Corn Yield Response to Reduced Water Use at Different Growth Stages


To develop an efficient water use strategy for crop irrigation, we need to know how much water can be reduced without decreasing yield. A study was designed to determine corn growth stages at which water could be reduced without affecting grain yield, and at what soil moisture level water deficit stress begins in the plants in a silt loam soil. An experiment was conducted in a randomized complete block with a 3 × 4 factorial design in four replications, where treatments consisted of three soil moisture levels [100%, 75%, and 50% of field capacity (FC) of a silt loam soil by weight] and four growth stages [fourteen leaf stage (V14), silking (R1), milk (R3), and dent (R5) stages] in a greenhouse. Growth stages at the reproductive and grain fill stages of corn were selected because this study was intended for the Mississippi Delta, where there is frequent drought during these growth stages making irrigation necessary for corn production, whereas there is usually adequate rainfall during the vegetative growth stages. Results from this study showed that reducing soil moisture from 100% FC (fully irrigated) to 75% FC of a silt loam soil starting at the R1 growth stage in corn did not reduce yield significantly compared to yield from the 100% FC, while saving a significant amount of water. Physiological investigations at the three soil moisture treatments showed that a mild moisture deficit stress might have started at the 75% FC treatment. With further investigation, if savings in water at 75% FC result in a significant reduction in energy cost, it may be profitable to reduce soil moisture to 75% FC in a silt loam soil.

Share and Cite:

Kebede, H. , Sui, R. , Fisher, D. , Reddy, K. , Bellaloui, N. and Molin, W. (2014) Corn Yield Response to Reduced Water Use at Different Growth Stages. Agricultural Sciences, 5, 1305-1315. doi: 10.4236/as.2014.513139.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Fereres, E. and Soriano, M.A. (2007) Deficit Irrigation for Reducing Agricultural Water Use. Journal of Experimental Botany, 58, 147-159.
[2] Stewart, W.L., Fulton, A.E., Krueger, W.H., Lampinen, B.D. and Shakel, K.A. (2011) Regulated Deficit Irrigation Water Use of Almonds without Affecting Yield. California Agriculture, 65, 90-95.
[3] Wax, C.L., Pote, J.W. and Merrell, T.L. (2008) Climatological and Cultural Influences on Annual Groundwater Decline in the Mississippi Shallow Alluvial Aquifer. The 38th Annual Mississippi Water Resources Research Conference, Jackson.
[4] Weiss, M. (2014) Assessment of Trends in Groundwater Levels across the United States. Columbia Water Center, Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York.
[5] Farahani, H. and Smith, W.B. (2014) Irrigation—Making the Case for Irrigated Corn. Clemson University Cooperative Extension.
[6] Nielsen, R.L. (2013) Effects of Stress during Grain Filling in Corn. Corny News Network, Purdue University, West Lafayette.
[7] Setter, T.L., Flannigan, B.A. and Melkonian, J. (2001) Loss of Kernel Set Due to Water Deficit and Shade in Maize: Carbohydrate Supplies, Abscisic Acid, and Cytokinins. Crop Science, 41, 1530-1540.
[8] Blum, A. (1996) Crop Response to Drought and the Interpretation of Adaptation. Plant Growth Regulation, 20, 135-148.
[9] Chaves, M.M., Pereira, J.S., Maroco, J., Rodrigues, M.L., Ricardo, C.P.P., Osorio, M.L., Carvalho, I., Faria, T. and Pinheiro, C. (2002) How Plants Cope with Stress in the Field. Photosynthesis and Growth. Annals of Botany, 89, 907-916.
[10] Subrahmanyam, D., Subash, N., Haris, A. and Sikka, A.K. (2006) Influence of Water Stress on Leaf Photosynthetic Characteristics in Wheat Cultivars Differing in Their Susceptibility to Drought. Photosynthetica, 44, 125-129.
[11] Schussler, J.R. and Westgate, M.E. (1991) Maize Kernel Set at Low Water Potential: II. Sensitivity to Reduced Assimilate Supply at Pollination. Crop Science, 31, 1196-1203.
[12] Andrade, F.H., Echarte, L., Rizzalli, R., Maggiora, A.D. and Casanovas, M. (2002) Kernel Number Prediction in Maize under Nitrogen and Water Stress. Crop Science, 42, 1173-1179.
[13] Prasad, P.V.V., Pisipati, S.R., Momcilovic, I. and Ristic, Z. (2011) Independent and Combined Effects of High Temperature and Drought Stress during Grain Filling on Plant Yield and Chloroplast EF-Tu Expression in Spring Wheat. Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science, 197, 430-441.
[14] Wise, R.R., Ortiz-Lopez, A. and Ort, D.R. (1992) Spatial Distribution of Photosynthesis during Drought in Field-Grown and Acclimated and Nonacclimated Growth Chamber-Grown Cotton. Plant Physiology, 100, 26-32.
[15] Farooq, M., Wahid, A., Kobayashi, N., Fujita, D. and Basra, S.M.A. (2009) Plant Drought Stress: Effects, Mechanisms and Management. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 29, 185-212.
[16] Ball, J. (2001) Soil and Water Relationships. The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation. Ag News and Views.
[17] USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (2008) Soil Quality Indicators.
[18] Plaster, E.J. (2013) Soil Science and Management. 6th Edition, Delmar Cengage Learning, Clifton Park, 165-167.
[19] Hendry, G.A.F. and Price, A.H. (1993) Stress Indicators: Chlorophylls and Carotenoids. In: Hendry, G.A.F. and Grime, J.P., Eds., Methods in Comparative Plant Ecology, Chapman & Hall, London, 148-152.
[20] Bellaloui, N. (2011) Effect of Water Stress and Foliar Boron Application on Seed Protein, Oil, Fatty Acids, and Nitrogen Metabolism in Soybean. American Journal of Plant Sciences, 2, 692-701.
[21] Reddy, K.N., Bellaloui, N. and Zablotowicz, R.M. (2010) Glyphosate Effect on Shikimate, Nitrate Reductase Activity, Yield and Seed Composition in Corn. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 58, 3646-3650.
[22] The Association of Official Analytical Chemists (1990) Method 988.05. In: Helrich, K., Ed., Official Methods of Analysis, 15th Edition, The Association of Official Analytical Chemists, Inc., Arlington.
[23] The Association of Official Analytical Chemists (1990) Method 920.39. In: Helrich, K., Ed., Official Methods of Analysis, 15th Edition, The Association of Official Analytical Chemists, Inc., Arlington.
[24] Claassen, M.M. and Shaw, R. H (1970) Water Deficit Effects on Corn. I. Grain Components. Agronomy Journal, 62, 652-655.
[25] Grant, R.F., Jackson, B.S., Kiniry, J.R. and Arkin, G.F. (1989) Water Deficit Timing Effects on Yield Components in Maize. Agronomy Journal, 81, 61-65.
[26] Eck, H.V. (1986) Effects of Water Deficits on Yield, Yield Components and Water Use Efficiency of Irrigated Corn. Agronomy Journal, 78, 1035-1040.
[27] Zinselmeier, C., Jeong, B.R. and Boyer, J.S. (1999) Starch and the Control of Kernel Number in Maize at Low Water Potentials. Plant Physiology, 121, 25-36.
[28] Smith, H.R. and Conger, C. (2011) Corn Production Notes. Row Crops Newsletter, Mississippi State University Extension Service.
[29] Ransom, J. (2013) Corn Growth and Management. North Dakota State University Extension Service, A1173.
[30] Yang, J.C. and Zhang, J.H. (2006) Grain Filling of Cereals under Soil Drying. New Phytologist, 169, 223-236.
[31] Barnabas, B., Jager, K. and Feher, A. (2008) The Effect of Drought and Heat Stress on Reproductive Processes in Cereals. Plant, Cell and Environment, 31, 11-38.
[32] Alberte, S.R. and Thornber, J.P. (1977) Water Stress Effects on the Content and Organization of Chlorophyll in Mesophyll and Bundle Sheath Chloroplasts of Maize. Plant Physiology, 59, 351-353.
[33] Camejo, D., Rodríguez, P., Morales, M.A., Dell’Amico, J.M., Torrecillas, A. and Alarcon, J.J. (2005) High Temperature Effects on Photosynthetic Activity of Two Tomato Cultivars with Different Heat Susceptibility. Journal of Plant Physiology, 162, 281-289.
[34] Kebede, H., Abbas, H.K., Fisher, D.K. and Bellaloui, N. (2012) Relationship between Aflatoxin Contamination and Physiological Responses of Corn Plants under Drought and Heat Stress. Toxins, 4, 1385-1403.

Copyright © 2021 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.