Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #322006

Title: Constraints on water use efficiency of drought tolerant maize grown in a semi-arid environment

item Tolk, Judy
item Evett, Steven - Steve
item XU, WENWEI - Texas A&M Agrilife
item Schwartz, Robert

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/15/2015
Publication Date: 11/17/2015
Citation: Tolk, J.A., Evett, S.R., Xu, W., Schwartz, R.C. 2015. Constraints on water use efficiency of drought tolerant maize grown in a semi-arid environment [abstract]. ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts. Paper No. 196-3.

Interpretive Summary: Crops have a maximum yield, or yield potential, which they can produce when all growing conditions are good. But these yields are often reduced by such factors as low sunlight, high temperatures, poor soils, and lack of water. Boundary functions are used to determine the yield potential of crop using the relationship between crop yield and its water use, or water use efficiency (WUE). We developed a boundary function for maize, and compared it with the yield and water use of two drought-tolerant corn hybrids. We wanted to determine what was limiting, or constraining, the maize hybrids’ water use efficiency. We found that high temperatures during the time that the corn ear was developing reduced WUE. The type of soil the crop was growing in also affected WUE. The hybrids themselves also were different in how they tolerated the environmental stresses such as the high temperature and in how they were able to use the water in the soil to produce yield. It is important for corn breeders to continue to develop hybrids that can better tolerate many environmental stresses so that yields can be maintained or increased.

Technical Abstract: Identifying the constraints on crop water use efficiency (WUE) will help develop strategies to mitigate these limitations. The objectives of this research were to 1) develop a boundary function for maize using data (n=260) from research projects conducted at Bushland, TX, and 2) compare the yields of two recently developed, drought tolerant maize (Zea mays L.) hybrids with the boundary function and examine possible abiotic and biotic constraints on maximizing water use efficiency. A commercially available hybrid and an experimental hybrid were grown in 2012 (high environmental stress environment) and 2013 (moderate stress environment) in 48 weighing lysimeters containing soil monoliths of either clay loam, silt loam, sandy loam, or fine sand in a rain shelter facility. Plant density was 8 plants per square meter; irrigation treatments were 50% and 80% replacement of predicted crop evapotranspiration. Environmental conditions such as high vapor pressure deficits and temperature were the principal constraint on achieving the yield potential of maize. Differences in breeding resulted in significant differences in WUE, yield and yield components between hybrids in response to environmental conditions during post-silking. Soil textural class was also a significant constraint on WUE and harvest index (HI), with larger WUE and HI from crops in the fine sand and sandy loam compared with those of the crops in the clay loam and silt loam. Continued increases in the tolerance of maize to abiotic and biotic stresses will be necessary to maintain maize production in the southern High Plains region as irrigation water resources decline.