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Efficient Physiological And Nutrient Use Efficiency Responses Of Maize Leaves To Drought Stress Under Different Field Nitrogen Conditions

Yang Wang, Yufang Huang, Wen Fu, Wenqing Guo, Ning Ren, Yanan Zhao, Youliang Ye

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Inadequate water and nitrogen (N) supplies can limit the productivity of maize. Climate change will likely increase drought in many regions on a global scale. The determination of N fertilizer rates under field drought conditions will be critical toward the reduction of agricultural risk. For this study, drought-resistant/sensitive cultivars were selected as experimental samples. Our results revealed that drought stress reduced the relative water content (RWC) of leaves, which resulted in leaf curling, while decreasing photosynthesis levels and N accumulation. In contrast to those without N treatments, the application of N significantly increased grain yields by 26.8% during the wet year but increased only by 5.4% during the dry year. Under the same N levels, the reduction in yield caused by drought increased with the increased application of N. This was because the application of the N fertilizer translated to increase the leaf area and transpiration, exacerbated the soil water loss and induced a leaf curling state in maize, which had deleterious effects on photosynthesis and N absorption. During the dry year, the yields of drought-sensitive cultivars were even less than those without the application of N. Compared with those of drought-sensitive cultivars, the RWCs of drought-resistant cultivars decreased more rapidly, and they entered the state of leaf curling earlier. Thus, N fertilizer inputs should be reduced, and the extent of N fertilization for drought-sensitive cultivars should be reduced even further.