Changes in the metabolic network of maize leaves Red circles represent substances that are generally up-regulated under plastic film mulching treatment, and green circles represent substances that are generally down-regulated under plastic film mulching treatment. Eight different color blocks from left to right represent FMZL, FMZH, FMXL, FMXH, NMZL, NMZH, NMXL, and NMXH, respectively. Treatments are the same as those given in Fig. 2. Among them, green block represents lower expression abundance, and red represents higher expression abundance."

Table 1

Grain yield per plant and yield components of maize"

Grain yield per plant (g)
Number of kernels per ear
1000-kernel weight (g)
FMZL 210.44 ± 14.22 a 576.21 ± 38.56 ab 295.97 ± 5.10 abc
FMZH 138.76 ± 7.97 c 561.87 ± 22.38 abc 279.74 ± 24.07 bc
FMXL 185.19 ± 4.76 b 620.53 ± 31.70 a 319.36 ± 29.09 a
FMXH 132.57 ± 8.32 c 558.35 ± 26.93 abc 287.68 ± 7.87 bc
NMZL 183.72 ± 6.89 b 492.40 ± 48.18 d 302.10 ± 3.71 ab
NMZH 108.04 ± 9.95 d 507.97 ± 22.00 cd 297.22 ± 10.59 abc
NMXL 141.91 ± 7.16 c 530.95 ± 42.23 bcd 304.90 ± 5.95 ab
NMXH 126.11 ± 7.22 c 471.89 ± 29.38 d 270.69 ± 16.18 c
变异来源Source of variation
覆膜Plastic film mulching ** ** **
密度Density ** ** **
品种Cultivar ** NS *
覆膜×密度Plastic film mulching × Density * NS NS
覆膜×品种Plastic film mulching × Cultivar NS NS NS
密度×品种Density × Cultivar ** * NS
Plastic film mulching × Density × Cultivar
** NS NS

Fig. 7

Correlation between metabolite levels and grain yield in maize r and P are the correlation coefficient and P-value from Pearson correlation analysis, respectively."

Fig. 8

Correlation between metabolite levels and biomass in maize r and P are the correlation coefficient and P-value from Pearson correlation analysis, respectively."

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