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Journal of Arid Land  2020, Vol. 12 Issue (2): 181-198    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-020-0001-1
Research article     
Ridge-furrow plastic mulching with a suitable planting density enhances rainwater productivity, grain yield and economic benefit of rainfed maize
ZHENG Jing1, FAN Junliang1,2, ZOU Yufeng2, Henry Wai CHAU3, ZHANG Fucang1,2,*()
1 Key Laboratory of Agricultural Soil and Water Engineering in Arid and Semiarid Areas of Ministry of Education, Northwest A&F University, Yangling 712100, China
2 Institute of Water-saving Agriculture in Arid Areas of China, Northwest A&F University, Yangling 712100, China
3 Department of Soil and Physical Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Life Science, Lincoln University, Canterbury 7647, New Zealand
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Abstract  

Soil surface mulching and planting density regulation are widely used for effective utilization of limited rainwater resources and improvement of crop productivity in dryland farming. However, the combined effects of mulching type and planting density on maize growth and yield have been seldom studied, especially in different hydrological years. A field experiment was conducted to evaluate the effects of mulching type and planting density on the soil temperature, growth, grain yield (GY), water use efficiency (WUE) and economic benefit of rainfed maize in the drylands of northern China during 2015-2017. Precipitation fluctuated over the three years. There were four mulching types (NM, flat cultivation with non-mulching; SM, flat cultivation with straw mulching; RP, plastic-mulched ridge plus bare furrow; RPFS, plastic-mulched ridge plus straw-mulched furrow) and three planting densities (LD, low planting density, 45.0×103 plants/hm2; MD, medium planting density, 67.5×103 plants/hm2; HD, high planting density, 90.0×103 plants/hm2). Results showed that soil temperature was higher with RP and lower with SM compared with NM, but no significant difference was found between RPFS and NM. More soil water was retained by soil mulching at the early growth stage, but it significantly varied at the middle and late growth stages. Maize growth was significantly improved by soil mulching. With increasing planting density, stem diameter, net photosynthetic rate and chlorophyll content tended to decline, whereas a single-peak trend in biomass yield was observed. Mulching type and planting density did not have significant effect on evapotranspiration (ET), but GY and WUE were significantly affected. There were significant interacting effects of mulching type and planting density on biomass yield, GY, ET and WUE. Compared with NM, RPFS, RP and SM increased GY by 57.5%, 50.8% and 18.9%, and increased WUE by 66.6%, 54.3% and 18.1%, respectively. At MD, GY increased by 41.4% and 25.2%, and WUE increased by 38.6% and 22.4% compared with those of at LD and HD. The highest maize GY (7023.2 kg/hm2) was observed under MD+RPFS, but the value (6699.1 kg/hm2) was insignificant under MD+RP. Similar trends were observed for WUE under MD+RP and MD+RPFS, but no significant difference was observed between these two combinations. In terms of economic benefit, net income under MD+RP was the highest with a 9.8% increase compared with that of under MD+RPFS. Therefore, we concluded that RP cultivation pattern with a suitable planting density (67.5×103 plants/hm2) is promising for rainwater resources utilization and maize production in the drylands of northern China.



Key wordsdryland farming      evapotranspiration      net income      soil temperature      soil water storage     
Received: 15 March 2019      Published: 10 March 2020
Corresponding Authors: Fucang ZHANG     E-mail: zhangfc@nwsuaf.edu.cn
About author: *Corresponding author: ZHANG Fucang (E-mail: zhangfc@nwsuaf.edu.cn)

The first and second authors contributed equally to this work.

Cite this article:

ZHENG Jing, FAN Junliang, ZOU Yufeng, Henry Wai CHAU, ZHANG Fucang. Ridge-furrow plastic mulching with a suitable planting density enhances rainwater productivity, grain yield and economic benefit of rainfed maize. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(2): 181-198.

URL:

http://jal.xjegi.com/10.1007/s40333-020-0001-1     OR     http://jal.xjegi.com/Y2020/V12/I2/181

Fig. 1 Photos of different mulching types used in this study. (a), flat cultivation with non-mulching (NM); (b), flat cultivation with straw mulching (SM); (c), plastic-mulched ridge plus bare furrow (RP); (d), plastic-mulched ridge plus straw-mulched furrow (RPFS).
Fig. 2 Average air temperature, daily rainfall and reference evapotranspiration (ET0) during the growth seasons in 2015 (a), 2016 (b) and 2017 (c)
Year 20 June-31 July
(Vegetative growth period)
1 August-31 August
(Tasseling period)
1 September-30 September
(Ripening period)
Rainfall (mm) Rainfall anomaly (%) Drought/flood classification Rainfall (mm) Rainfall anomaly (%) Drought/flood classification Rainfall (mm) Rainfall anomaly (%) Drought/flood classification
2015 87.1 -15.9 Normal 88.5 -23.2 Normal 94.3 -17.3 Normal
2016 151.7 46.4 Partial flood 15.6 -86.5 Severe drought 93.8 -17.8 Normal
2017 48.5 -53.2 Severe drought 79.6 -30.9 Partial drought 159.3 39.6 Partial flood
1995-2014 103.7 - - 115.2 - - 114.1 - -
Table 1 Rainfall, rainfall anomaly and drought/flood classification during the growth seasons in 2015, 2016 and 2017
Fig. 3 Effects of mulching type and planting density on soil temperatures at the 5 and 15 cm soil depths at different growth stages of rainfed maize in 2015 (a1 and a2), 2016 (b1 and b2) and 2017 (c1 and c2). NM, flat cultivation with non-mulching; SM, flat cultivation with straw mulching; RP, plastic-mulched ridge plus bare furrow; RPFS, plastic-mulched ridge plus straw-mulched furrow; LD, low planting density (45.0×103 plants/hm2); MD, medium planting density (67.5×103 plants/hm2); HD, high planting density (90.0×103 plants/hm2). Vertical bars represent LSD values (P<0.05). Abbreviations are the same in Figures 4-7 and Tables 2 and 4.
Fig. 4 Effects of mulching type and planting density on soil water storage (0-60 cm) at different growth stages of rainfed maize in 2015 (a1, a2 and a3), 2016 (b1, b2 and b3) and 2017 (c1, c2 and c3). Vertical bars represent LSD values (P<0.05).
Table 2 Effects of mulching type and planting density and their interaction on plant height, stem diameter, grain yield, harvest index, evapotranspiration (ET) and water use efficiency (WUE) of rainfed maize in 2015, 2016 and 2017
Fig. 5 Effects of mulching type and planting density on leaf area index at different growth stages of rainfed maize in 2015 (a1, a2 and a3), 2016 (b1, b2 and b3) and 2017 (c1, c2 and c3). Vertical bars represent LSD values (P<0.05).
Parameter Year (Y) Mulching type (M) Planting density (D) Y×M Y×D M×D Y×M×D
Plant height 59.55** 482.58** 514.13** 3.26* 21.37** 0.56ns 0.59ns
Stem diameter 41.08** 42.16** 52.39** 1.89ns 2.66ns 3.54* 0.39ns
Maximum LAI 489.22** 84.42** 3711.80** 6.82** 11.93** 1.94ns 2.09ns
Pn 665.66** 181.57** 139.54** 4.63** 8.85** 0.97ns 2.16*
Chlorophyll content 252.91** 27.49** 14.15** 0.41ns 0.72ns 0.08ns 0.12ns
Biomass yield 300.64** 341.67** 140.13** 14.33** 10.80** 6.57** 3.32**
Grain yield 130.72** 162.62** 5448.56** 10.06** 66.52** 10.79** 2.79*
Harvest index 140.38** 76.79** 120.37** 9.02** 40.80** 2.14ns 2.95*
ET 19.55** 4.43ns 3.05ns 2.83ns 1.42ns 10.77** 3.34**
WUE 61.17** 378.11** 219.39** 4.49* 39.19** 26.94** 2.35*
Table 3 Significance levels (F value) of the effects of different treatments (year, mulching type and planting density) and their interactions on crop growth parameters, net photosynthetic rate (Pn), chlorophyll content, biomass yield, grain yield, harvest index, evapotranspiration (ET) and water use efficiency (WUE)
Fig. 6 Effects of mulching type and planting density on above-ground biomass at different growth stages of rainfed maize in 2015 (a1, a2 and a3), 2016 (b1, b2 and b3) and 2017 (c1, c2 and c3). Vertical bars represent LSD values (P<0.05).
Fig. 7 Effects of mulching type and planting density on net photosynthetic rate (Pn; a1, a2 and a3) and chlorophyll content (b1, b2 and b3) at tasseling stage of rainfed maize in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Bars mean standard errors; n=3. Different lowercase letters indicate significant differences among different mulching types and plant densities at P<0.05 level.
Mulching type Planting density Annual MMI Annual SFI Annual LI Annual TI TO NI
2015 2016 2017 2015 2016 2017
NM LD 0.0 277.8 518.0 795.8 1219.7 164.0 1367.2 423.9 -631.8 571.4
MD 0.0 294.6 543.0 837.6 1780.8 410.1 1822.5 943.2 -427.5 984.9
HD 0.0 311.4 568.0 879.4 1418.6 159.9 1669.3 539.2 -719.5 789.9
SM LD 0.0 277.8 798.0 1075.8 1307.5 198.6 1586.3 231.7 -777.2 510.5
MD 0.0 294.6 823.0 1117.6 1950.4 451.6 2298.8 832.8 -666.0 1181.2
HD 0.0 311.4 848.0 1159.4 1522.5 313.3 2172.4 363.1 -846.1 1013.0
RP LD 67.9 277.8 593.0 938.7 1423.0 1006.4 1902.6 484.3 67.7 963.9
MD 67.9 294.6 618.0 980.5 2261.2 1174.7 2593.4 1280.7 194.2 1612.9
HD 67.9 311.4 643.0 1022.3 1765.2 607.0 2369.2 742.9 -415.3 1346.9
RPFS LD 67.9 277.8 733.0 1078.7 1509.3 1092.8 2020.1 430.6 14.1 941.4
MD 67.9 294.6 758.0 1120.5 2328.9 1269.8 2722.2 1208.4 149.3 1601.7
HD 67.9 311.4 783.0 1162.3 1795.8 587.7 2474.5 633.5 -574.6 1312.2
Table 4 Economic benefits (USD/hm2) under different treatments
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