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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: EFFICIENT AND ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURAL WATER MANAGEMENT IN HUMID REGIONS

Location: Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research

Title: Narrow row corn production with subsurface drip irrigation

Authors
item Stone, Kenneth
item Bauer, Philip
item Busscher, Warren
item Millen, Joseph

Submitted to: Applied Engineering in Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: April 25, 2008
Publication Date: September 1, 2008
Repository URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10113/22963
Citation: Stone, K.C., Bauer, P.J., Busscher, W.J., Millen, J.A. 2008. Narrow row corn production with subsurface drip irrigation. Applied Engineering in Agriculture 24(4):455-464.

Interpretive Summary: Short-term droughts occur about every other year in the southeastern US Coastal Plains. These short-term droughts cause water stress in plants, reduce yields, and decrease farm income. Irrigation can help to reduce the impact of these problems. Sprinkler irrigation is the most commonly used method to water agronomic crops in the region, but drip irrigation offers the potential to conserve soil water and reduce evaporation. In this research, we investigated feasibility of utilizing subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) in combination with corn planted in narrow-rows. Corn was planted in narrower (0.38 m or 15 in) than usual rows on an irrigation site that had subsurface drip tubes buried 0.30 m (1 ft) below the soil surface and spaced at 1 and 2 m (39 and 78 in) apart. Irrigation was applied weekly to meet the crop water demands. Corn yields were close to the state averages for the two years of the study. In 2003, our average yields were 5099 kg/ha while greater yields were observed in 2004 with an average of 5528 kg/ha. During the growing season, early season whole plant biomass was significantly higher for the 2-m SDI tube spacing, but there were no significant biomass differences later growth stages. In 2004, whole plant N concentrations were higher for the 1-m SDI lateral spacing, indicating that this treatment would produce better silage. At grain harvest, there were no differences among treatments for N content, ear length and ear weight for the two spacings. However, we found that the distance of the corn rows from the SDI lateral influenced the crop growth and grain yield. Plant biomass, whole plant N, ear length, and grain weight all decreased significantly with distance from the SDI laterals. These results show a great deal of variability among rows when corn is grown in 38-cm spacing over buried laterals for wide-row crops.Higher plant populations placed closer to the laterals may increase productivity.

Technical Abstract: In the southeastern USA Coastal Plains, supplemental irrigation is required to reduce the impact of short-term droughts and yield-reducing plant water stress that can occur at least biennially. While sprinkler irrigation is commonly used to water agronomic crops in the region, in recent years, microirrigation, typically used for high value fruit and vegetable crops, combined with conservation tillage has been implemented to conserve soil moisture for agronomic crop production. In this research, we investigated feasibility of planting corn (Zea Maize) in narrow rows over subsurface drip irrigation (SDI). Corn was planted in 0.38-m rows on a subsurface drip irrigation site with laterals installed 0.30 m below the soil surface and spaced at 1 and 2 m apart. Irrigation was applied weekly as required to meet the crop water demands. All nutrients were applied through the subsurface drip irrigation system. Corn yields for 2003 ranged from 4301 to 5420 kg/ha while in 2004 the yields were greater and ranged from 4452 to 6329 kg/ha. Early season whole plant biomass was significantly higher for the 2-m SDI lateral spacing, but there were no significant biomass differences at later growth stages. Corresponding whole plant N concentrations were higher for the 1-m SDI lateral spacing in 2004. At harvest, grain N, ear length, and ear weight were not significantly different for SDI lateral spacing. We found that the distance of the corn rows from the SDI lateral greatly influenced the crop growth and grain yield. Plant biomass, whole plant N, ear length, and grain weight all decreased significantly with distance from the SDI laterals. These results show a great deal of variability among rows when corn is grown in 38-cm spacing over buried laterals for wide-row crops. Higher plant populations placed closer to the laterals may increase productivity.

Last Modified: 4/16/2014
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