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Acta Agronomica Sinica ›› 2023, Vol. 49 ›› Issue (7): 1919-1929.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1006.2023.23056


Yield and yield components of maize response to high plant density under reduced water and nitrogen supply

WEI Jin-Gui(), GUO Yao, CHAI Qiang*(), YIN Wen*(), FAN Zhi-Long, HU Fa-Long   

  1. State Key Laboratory of Arid Land Crop Science, College of Agronomy Gansu Agricultural University, Lanzhou 730070, Gansu, China
  • Received:2022-08-05 Accepted:2022-10-10 Online:2023-07-12 Published:2022-10-18
  • Contact: *E-mail: chaiq@gsau.edu.cn; E-mail: yinwen@gsau.edu.cn E-mail:1946819335@qq.com;chaiq@gsau.edu.cn;yinwen@gsau.edu.cn
  • Supported by:
    The National Natural Science Foundation of China(32101857);The National Natural Science Foundation of China(U21A20218);The Fuxi Young Talents Fund of Gansu Agricultural University(Gaufx-03Y10);The Important talent of Gansu province(204197083016);The Central Government will Guide Local Science and Technology Development Projects(ZCYD-2021-10)


Water shortage and high fertilizer input have become the dominant factors restraining maize production in arid oasis irrigation area, it is urgent to study the technology of stable yield and increasing yield of crops with reduced water and fertilizer. To provide basis for establishing the efficient technology of stable and high yield of maize with water and nitrogen reduction, the effects of increasing density on dry matter accumulation, grain yield and yield components of maize were investigated under reduced water and nitrogen supply. A split-split plot field experiment was conducted in 2020 and 2021. Under two irrigation levels on local conventional irrigation reduced by 20% (W1) and local conventional irrigation (W2), and two levels of nitrogen fertilizer at a local conventional nitrogen reduced by 25% (N1) and local conventional nitrogen (N2), the response characteristics of dry matter accumulation and yield of maize were studied when maize density increased from 75,000 plants·hm-2 (low density, D1) by 30% (medium density D2), and by 60% (high density D3). The results showed that the grain yield of maize was significantly decreased with the reduced water and nitrogen supply, and increasing planting density by 30% could compensate the negative effect on the decrease of yield. Under the reduced water supply while maintaining N application rate, the dense planting density could significantly increase grain yield. In the two experimental years, the yield of W1 was 3.0% lower than W2. The grain yield of N1 was 12.9% lower than N2. Compared with D1, D2, and D3 increased grain yield by 12.9% and 9.2%, respectively. Compared with W2N2D1, the grain yield of W1N1D1 was decreased by 12.3%, but there was no significant difference between W2N2D1 andW1N1D2 treatments. Under the reduced water and nitrogen supply, increasing density could compensate the negative effect on the decrease of yield was mainly attributed to promoting the dry matter accumulation from early-filling to maturing stage and improving panicle number significantly. Compared with W2N2D1, the dry matter accumulation of W1N1D2 was increased by 5.8% from the early-filling to maturing stage of maize, but there were no significant differences on Vmax (maximum rate of dry matter accumulation), Vmean (mean increase rate of dry matter accumulation), Tm (the days of the maximum rate), and HI (harvest index) between W1N1D2 and W2N2D1 treatments. Compared with W2N2D1, the spike number of W1N1D2 was increased by 24.7%, but the number of kernels per spike and 1000-kernel weight of W1N1D2 were decreased by 19.3% and 14.8%, respectively. The grain yield of W1N2D2 was 13.9% higher than W2N2D1. When the nitrogen application rate was unchanged, the main reasons for the reduced irrigation, increasing density, and stable yield were the increase of dry matter accumulation, Vmean, HI, and the panicle number. Compared with W2N2D1, W1N2D2 increased panicle number, dry matter accumulation, Vmean and HI by 24.8%, 10.2%, 8.4%, and 4.7%, respectively, but there was not significant difference in 1000-kernel weight between W1N2D2 and W2N2D1 treatments. In conclusion, increasing planting density by 30% under the simultaneous reduction of water and nitrogen in the experiment was a feasible measure to save water and nitrogen for stable and high yield of maize in oasis irrigation areas. Increasing planting density by 30% was a feasible measure to save water and increase yield of maize when irrigation water was reduced by 20% while maintaining N application rate

Key words: water and nitrogen reduction, high planting density, maize, dry matter accumulation, yield, compensation effect

Fig. 1

Daily precipitation and mean air temperature during maize growth period at the experiment station in 2020 and 2021"

Table 1

Irrigation and fertilization regimes for different treatments"

Irrigation quota (m3 hm-2)
N fertilizer rate (kg hm-2)
Planting density
(×104 plant hm-2)
水平Level 生育时期
Growth stage
水平Level 生育时期
Growth stage

W2 播种期 Sowing 0 N2 播种期 Sowing 108 D1 7.50 W2N2D1
苗期 Seeding 900 大喇叭口期 Big flare 180 D2 9.75 W2N2D2
拔节期 Jointing 750 灌浆期 Filling 72 D3 12.00 W2N2D3
大喇叭口期 Big flare 900 N1 播种期 Sowing 81 D1 7.50 W2N1D1
开花期 Flowering 750 大喇叭口期 Big flare 135 D2 9.75 W2N1D2
灌浆期 Filling 750 灌浆期 Filling 54 D3 12.00 W2N1D3
W1 播种期 Sowing 0 N2 播种期 Sowing 108 D1 7.50 W1N2D1
苗期 Seeding 720 大喇叭口期 Big flare 180 D2 9.75 W1N2D2
拔节期 Jointing 600 灌浆期 Filling 72 D3 12.00 W1N2D3
大喇叭口期 Big flare 720 N1 播种期 Sowing 81 D1 7.50 W1N1D1
开花期 Flowering 600 大喇叭口期 Big flare 135 D2 9.75 W1N1D2
灌浆期 Filling 600 灌浆期 Filling 54 D3 12.00 W1N1D3

Table 2

Grain yield and yield components of maize under different treatments"

Grain yield
(kg hm-2)
(kg hm-2)
Harvest index
产量构成因素 Yield components
Ear number
(ear m-2)
Kernel number per spike (grain ear-1)
1000-kernel weight (g)
2020 W1N1D1 12,579 h 30,873 e 0.41 bc 7.38 d 509.17 e 322.84 f
W1N1D2 14,300 ef 33,936 d 0.42 b 9.29 c 477.95 f 310.88 g
W1N1D3 13,804 fg 40,822 b 0.34 f 11.43 b 455.89 g 292.18 h
W1N2D1 14,938 e 31,918 de 0.47 a 7.66 d 558.07 bc 370.48 ab
W1N2D2 17,816 ab 37,006 c 0.48 a 9.46 c 543.25 cd 366.42 b
W1N2D3 16,325 cd 44,445 a 0.37 de 11.88 a 484.03 f 332.77 e
W2N1D1 13,052 gh 36,534 c 0.36 ef 7.29 d 553.66 cd 368.69 ab
W2N1D2 13,813 fg 36,814 c 0.38 de 9.40 c 538.83 d 351.03 c
W2N1D3 14,815 e 43,834 a 0.34 f 11.45 b 476.84 f 324.59 ef
W2N2D1 15,772 d 32,667 de 0.48 a 7.53 d 597.70 a 376.36 a
W2N2D2 17,942 a 37,168 c 0.48 a 9.51 c 573.75 b 369.91 ab
W2N2D3 17,045 bc 43,311 a 0.39 cd 11.98 a 509.69 e 342.18 d
2021 W1N1D1 13,680 f 29,624 e 0.46 a 7.29 d 517.59 cd 349.43 bc
W1N1D2 14,586 cd 33,938 cd 0.43 ab 9.49 c 476.77 ef 331.81 cd
W1N1D3 14,255 d 40,330 ab 0.35d 11.32 b 440.46 h 292.91 e
W1N2D1 13,677 f 34,123 cd 0.40 bc 7.53 d 563.57 b 366.82 ab
W1N2D2 16,294 a 36,401 c 0.45 a 9.34 c 516.62 cd 363.91 ab
2021 W1N2D3 15,320 b 41,935 a 0.37 cd 11.55 b 464.55 fg 330.62 bc
W2N1D1 13,613 f 31,790 de 0.43 ab 7.43 d 556.88 b 372.09 a
W2N1D2 14,868 c 37,257 bc 0.40 bc 9.49 c 508.35 d 346.04 bc
W2N1D3 13,612 f 40,600 ab 0.34 d 11.36 b 453.33 gh 315.72 d
W2N2D1 14,178 d 35,005 cd 0.41 bc 7.54 d 585.10 a 377.56 a
W2N2D2 16,294 a 37,471 bc 0.44 ab 9.43 c 528.01 c 366.71 ab
W2N2D3 16,561 a 42,059 a 0.39 bc 12.03 a 480.98 e 334.22 cd
显著性分析 P-value
灌水 Irrigation (W) * NS NS NS ** **
施氮 Nitrogen (N) ** * ** NS ** **
密度 Density (D) ** ** ** ** ** **
灌水×施氮W×N ** * ** NS NS **
灌水×密度W×D NS * * NS NS NS
施氮×密度N×D ** NS NS ** NS *
灌水×施氮×密度W×N×D * NS NS NS NS NS

Fig. 2

Dynamics of dry matter accumulation of maize in different treatments Treatment abbreviations are the same as those given in Table 1."

Table 3

Logistic equation analysis on dry matter accumulation of maize under different treatments"

Regression equation
R2 最大增长速率出现天数
Days of MIR
(Tm, d)
Maximum increase rate
(Vmax, kg hm-2 d-1)
Mean increase rate
(Vmean, kg hm-2 d-1)
2020 W1N1D1 Y=31524/(1+e6.401-0.070*t) 0.989 91.4 cd 551.7 de 210.0 f
W1N1D2 Y=35452/(1+e5.671-0.059*t) 0.979 96.1 abc 522.9 de 230.9 d
W1N1D3 Y=41017/(1+e5.279-0.056*t) 0.996 94.3 cd 574.2 bc 251.7 c
W1N2D1 Y=36583/(1+e5.226-0.055*t) 0.989 95.0 bcd 503.0 e 217.1 ef
W1N2D2 Y=39032/(1+e5.280-0.055*t) 0.993 96.0 abc 536.7 de 277.7 b
W1N2D3 Y=46356/(1+e5.185-0.057*t) 0.991 91.0 ab 660.6 ab 302.3 a
W2N1D1 Y=32725/(1+e6.652-0.075*t) 0.998 88.7 e 613.6 bc 248.5 c
W2N1D2 Y=35459/(1+e6.088-0.063*t) 0.996 96.6 ab 558.5 cde 250.4 c
W2N1D3 Y=41225/(1+e5.944-0.066*t) 0.995 90.1 de 680.2 a 298.2 a
W2N2D1 Y=34471/(1+e5.585-0.059*t) 0.997 94.7 cd 508.4 e 222.2 de
W2N2D2 Y=40810/(1+e5.560-0.055*t) 0.997 101.1 a 561.1 cde 252.9 c
W2N2D3 Y=45861/(1+e5.368-0.057*t) 0.964 94.2 cd 653.5 ab 294.6 a
2021 W1N1D1 Y=33565/(1+e5.261-0.058*t) 0.996 90.7 cd 486.7 d 210.1 d
W1N1D2 Y=35960/(1+e5.235-0.059*t) 0.998 89.2 d 527.4 cd 240.7 cd
W1N1D3 Y=42586/(1+e5.344-0.057*t) 0.998 93.8 abc 606.9 ab 286.0 ab
W1N2D1 Y=36375/(1+e5.541-0.059*t) 0.993 93.9 ab 536.5 cd 242.0 cd
W1N2D2 Y=41353/(1+e5.550-0.058*t) 0.990 96.2 a 596.2 abc 258.2 abc
W1N2D3 Y=44211/(1+e5.451-0.056*t) 0.997 96.8 a 622.6 ab 297.4 a
W2N1D1 Y=34439/(1+e5.665-0.062*t) 0.995 91.9 bcd 530.9 cd 225.5 cd
W2N1D2 Y=39923/(1+e5.183-0.057*t) 0.998 90.9 bcd 568.9 bc 264.2 abc
W2N1D3 Y=42129/(1+e5.319-0.058*t) 0.996 92.2 bcd 607.4 ab 287.9 ab
W2N2D1 Y=36517/(1+e5.739-0.062*t) 0.998 92.6 bc 566.0 bc 248.3 bcd
W2N2D2 Y=39238/(1+e5.733-0.062*t) 0.997 93.0 bc 604.9 ab 265.8 abc
W2N2D3 Y=44421/(1+e5.575-0.058*t) 0.998 96.1 a 644.1 a 298.3 a
灌水 Irrigation (W) NS * *
施氮 Nitrogen (N) * NS *
密度 Density (D) * ** **
灌水×施氮W×N NS NS *
灌水水平×密度W×D NS NS NS
施氮水平×密度N×D NS NS NS
灌水×施氮×密度W×N×D NS NS NS

Fig. 3

Dynamics of dry matter accumulation rate in maize under different treatments Treatment abbreviations are the same as those given in Table 1."

Table 4

Correlation coefficient and path coefficient of maize between grain yield and yield components, dry matter accumulation, harvest index, respectively"

Correlation coefficient with yield
Direct path coefficient
间接通径系数 Indirect path coefficient
穗粒数KSN 千粒重TKW 干物质积累
穗数SN 0.396** 0.494** -0.117 -0.061 0.603 -0.524
穗粒数KSN 0.129 0.158* -0.365 0.085 -0.372 0.623
千粒重TKW 0.255* 0.099 -0.304 0.136 -0.271 0.594
干物质积累DMA 0.358* 0.735** 0.405 -0.080 -0.037 -0.667
收获指数HI 0.430** 1.013** -0.256 0.097 0.058 -0.483
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