Given that chilling injury, which involves late spring cold and early autumn freezing, significantly affects maize growth in middle-latitude cold areas, a highly efficient cultivation technique combining suitable planting date (PD) and mulched drip irrigation is being studied to guarantee maize production. A
[...] Read more.
Given that chilling injury, which involves late spring cold and early autumn freezing, significantly affects maize growth in middle-latitude cold areas, a highly efficient cultivation technique combining suitable planting date (PD) and mulched drip irrigation is being studied to guarantee maize production. A field experiment for medium-mature variety “Xianyu 335” was conducted in 2015 to 2016 in Chifeng, Inner Mongolia, China, to explore the effects of PD on the active accumulated temperature (AAT) distribution and maize growth under mulched drip irrigation. Based on the dates (around May 1) of late spring cold occurring in the area, four PDs were designed, namely, April 20 (MD1
), May 2–3 (MD2
), May 12 (MD3
), and May 22 (MD4
), and a non-film mulching treatment (NM-D2
) was added on the second PD. Results indicated that: (1) the warming effect of film mulching effectively compensated for the lack of heat during the early stages of maize growth. Compared with that in NM-D2
, the soil temperature under mulching in MD2
for the sowing–emergence and seedling stage increased by 14.3% and 7.6%, respectively, promoting maize emergence 4 days earlier and presenting 5.6% and 9.7% increases in emergence rate and grain yield, respectively; (2) the AAT reduction caused by PD delay was mainly observed in reproductive stage, which reached 96.6 °C for every 10 days of PD delay in this stage; (3) PD markedly affected maize growth process and yield, which were closely related to the chilling injury. The late spring cold slowed down the emergence or jointing for maize (under MD1
), but brought insignificant adverse effect on maize later growth and grain yield (16.1 and 15.9 Mg·ha−1
, respectively). While the maize in both MD3
treatments suffered from early autumn freezing damage at the anthesis–maturity stages, resulting in shortening in reproductive period by 4–8 days and decrease in grain yield by 11.4–17.3% compared with those in MD1
; and (4) taking the typical date (May 1) of late spring cold occurring as the starting point, the grain yield penalty reached 8.5% for every 10 days of PD delay; for every 100 °C of AAT decrease during reproductive stage, the grain yield decreased by 6.1%. The conclusions offer certain reference values for maize cultivation in the same latitude areas with similar ecological environments.