Subsoil tillage loosens compacted soil for better plant growth, but promotes water loss, which is a concern in areas that are commonly irrigated. Therefore, our objective was to determine the physiological responses of high yield spring maize (Zea mays
L.) to subsoil tillage depth when grown in the Western plain irrigation area of Inner Mongolia, China. Our experiment during 2014 and 2015 used Zhengdan958 (Hybrid of Zheng58 × Chang7-2, produced by Henan academy of agricultural sciences of China, with the characteristics of tight plant type and high yield) and Xianyu335 (Hybrid of PH6WC × PH4CV, produced by Pioneer Corp of USA, with the characteristic of high yield and suitable of machine-harvesting) with three differing subsoil tillage depths (30, 40, or 50 cm) as the trial factor and shallow rotary tillage as a control. The results indicated that subsoil tillage increased shoot dry matter accumulation, leading to a greater shoot/root ratio. Subsoil tillage helped retain a greater leaf area index in each growth stage, increased the leaf area duration, net assimilation rate, and relative growth rate, and effectively delayed the aging of the blade. On average, compared with shallow rotary, the grain yields and water use efficiency increased by 0.7–8.9% and 1.93–18.49% in subsoil tillage treatment, respectively, resulting in the net income being increased by 2.24% to 6.97%. Additionally, the grain yield, water use efficiency, and net income were the highest under the treatment of a subsoil tillage depth of 50 cm. The results provided a theoretical basis for determining the suitable chiseling depth for high-yielding spring corn in the Western irrigation plains of Inner Mongolia.
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