Biological Systems Engineering, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version



Applied Engineering in Agriculture Vol. 35(1): 61-81



© 2019 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Used by permission.


Grain yield, crop evapotranspiration (ETc), basal evapotranspiration (ETb), ETc-yield production functions (ETYPF), and crop water use efficiency (CWUE) response of three drought-tolerant (DT) and one non-drought-tolerant (NDT) maize (Zea mays L.) hybrids to two plant population densities (PPDs) [84,000 plants ha-1 (high PPD) and 59,300 plants ha-1 (low PPD)] and three irrigation levels were researched at two semi-arid locations: North Platte (WCREC) and Scottsbluff (MAL), Nebraska, in 2010, 2011, and 2012. The irrigation levels were fully irrigated (FIT), early cutoff (ECOT), and rainfed (RFT). Precipitation in 2010 was above average, 2011 was a normal year, and 2012 was one of the driest and hottest years in Nebraska’s recorded history. Generally, DT hybrids performed better than the NDT hybrid. The performances of the DT hybrids were stronger in the driest year and driest location (MAL), especially with low PPD. ETc exhibited interannual variation for the same hybrid in the same location and between the two locations and also with the PPD and irrigation treatments. There were significant differences (P<0.05) between the ETc values for the same hybrids across three irrigation treatments. The grain yield response to hybrids and treatments also exhibited substantial variation for the same hybrid between the PPDs and had inter-annual variation between the years and locations. The greatest grain yields of 14.6 and 18.0 Mg ha-1 were observed with 548 and 837 mm of ETc, which were recorded for the DT hybrid H3 (high PPD) at WCREC and MAL, respectively. There were significant differences (P<0.05) in performance among the DT hybrids in performance variables (ETc, ETb, ETYPF, CWUE). In most cases, the DT hybrids produced greater grain yield than the NDT hybrid with lower ETc. In terms of ETYPF response for individual hybrids, the slope of the production functions exhibited an inter-annual variation between the hybrids and for the same hybrids between the years and location for both high and low PPDs. All hybrids exhibited a linear yield response to increasing ETc in all years at both locations with positive slopes in all cases with DT hybrids having the greatest slopes. The ETb values also exhibited a substantial variation between the hybrids, years, locations, and PPDs. Generally, DT hybrids had sizably lower ETb values than the NDT hybrid in both PPD levels. It was concluded that DT hybrids increase the grain yield production per unit of ETc in semi-arid regions not only during very dry and hot year, but also during the growing season with favorable rainfall and climate conditions.