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 #359031

Research Project: Precipitation and Irrigation Management to Optimize Profits from Crop Production

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Title: Greater maize yield improvements in low/unstable yield zones through recommended nutrient and water inputs in the main cropping regions, China

item ZHAO, JIN - China Agricultural University
item YANG, XIAOGUANG - China Agricultural University
item LIU, ZHIJUAN - China Agricultural University
item PULLENS, JOHANNES - Aarhus University
item CHEN, JI - Aarhus University
item Marek, Gary
item CHEN, YONG - Texas A&M University
item LV, SHUO - China Agricultural University
item SUN, SHUANG - China Agricultural University

Submitted to: Agricultural Water Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/4/2020
Publication Date: 1/27/2020
Citation: Zhao, J., Yang, X., Liu, Z., Pullens, J.W., Chen, J., Marek, G.W., Chen, Y., Lv, S., Sun, S. 2020. Greater maize yield improvements in low/unstable yield zones through recommended nutrient and water inputs in the main cropping regions, China. Agricultural Water Management. 232:106018.

Interpretive Summary: As the world population continues to grow, so do the associated needs for food, fiber, and energy. To meet these needs, global demand for maize is expected to double by 2050. China is the world’s second largest producer of maize. However, maize yields have remained relatively constant since the mid 1990’s. Use of recommended nutrient and water input (RNWI) applications should work to close the yield gap between potential and actual maize yields in China. Researchers from China, Denmark and USDA-ARS used a calibrated APSI-Maize crop model to simulate maize yields using RNWI and other management and technologies (OMT). Simulations using RNWI and OMT resulted in maize yield increases of 33% and 28% over actual county-level yields, respectively, for three major crop production regions in China. Yield stability was also increased in the simulations. These findings illustrated the potential for increasing maize yields in China using RNWI and OMT management strategies, particularly in low/unstable yield zones.

Technical Abstract: Maize (Zea mays L.) is an important cereal crop grown worldwide. With the increase in human food demand but limited land and water resources, precise spatially explicit knowledge about the maize production capacity through agricultural management practices (e.g., using recommended nutrient and water inputs, RNWI, by local agronomists) is essential to guide the future policy, research, development, and investment. Here, we used a well-validated crop model (APSIM-Maize) for 1981–2010 combined with actual climatic and soil data to estimate maize yield improvements under RNWI in three main cropping regions in China (the North China Spring Maize Region, NCS; the Huanghuaihai Summer Maize region, HS; and the Southwest China Mountain Maize Region, SCM). Compared with the county-level maize actual yield in the three main cropping regions, the average maize yield could be increased by 33 % (4 Mg ha-1) through RNWI, while the improvements in the coefficients of variation (CVs) of grain yield and reliable grain production (RGP) were 0.11 and 32 % (69 million Mg), respectively. Except for RNWI, the average yield, CVs of yield, and RGP could still be increased by 28 % (3 Mg ha-1), 0.10, and 36 % (80 million Mg) through other management and technologies (OMT). Further analysis in four types of yield level-stability zones (high-stable, low-stable, high-unstable, and low-unstable zones) showed that greater contributions of using RNWI and OMT to improve maize grain yield, yield stability, and RGP were found in zones with low/unstable yield across the three regions. The findings highlighted the focus on increasing maize yield in low/unstable-yield zones could provide a greater return.