Drip irrigation combined with film mulching significantly improved water saving and agricultural efficiency in arid and semi-arid regions. However, the impact of various irrigation technical parameters under plastic film-mulched (PM) drip irrigation on water consumption and maize yield (Zea mays L.) for seed production is still unclear. Field experiments were conducted between 2016 and 2018 in Northwest China to investigate the effects of irrigation technical parameters (dripper discharge and irrigation interval) on biomass, grain yield, water, and nitrogen (N) use efficiency of the PM-maize for seed production. Four dripper discharges (1.38 L h−1, 2.0 L h−1, 2.5 L h−1, 3.0 L h−1) and five irrigation intervals (6 days, 8 days, 10 days, 12 days, 14 days) were selected. The normalized yield was used to analyze the effect of different treatments on the yield to eliminate the differences caused by uncontrollable factors, such as precipitation and temperature between different years. The results indicated a quadratic function among the final aboveground biomass, grain yield of maize for seed production, and irrigation intervals, with the highest value observed at 8 days irrigation interval. Both yield and nitrogen use efficiency measured as partial factor productivity of nitrogen (PFPN) decreased rapidly as the irrigation interval exceeded 10 days. When the irrigation interval increased from 10 to 14 days, the relative grain yield decreased between 6.5 and 16.0%, while the PFPN decreased between 1.1 and 99.2 kg kg−1. Crop evapotranspiration (ET) initially decreased and then increased as the irrigation interval increased. The water productivity (WPY-ET) was the highest at the irrigation interval of 8 days. The PFPN increased between 6.6 and 42.8 kg kg−1 at the dripper discharge of 3.0 L h−1 when compared with dripper discharge of 2.5 L h−1. The study showed an optimal dripper discharge–irrigation interval combination for maximizing water-resources utilization and yield increase. When biomass, grain yield, ET, and WPY-ET are considered simultaneously, the most suitable irrigation technical parameters of maize for seed production in Northwest China are the combination of 2.5 L h−1 and 8 days. Furthermore, a combination of 3.0 L h−1 and 8 days is more conducive to reducing fertilizer costs.
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We are extremely grateful to the anonymous reviewers and editors for their thoughtful suggestions and valuable comments, which are helpful in improving the manuscript. This research was financially supported by the Government Public Research Funds for Projects of the Ministry of Agriculture (201503125).
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Ma, S., Tong, L., Kang, S. et al. Optimal coupling combinations between dripper discharge and irrigation interval of maize for seed production under plastic film-mulched drip irrigation in an arid region. Irrig Sci (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00271-021-00739-x