Plant and Soil

, Volume 295, Issue 1–2, pp 279–291 | Cite as

Benefits of alternate partial root-zone irrigation on growth, water and nitrogen use efficiencies modified by fertilization and soil water status in maize

Regular Article


Alternate partial root-zone irrigation (APRI) is a new water-saving technique and may improve crop water use efficiency without much yield reduction. We investigated if the benefits of APRI on biomass accumulation, water and nitrogen use efficiencies could be modified by different soil fertilization and watering levels in pot-grown maize (Zea mays L. cv. super-sweet No 28, a local variety). Three irrigation methods, i.e. conventional irrigation (CI), alternate partial root-zone irrigation (APRI, alternate watering on both sides of the pot) and fixed partial root-zone irrigation (FPRI, fixed watering on one side of the pot), two watering levels, i.e. water deficit (W1, 45–55% of field capacity) and well-watered (W2, 70–80% of field capacity), and two N fertilization levels, i.e. no fertilization and fertilization, were designed. Results showed that APRI and FPRI methods led to more reduction in transpiration than in photosynthesis, and thus increased leaf water use efficiency (leaf WUE, i.e. the ratio of leaf net photosynthetic rate to transpiration rate). Compared to the CI treatment, APRI and FPRI increased leaf WUE by 7.7% and 8.1% before the jointing stage and 3.6% and 4.2% during the jointing stage, respectively. Under the fertilization and well-watered conditions, APRI treatment saved irrigation water by 38.4% and reduced shoot and total dry masses by 5.9% and 6.7%, respectively if compared to the CI treatment. APRI also enhanced canopy WUE (defined as the amount of total biomass per unit water used) and nitrogen (N) apparent recovery fraction (Nr, defined as the ratio of the increased N uptake to N applied) by 24.3% and 16.4%, respectively, indicating that effect of APRI can be better materialized under appropriate fertilization and water supply.


Alternate partial root-zone irrigation (APRI) Maize (Zea mays) Nitrogen use efficiency Fixed partial root-zone irrigation (FPRI) Water use efficiency 



We are grateful to the research grants from Chinese National Natural Science Fund (2006CB403406, 50339030), Guangxi Education Department Project (2006-26), Hong Kong Research Grant Council (HKBU 2165/05M) and Hong Kong University Grants Committee (AoE/B-07/99).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Agricultural CollegeGuangxi UniversityNanningP. R. China
  2. 2.Center for Agricultural Water Research in ChinaChina Agricultural UniversityBeijingP. R. China
  3. 3.Department of BiologyHong Kong Baptist UniversityHong KongP. R. China

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