Date of this Version
Water is generally the limiting factor in U.S. Great Plains wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) production. With increasing demands for limited water, improving the efficacy of irrigation is critical. One technique is to irrigate during responsive stages of crop development, but few studies have examined this approach. This 2-yr study on a Nunn clay loam soil (fine, montmorillonitic, mesic Aridic Argiustoll) was designed to examine the effects of irrigation, based on stage of crop development, on winter wheat yield, yield components (on a plant basis), and specific culm responses. In the first year, the treatments were control (dryland), and irrigation at late jointing. In the second year, the treatments were dryland, irrigation at late jointing, irrigation at anthesis, and irrigation at both late jointing and anthesis. Irrigation at late jointing or anthesis significantly increased grain yield and the most important yield component (spikes per plant), as well as spikelets per plant, number of kernels per plant, and kernel weight per plant. The increased spikes per plant in the irrigation treatments, particularly with late-jointing irrigation, was due to reduced tiller abortion. Increased yield was primarily due to the contribution of more secondary tillers (T10, T11, T20, T21, T30, and T31) that produced spikes. The contribution of main stems to the total yield decreased from 92% to at most 86% with irrigation, although the dry weight of main-stem spikes increased with irrigation. The contribution to total yield of the main yield-producing tillers, T1 and T2, decreased from 20 to U% and W to U%, respectively, with irrigation. As with main-stem spikes, irrigation also increased T1 and T2 spike dry weight. Therefore, the production of secondary spikes due to irrigation treatments was not at the expense of main stem or primary tiller spikes. If only one irrigation can be applied, irrigation at late jointing- is recommended for central Great Plains conditions. due to its -greater effect on tiller survival. This implies that developmental and physiological processes at late jointing are critical in determining final grain yield, and water stress should be avoided at this growth stage.