Optimized Planting Density Maintains High Wheat Yield Under Limiting Irrigation in North China Plain

  • Dongxiao Li
  • Di Zhang
  • Hongguang Wang
  • Haoran Li
  • Qin Fang
  • Hongye Li
  • Ruiqi LiEmail author


Regulating plant density is an important practice to improve winter wheat productivity under limited irrigation in North China Plain. Field experiments were carried out over two seasons (2014–15 and 2015–16) under three plant densities (Dh: 480–570, Dm: 360–390, Dl: 240–270 104 plants hm−2) and three irrigation levels (W0: no irrigation; W1: irrigated 80.0 mm only at the jointing stage, which also means limited irrigation; W2: irrigated 60.0 mm each at the jointing and the flowering stages). Results showed that higher numbers of spikes and higher yield were obtained at high density than that at low density under limited irrigation. Under the same irrigation, wheat culms at ripening stage and the proportion of main stem spikes increased with plant density increasing, along with the increasing of transportation amount, transportation rate, and contribution rate of pre-anthesis storage material to grain. But accumulation amount and contribution rate of post-anthesis dry matter, which was influenced by irrigation level, showed a declining trend with increasing plant density under W2 and W1. Therefore, (1) under limited water condition, yield loss could be compensated by increasing contribution rate of pre-anthesis storage material to grain with increasing plant density. (2) Meantime, under the same limited water condition, higher plant densities could promote nitrogen accumulation in grain and plant of wheat, which was significantly correlation to wheat yield. (3) Considering water and nitrogen use efficiency, medium plant density (Dm) is recommended in wet years, high plant density (Dh) may be considered to increase wheat yield in dry years.


Plant density Water use efficiency Yield components Nitrogen use efficiency 



The authors thank Ao Zhang and Qin Huang for field sampling, Mengyu Liu and Baodi Dong for statistical analyses and the field crew of the Liujiazhuang Experimental Station for their technical and field assistance.


This study was funded by the National System of Modern Agriculture Industrial Technology Project (CARS-03-05), the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2017YFD0300909), the Scientific Research Project of Hebei Education Department (QN2019046), and the Hebei Province Natural Science Foundation for Youth (C2019204358).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dongxiao Li
    • 1
  • Di Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hongguang Wang
    • 1
  • Haoran Li
    • 1
  • Qin Fang
    • 1
  • Hongye Li
    • 1
  • Ruiqi Li
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.College of AgronomyKey Laboratory of Crop Growth Regulation of Hebei Province, Hebei Agricultural UniversityBaodingChina
  2. 2.Yangling Vocational & Technical CollegeYanglingChina

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