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EFFECT OF TEMPERATURE DURING GRAIN FILLING ON WHOLE PLANT AND GRAIN YIELD IN MAIZE (Zea Mays L.)

B. BADU-APRAKU, R. B. HUNTER, M. TOLLENAAR

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In a 2-yr study, plants of an adapted, short-season single cross maize (Zea mays L.) hybrid were grown outdoors until 18 days post-silking. At that stage, the plants were transferred to controlled-environment growth cabinets where temperature effects on leaf senescence, grain and whole plant dry matter (DM) production and DM distribution were studied. The day/night temperature regimes were 25/15 °C, 25/25 °C, 35/15 °C and 35/25 °C. Higher temperatures reduced whole plant DM accumulation during grain filling. The reduction in DM accumulation was primarily related to a reduction in the period of time from 18 days post-silking until 100% leaf senescence and, to a limited extent, to a lower rate of whole plant DM production. Grain yield per plant was also lower under higher temperatures. The decreases in grain yield were almost entirely determined by a shorter duration of grain filling, while no temperature effect was observed on kernel growth rates or on kernel number per ear. During rapid grain filling, the increase in kernel DM results from utilization of a combination of assimilates temporarily stored in the vegetative plant parts and assimilates produced through current photosynthesis. Under the highest temperature regime, assimilates remobilized from other plant parts accounted for a greater proportion of kernel weight gain. In addition, there was an indication that higher night temperatures resulted in an increased proportion of gain in kernel weight resulting from remobilization of stored DM.Key words: Corn, temperature, grain-filling period, grain growth, yield components, leaf senescence