Plant growth and development are influenced by weather conditions that also affect water use (WU) and water use efficiency (WUE) and ultimately, yield. The overall goal of this study was to determine the impact of weather and soil moisture conditions on WU and WUE of sweet corn (Zea mays L. var rugosa). An experiment consisting on three planting dates was conducted in 2006 at The University of Georgia, USA. A sweet corn genotype sh2 was planted on March 27 under irrigated and rainfed conditions and on April 10 and 25 under irrigated conditions only. Soil moisture was monitored using PR2 probes. Rainfall and irrigation were recorded with rain gauges installed in the experimental area while other weather variables were recorded with an automatic weather station located nearby. A water balance was used to obtain the crop's daily evapotranspiration (ETc). WUE was calculated as the ratio of fresh and dry matter ear yield and cumulative ETc. The potential soil moisture deficit (Dp) approach was used to determine the crop's moisture stress. Results were analyzed using a single degree freedom contrast, linear regression, and the least significant difference. WU and WUE of sweet corn were both markedly affected by the intra-seasonal weather variability and Dp. For both variables, significant (p < 0.05) differences were found between planting dates under irrigated conditions and between the irrigated and rainfed treatments. WU was as high as 268 mm for the April 10 planting date under irrigated conditions and as low as 122 mm for the March 27 planting date under rainfed conditions. The maximum soil moisture deficit was reached at the milky kernel stage and was as high as 343 mm for the March 27 planting date under rainfed conditions and as low as 260 mm for the April 10 planting date under irrigated conditions. Further work should focus on the impact of the intra-seasonal weather variability and soil moisture conditions during different crop stages to determine critical periods that affect yield.
- Soil moisture deficit
- Zea mays L. var. rugosa