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Plastic Mulch and Plant Density Influencing Soil Water Content and Yield of Rainfed Maize in North‐Eastern China

Sun, Shijun, Chen, Zhijun, Jiang, Hao, Zhang, Xudong, Zhang, Linlin, Chi, Daocai
Irrigation and drainage 2019 v.68 no.2 pp. 354-364
Zea mays, corn, crop yield, farmers, field experimentation, mulching, plastic film mulches, soil water, soil water content, soil water storage, China
Plastic mulch, in combination with high plant density, is a common practice for rainfed maize production in north‐eastern China. However, the influence of these practices on soil water storage, maize yield and maize water productivity in different precipitation years is not well understood. In this paper, a 3‐year split‐plot field experiment was designed to compare non‐mulching and plastic film mulching in maize at 67 500 and 82 500 plants per ha in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and also 97 500 plants per ha in 2014 and 2015. Results revealed an increasing trend of precipitation in the study area from 1962 to 2015 and that the number of dry years and extreme years (including extreme dry and wet years) was increasing. In the moderately wet year 2013 and the moderately dry year 2015, the combination of 82 500 plants per ha and plastic film mulching produced the highest yield and water productivity (8.2 t ha⁻¹, 1.7 kg m⁻³ and 8.3 t ha⁻¹, 2.3 kg m⁻³, respectively) for maize, while in the extremely dry year 2014 the highest yield (5.6 t ha⁻¹) occurred with 97 500 plants per ha and non‐mulching. This research might be helpful for smallholder farmers needing optimal agricultural strategies to improve maize production in rainfed areas of north‐east China. © 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.