Table_1_Plant Density and Nitrogen Supply Affect the Grain-Filling Parameters of Maize Kernels Located in Different Ear Positions.xlsx

Although yield output of maize (Zea mays L.) has improved markedly over the last century, procedures for improving the grain-filling process remain elusive. Our aim in this study was to relate grain-filling variation in maize (including kernels in apical and middle positions in the ears) to plant density and nitrogen (N) application rate using a crossed experimental design. We also investigated changes in zeatin riboside (ZR), indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), abscisic acid (ABA), and gibberellic acid (GA) in the kernels during the grain-filling period. Two high-yield maize varieties cultivated extensively in China were field grown under normal (67,500 pl ha-1) and high (97,500 pl ha-1) densities, and supplied with low, normal and high (0, 180, and 360 kg N ha-1) concentrations of N. Kernel weight (KW), the maximum grain-filling rate (Gmax), the average grain-filling rate (Gave), and the kernel weight increment achieving Gmax (Wmax) were all significantly depressed under high density (HD) conditions, but increased N supply partially offset the losses. The apical kernels were more sensitive to density and N application rate than middle kernels. Correlation analysis indicated that plant density and N rate affected KW mainly by influencing the grain-filling rate. Variation in ZR, IAA, and ABA content tracked the variation in KW, but variation in GA content did not. Furthermore, the grain-filling parameters (closely related to TKW) had strong canonical correlation with the content of all hormones across the filling period and ZR content had the strongest relationship. Based on our study, high N supply is beneficial to optimize grain-filling parameters and improve KW of maize kernels under crowded condition.