Biological Systems Engineering, Department of


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Applied Engineering in Agriculture Vol. 35(1): 83-102



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


Information and data on newer drought-tolerant maize hybrid response to water in different climates are extremely scarce. This research quantified the performance of non-drought-tolerant (NDT) (H1) and drought-tolerant (DT) (H2, H3, and H4) maize (Zea mays L.) hybrids response to grain yield, crop evapotranspiration (ETc), basal evapotranspiration (ETb), ETc-yield production functions (ETYPF), and crop water use efficiency (CWUE) at three irrigation levels and two plant population densities (PPDs) at two locations (transition zone between sub-humid and semiarid climates at Clay Center (SCAL), Nebraska, in 2010 and 2012; and in a sub-humid climate at Concord (HAL), Nebraska, in 2010, 2011, and 2012). Irrigation treatments were: fully irrigated (FIT), early cutoff (ECOT) (i.e., no irrigation after blister stage), and rainfed (RFT) under two PPDs of 59,300 plants ha-1 (low PPD), and 84,000 plants ha-1 (high PPD). Generally, DT hybrids performed superior to NDT hybrid consistently at both locations, treatments, and years. DT H3 and DT H4 had highest grain yield consistently at SCAL and HAL, respectively. DT H3 and H4 hybrids’ productivity was not only superior in the RFT, but also in FIT. The highest yield of 16.3, and 15.3 Mg ha-1 were achieved by DT H3 (high PPD) and DT H2 (high PPD), respectively, associated with 471 and 590 mm of ETc in the FIT in 2012 at SCAL, and HAL, respectively. In most cases, all hybrids had highest grain yield under low PPD than high PPD at the RFT. All hybrids exhibited a linear yield response to increasing ETc in all years at both locations with positive slopes in all cases. The individual ETYPF response for individual hybrids had inter-annual variation in slopes between the hybrids and for the same hybrids between the years and location for both low and high PPDs. The ETYPF slopes ranged from 0.004 to 0.102 Mg ha-1 mm-,1 including all treatments (i.e., irrigation and PPDs) at SCAL for 2010 and 2012; and they ranged from 0.008 to 0.057 Mg ha-1 mm-1 including all treatments at HAL for 2010, 2011, and 2012. The ETb values exhibited inter-annual variation for the same hybrid between the irrigation levels, PPDs, and locations and they also exhibited an inner-annual variation between the hybrids and treatments in a given year with DT hybrids having consistently lower ETb values than the NDT hybrid. The greatest CWUE values were found in DT hybrids consistently at both locations. The DT hybrids can significantly increase yield productivity as well as crop water productivity per unit of ETc with respect to conventional hybrids not only in dry conditions, but also in average or above average years in terms of precipitation.