U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Document Type


Date of this Version



U.S. Government Work


JOURNAL OF CROP IMPROVEMENT 2019, VOL. 33, NO. 3, 410–427 https://doi.org/10.1080/15427528.2019.1606129


Hybrid adoption, irrigation, and planting density are important factors for maize (Zea mays L.) production in semiarid regions. For this study, a 2-yr field experiment was conducted in the Texas High Plains to investigate maize yield determination, seasonal evapotranspiration (ETc), and water-use efficiency (WUE) under limited irrigation. Two hybrids (N74R, a conventional hybrid, and N75H, a drought-tolerant (DT) hybrid) were planted at three water regimes (I100, I75, and I50, referring to 100%, 75%, and 50% of the evapotranspiration requirement) and three planting densities (PD 6, PD 8, and PD 10, referring to 6, 8, and 10 seeds m−2). At I50, drought stress reduced grain yield by 4.78 t/ha for the conventional hybrid but only 4.22 t/ha for the DT hybrid, when compared to I100. Although ETc decreased at I75 and I50, the highest WUE was found at I75. The DT hybrid did not yield more than the conventional hybrid but had greater yield stability at lower water regimes and extracted less soil water. Drought decreased biomass, harvest index, and kernel weight but did not affect kernel number. Higher planting densities increased biomass and kernel number but decreased kernel weight. Kernel number and kernel weight of the conventional hybrid were more sensitive to planting density than the DT hybrid. These data demonstrated that limited irrigation at I75 is an effective way to save water and maintain the maize yield in semiarid areas, and that DT hybrid shows a greater yield stability to plant density under water stress.