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Apoplastic infusion of sucrose into stem internodes during female flowering does not increase grain yield in maize plants grown under nitrogen‐limiting conditions

Peng, Yunfeng, Li, Chunjian, Fritschi, Felix B.
Physiologia plantarum 2013 v.148 no.4 pp. 470-480
Zea mays, chlorophyll, corn, developmental stages, female flowers, glucose, grain yield, greenhouses, internodes, leaf area, leaf protein, leaves, nitrogen, photosynthesis, starch, sucrose
Nitrogen (N) limitation reduces leaf growth and photosynthetic rates of maize (Zea mays), and constrains photosynthate translocation to developing ears. Additionally, the period from about 1 week before to 2 weeks after silking is critical for establishing the reproductive sink capacity necessary to attain maximum yield. To investigate the influence of carbohydrate availability in plants of differing N status, a greenhouse study was performed in which exogenous sucrose (Suc) was infused around the time of silking into maize stems grown under different N regimes. N deficiency significantly reduced leaf area, leaf longevity, leaf chlorophyll content and photosynthetic rate. High N‐delayed leaf senescence, particularly of the six uppermost leaves, compared to the other two N treatments. While N application increased ear leaf soluble protein concentration, it did not influence glucose and suc concentrations. Interestingly, ear leaf starch concentration decreased with increasing N application. Infusion of exogenous suc tended to increase non‐structural carbohydrate concentrations in the developing ears of all N treatments at silking and 6 days after silking. However, leaf photosynthetic rates were not affected by suc infusion, and suc infusion failed to increase grain yield in any N treatment. The lack of an effect of suc infusion on ear growth and the high ear leaf starch concentration of N‐deficient maize, suggest that yield reduction under N deficiency may not be due to insufficient photosynthate availability to the developing ear during silking, and that yield reduction under N deficiency may be determined at an earlier growth stage.