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This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 76 No. 3, p. 421-428
    Received: July 26, 1982

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Irrigated Corn Yield Response to Nitrogen and Water1

  1. Harold V. Eck2



Irrigated corn (Zea mays L.) is a relatively new crop on the Southern High Plains where the groundwater supply for irrigation is declining. Field studies were conducted to determine the plant nutrient needs for corn on a predominant soil of the area, the effects of timing and duration of drought stress periods, and the interacting effects of N levels and drought stress on N nutrition and production of corn. Fertilizer N rates ranged from 0 to 350 kg/ha. Irrigations were applied or deleted to allow the crop to be unstressed (I-1), stressed 2 weeks during late vegetative growth (I-2), stressed 2 weeks during early vegetative growth (1-2a), stressed 4 weeks during vegetative growth (I-3), stressed about 4 weeks during grain filling (I-4), and stressed about 2 weeks during grain filling (1-5). The soil was Pullman clay loam (fine, mixed, thermic Torrertic Paleustolls). Fouryear average data (three with graded furrow irrigation, one in level borders) showed that 140 kg N/ha were sufficient for maximum yields. However, simultaneous experiments conducted on graded furrows and level borders showed that while 140 kg N/ha gave maximum yields on graded furrows, 210 kg N/ha were required in level borders. This comparison illustrates the possible fallacy in conducting fertilizer trials under one method of irrigation and extrapolating results to another. Two and 4 weeks of plant water stress during vegetative growth reduced yields of adequately fertilized (210 kg N/ha) corn 23 and 46%, respectively. Two-week stress periods during late (1-2) and early (I-2a) vegetative growth had similar effects on grain yields. Relationships between lengths of stress periods during grain filling and yield showed that yields were reduced 1.2% for each day stress was imposed during grain filling; however, as indicated by the r2 (0.31), there was considerable variation in the data. A N × water stress interaction occurred on grain yields. Adequate N slightly increased corn grain yield under stress and greatly increased yield with full irrigation. Excessive N did not reduce yield even with severe water stress, thus, there would be no reason to reduce N rates to reduce water stress. As grain yields increased, the ratio of grain yield to N yield decreased until maximum yields were attained and then remained constant, indicating little luxury consumption of N. At maximum yield, typical grain yield/N yield ratios were about 52:l. At harvest soil NO3 -N levels showed that plants had removed most of the N applied at rates up to 140 kg/ha, but increasing amounts remained when N application rates were above 140 kg/ha.

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