Application of Uniconazole Improves Photosynthetic Efficiency of Maize by Enhancing the Antioxidant Defense Mechanism and Delaying Leaf Senescence in Semiarid Regions

  • Irshad AhmadEmail author
  • Muhammad Kamran
  • Wennan Su
  • Wang Haiqi
  • Shahzad Ali
  • Bayasgalan Bilegjargal
  • Shakeel Ahmad
  • Tiening Liu
  • Tie Cai
  • Qingfang HanEmail author


The degradation of photosynthetic pigments leads to leaf senescence and thus grain yield losses. We determined whether the application of uniconazole to maize in semiarid regions could reduce the degradation of photosynthetic pigments by enhancing the antioxidant defense system. We conducted a field study in the summers of 2015 and 2016 where seeds were soaked in uniconazole at concentrations of 0 (CK1), 25 (S1), 50 (S2), and 75 (S3) mg kg−1 and foliar sprayed at concentrations of 0 (CK2), 25 (F1), 50 (F2), and 75 (F3) mg L−1 at the eight-leaf stage. The application of uniconazole significantly improves the chlorophyll content, soluble protein content, and net photosynthetic rate, where the maximum values were obtained with the S1 and F1 treatments. Uniconazole significantly improved the activities of antioxidant enzymes comprising superoxide dismutase, peroxidase, and catalase, but reduced that of malondialdehyde (MDA) and the accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) during the leaf senescence process. Treatments S1 and F1 had higher antioxidant enzyme activities but reduced MDA, superoxide radical, and hydrogen peroxide contents. Uniconazole significantly reduced leaf senescence in leaves in the bottom layer, while also increasing the middle layer leaf area and decreasing the top layer leaf area. The degradation of photosynthetic pigments was reduced by uniconazole because the enhanced antioxidant activities of enzymes protected plants from harmful ROS. Uniconazole significantly improved the photosynthetic traits, antioxidant defense system, and grain yield in maize in semiarid regions, where the most effective treatment was S1.


Antioxidant defense system Leaf senescence Maize production Photosynthetic trait Semiarid region Uniconazole 



The authors extend their sincere thanks to the editors of this journal and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions that have significantly improved the manuscript. We are also grateful to Ding Ruixia, Nie Junfeng, and Yang Baoping for help during experimental period.

Author Contributions

QH, LT, and TC conceived and designed the research. IA performed research. MK, WX, SA, and SA contributed in the field experiments. IA wrote the manuscript. BB helped in English revision. WS helped in revision of the manuscript.


This study was supported by funding from High Technology Research and Development Program of China (863 Program, No.2013AA102902), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31601256), the special fund for Agro-scientific Research in the Public Interest (201303104), the 111 Project of Chinese Education Ministry (B12007).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irshad Ahmad
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Muhammad Kamran
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wennan Su
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wang Haiqi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shahzad Ali
    • 1
    • 2
  • Bayasgalan Bilegjargal
    • 3
  • Shakeel Ahmad
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tiening Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tie Cai
    • 1
    • 2
  • Qingfang Han
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Crop Physio-Ecology and Tillage Science in North-Western Loess Plateau, Ministry of Agriculture, College of AgronomyNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Agricultural Soil and Water Engineering in Arid and Semiarid Areas, Ministry of Education, Institute of Water Saving Agriculture in Arid Areas of ChinaNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingChina
  3. 3.College of Economics and ManagementNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingChina

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