Response of plastic film mulched maize to soil and atmospheric water stresses in an arid irrigation area

Cheng Li, Jingui Wang, Yunxin Zhang, Hao Feng, Wenxin Zhang, Kadambot H.M. Siddique

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Water stress can severely decrease crop productivity by restricting photosynthesis, while the use of plastic film mulching can mitigate these water stress effects. However, the intricacies of photosynthetic and stomatal responses to soil water stress under plastic film mulching, particularly when combined with atmospheric water stress, have not been well studied, especially in arid irrigation areas. Limited research has investigated photosynthetic chlorophyll fluorescence parameters, stomatal responses, grain filling process and crop productivity to soil and atmospheric water stress under plastic film mulching. Our study addresses this knowledge gap through a comprehensive field experiment in an arid irrigation area involving maize (Zea mays L.). Well-watered and water deficit conditions with and without plastic film mulching treatments, alone or combined with atmospheric water stress (different vapor pressure deficits) were conducted. Our findings revealed that soil water stress significantly increased stomatal limitations (by 6.4–12.4 %) and may cause non-stomatal limitations. Plastic film mulching significantly improved plant photosynthetic performance (increased net photosynthesis rate by 12.2–39.8 %), chlorophyll fluorescence parameters, and stomatal regulation. Under mulched conditions, soil water stress primarily affected photosynthetic performance through stomatal limitations. Moreover, plastic film mulching significantly improved grain filling process (increased grain-filling rate by 6.3–78.5 %) and productivity (increased grain yield by 12.1–45.8 %) in spring maize subjected to soil water stress. Atmospheric water stress, alone or combined with soil water stress, influenced plant photosynthetic performance, decreasing the net photosynthesis rate and stomatal conductance. Mulching enhanced photosynthetic performance under atmospheric water stress. Overall, the positive effect of mulching on spring maize photosynthetic performance and productivity under soil and atmospheric water stresses holds promise for alleviating water resource shortages and addressing global climate warming issues in arid irrigation areas.

Original languageEnglish
Article number127080
JournalEuropean Journal of Agronomy
Early online date15 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


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