Maize (Zea mays L.) Response to Nitrogen Fertilizer under Drought Stress at Vegetative and Reproductive Stages


1 Department of Agronomy and Plant Breeding, Shoshtar Branch, Islamic Azad University, Shoshtar, Iran.

2 Former M.Sc. Student, Department of Agronomy, Khuzestan Science and research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Ahvaz, Iran.

3 Department of Biology, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada.


In the sub-tropics, water and nitrogen are the most important factors limiting the grain yield of maize. The effect of nitrogen (N) rates and drought stress at different growth stages of maize were investigated. Nitrogen treatments consisted of 100, 150, and 200  kgN.ha-1 from the urea source while water stress treatments were composed of irrigation-off since the early 10-leaf stage to emergence of 50% tassel (vegetative), irrigation-off since the emergence of 50% tassel to the end of pollination (reproductive), and well watered plots. Drought condition at both vegetative and reproductive growth stages reduced grain yield 35% and 45%, respectively. Number of kernel per ear and kernel weight also reduced significantly with drought stress especially in reproductive stage. The highest response of maize yield to N fertilizer was observed in treatment with optimal irrigation; however, the increase of N particularly in vegetative stress somewhat led to decrease of drought stress effects on grain yield. Drought stress at vegetative and reproductive stages increased resource limitation with the rate of 67.1% and 77.25%, respectively. Drought stress at both stages caused significant decrease in chlorophyll content and leaf relative water content. In general, the highest negative effect of drought stress on grain yield and physiological traits occurred at reproductive stage and increasing the amount of nitrogen cannot compensate these reductions.


Abbas, M., M. Z. Rizwan, A. M. Maqsood. and M. Rafiq. 2003. Maize response to split application of nitrogen. J. Agri. Biol. 5: 19-21.

Ahmed-Amal, O. and B. Mekki. 2005. Yield components of two maize hybrids as influenced by water deficit during different growth stages. Egypt  J Appl Sci 20: 64-79 .

Akmal, M., H. Rhman, M. Asim. and H. Akbar. 2010. Response of maize varieties to nitrogen application for leaf area profile, crop growth, yield and yield components. Pak. J. Bot. 42(3): 1941-1947.

Arnon, D. I. 1975. Copper enzymes in isolated chloroplasts poly phenoxidase inn Beba vulgaris L. Plant Physiol. J. 45: 1-15.

Ashofteh, M., M. Ebrahimi, K. Mostafavi, M. Golbashy. and S. Khavari Khorasani. 2011. A study of morphological basis of corn (Zea mays L.) yield under drought stress condition using correlation and path coefficient analysis. J. Cereals and Oilseeds. 2(2): 32-37.

Aslam, M., M. S. I. Zamir, I. Afzal, M. Yaseen, M. Mubeen. and A. Shoaib. 2013. Drought stress, its effect on maize production and development of drought tolerance through potassium application. Cercetari Agronomice Moldova. J. 2(154): 99-114.

Asmatullah, M., A. Bhatti, Z. A. Gurmani. and M. Imran. 2007. Studies on planting patterns of maize (Zea mays L.) facilitating legumes intercropping. J. Agric. Res. 45: 113-120.

Bennett, J. M., J. W. Jones, B. B. Zur. and I. C. Hammone. 1986. Interactive effects of nitrogen and water stresses on water relations of field-grown corn leaves. Agron. J. 78: 273-280.

Bonnett, G. D. and L. D. Incoll. 1992. Effects on the stem of winter barley of manipulating the source and sink during grain filling changes in the composition of water-soluble carbohydrates of internodes. J. Exp. Bot. 44: 75- 82.

Boote, K. B., J. W. Jones. and N. B. Pickering. 1996. Potential uses and limitations of crop models. Agron. J. 88: 704-716.

Catsky, J. 1960. Determination of water deficit in discs cut out from leaf blades. Biol. Plantarum. J. 2: 76-77.

Dinh, H. T., W. Kaewprdit, S. Jogloy, N. Vorasoot. and A. Patanothai. 2014. Nutrient uptake of peanut genotypes with different levels of drought tolerance under midseason drought. Turk. J. Agric. 38: 495-505.

Edmeades, G. E. and J. A. Deutsch. 1994. Stress tolerance breeding: Maize that resists insects, drought, low nitrogen, and acid soils. CIMMYT. Mexico.

Eghball, B. and J. W. Maranville. 1991. Interactive effects of water and nitrogen stresses on nitrogen utilization efficiency, leaf water status and yield of corn genotypes. Communications in Soil Sci. Plant Analysis. J. 22: 1367-1382.

Ghooshchi, F., M. Seil Sepour. and P. Yafari. 2008. Effects of stress on yield and some agronomic traits of Zea mays (SC. 301). World J. Agric. Sci. 4(6):684-687.

Hassani, A. and R. Omid Beigi. 2002. Effects of water stress on some morphological, physiological, and metabolic characteristics of basil. J. Agric. 12(3): 47-59.

Hung, S. H., C. W. Yu. and C.H. Lin. 2005. Hydrogen peroxide functions as a stress signal in plants. Botanical Bulletin of Academia Sinica. 46: 1-10.

Lorens, G. F., J. M. Bennett. and L. B. Loggale. 1987. Differences in drought resistance between two corn hybrids. II. Component analyses and growth rates. Agron. J. 79: 808-813.

Ma, B. L., L. M. Dwyer. and E. E. Gregorich. 1996. Soil nitrogen amendment effects on nitrogen uptake and grain yield of maize. Agron. J. 91: 650-656.

Mansouri-Far, C., S. Ali, M. M. Sanavy. and S. F. Saberali. 2010. Maize yield response to deficit irrigation during low sensitive growth stages and nitrogen rate under semi-arid climatic conditions. Agric. Water Manage. J. 97: 12-22.

Mihailovic, N., G. R. Filipović, M. Djurdjević. and Z. Dželetović. 1992. Effect of nitrogen form on maize response to drought stress. Plant Soil. J. 144(2): 191-197.

Modhej, A. and GH. Fathi. 2008. Wheat Physiology. IAU Press. Pp. 317.

Modhej, A., SH. Lack. and F. Kiani Ghaleh Sorkhi. 2014. Effect of nitrogen and defoliation on assimilate redistribution and grain yield of maize (Zea mays L.) under subtropical conditions. Proc. National Academy Sci. India Section B: Biol. Sci. J. 84(3): 765-770.

Morgan, J. A. 1986. The effects of N nutrition on the water relations and gas exchange characteristics of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). Plant Physiol. J. 80: 52–58.

Muchow, R. C. 1989. Comparative productivity of maize, sorghum and pearl millet in a semi-arid tropical environment II. Effect of water deficits. Field Crops Res. J. 20: 207-219.

Mujeeb Rahman, Sh. and I. Ahmad. 2004. Effects of water stress on growth and photosynthetic pigments of corn (Zea mays L.) cultivars. Intl. J. Agri. Biol. 6(4): 652-655.

Nagy, J. 2008. Maize production. Akademiai Kiado. Budapest. Hungary. Pp. 391.

Osborne, S. L., D. D. Schepers, J. S. Frencis. and M. R. Schlemmer. 2002. Use of spectral radiance to estimate in- season biomass and grain yield in nitrogen and water stress on corn. Crop Sci. J. 42: 165-171.

Rahmati, H. 2012. Effect of plant density and nitrogen rates on morphological characteristics grain Maize. J. Basic Appl. Sci. Res. 2(5): 4680-4683.

Scott, A., H. James, A. Guikema. and M. Paulsen. 1990. Photosynthetic decline from high temperature stress during maturation of wheat II. Interaction with source and sink processes. Plant Physiol. J. 2: 654-658.

Shakarami, G. and M. Rafiee. 2009. Response of corn (Zea mays L.) to planting pattern and density in Iran. American-Eurasian J. Agric. Environ. Sci. 5(1): 69-73.

Siadat, A., A. Madhej. and M. Esfahani. 2013. Cereals Crops. 1st Edition. Jihad Daneshgahi Pub. Mashhad. Iran. 352 p.

Telesinski, A., J. Nowak, B. Smolik, A. Dubowska. and N. Skrzyiec. 2008. Effect of soil salinity on activity of antioxidant enzymes and content of ascorbic acid and phenols in bean plants. J. Elemental. 13: 401-409.

Vitale, L., D. T. Paul, A. Carmen, F. Angelo, V. D. S. Amalia. and M. Vincenzo. 2007. Effect of water stress on gas exchange of field grown Zea mays L. in southern Italy: An analysis at canopy and leaf level. Acta Physiol. Plant J. 29: 317-326.

Voltas, J., I. Romagosa. and J. L. Araus. 1997. Grain size and nitrogen accumulation in sink-reduction barley under Mediterranean conditions. Field Crops Res. 52: 117-126.

Wardlaw, F. 1980. Translocation and source- sink relationships. pp: 297-333. In: The biology of crop productivity. Academic Press. New York. USA.

Zaidi, P. H., M. Yadav, D. K. Singh and R. P. Singh. 2008. Relationship between drought and excess moisture tolerance in tropical maize (Zea mays L.). Aust. J. Crop Sci. 1(3): 78-96.