Biological Systems Engineering


Date of this Version



Published in Agricultural Water Management 263 (2022) 107457



Copyright © 2022 Elsevier B.V. Used by permission.


Water availability and water quality problems negatively impact agricultural productivity due to improper nitrogen (N) and irrigation management, which can also negatively affect environmental services. Coupled irrigation and N management practices must be developed and practiced for alleviating these challenges. Investigating crop growth and development and yield response to coupled irrigation and N management under different irrigation methods can aid in developing optimum agronomic management practices to enhance crop production efficiency. Field experiments were conducted in 2016 and 2017 growing seasons to measure and compare maize (Zea mays L.) grain yield, leaf area index (LAI), plant height (and their relationships), and stem diameter under different N application timing treatments and traditional N application under different irrigation methods [center pivot (CP), subsurface drip irrigation (SDI), and furrow irrigation (FI)]. The irrigation levels were full irrigation treatment (FIT or 100%), 80% of FIT, 60% of FIT, and rainfed conditions (RFT) coupled with fertigation application timing treatments. The N treatments were: (i) traditional (TN) with spring pre-plant application, (ii) non-traditional-1 (NT-1) with three pre-season and in-season N applications, and (iii) nontraditional-2 (NT-2) with four pre- and in-season N applications. Grain yield, LAI, and plant height were significantly (p < 0.05) altered by increasing irrigation levels for the traditional N and non-traditional N treatments for the given irrigation method as well between the irrigation methods for the same treatment. The irrigation method had a substantial influence on LAI, and both CP and SDI had 24% higher averaged LAI than FI across traditional N treatments. The highest grain yields were observed under NT-1 and NT-2 at FIT across the irrigation methods. The highest grain yields of 17.3, 16.8 and 15.2 Mg ha-1 were observed in 100% NT-1-CP, 100%-NT-1-SDI, and 100% T-FI in the 2016 growing season, respectively; and 17.8, 16.7 and 14 Mg ha-1 were observed in 100% NT-1-CP, 100%-NT-2-SDI, and 100% T-FI in the 2017 growing season, respectively. The traditional N treatment showed significantly (p < 0.05) higher yield under CP than FI (8.1% and 25.5% higher under CP in 2016 and 2017, respectively). SDI had 8.1% and 23% higher yield than FI in 2016 and 2017 seasons, respectively. NT-1 and NT-2 treatments had significantly higher (p < 0.05) grain yields than traditional N treatment under CP and SDI; and NT-1 and NT-2 yields were significantly higher (p < 0.05) under CP than SDI. There was no significant difference (p > 0.05) in yield between NT-1 and NT-2. However, the TN-1 yielded 4.3% higher under CP than in SDI method. NT-1 can be an effective N management practice coupled with 80% of FIT irrigation level under CP and SDI. Results and analyses presented here can provide guidance to growers and their advisors to assess maize productivity under different irrigation and N management strategies under different irrigation methods in the soil, climatic and management practices similar to those presented in this research.