Skip to main content

2017, DOI: 10.1016/j.agee.2016.11.008

Simulated heat waves during maize reproductive stages alter reproductive growth but have no lasting effect when applied during vegetative stages

Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment

Matthew H. Siebers, Rebecca A. Slattery, Craig R. Yendrek, Anna M. Locke, David Drag, Elizabeth A. Ainsworth, Carl J. Bernacchi, and Donald R. Ort


Due to climate change, heat waves are predicted to become more frequent and severe. While long-term studies on temperature stress have been conducted on important crops such as maize (Zea mays), the immediate or long-term effects of short duration but extreme high temperature events during key developmental periods on physiological and yield parameters are unknown. Therefore, heat waves were applied to field-grown maize in east central Illinois using infrared heating technology. The heat waves warmed the canopy approximately 6 °C above ambient canopy temperatures for three consecutive days during vegetative development (Wv1) and during an early reproductive stage (silking; Wv2). Neither treatment affected aboveground vegetative biomass, and Wv1 did not significantly reduce reproductive biomass. However, Wv2 significantly reduced total reproductive biomass by 16% (p < 0.1) due to significant reductions in cob length (p < 0.1), cob mass (p < 0.05), and husk mass (p < 0.05). Although not statistically significant, seed yield was also reduced by 13% (p = 0.15) and kernel number by 10% (p = 0.16) in the Wv2 treatment. Soil water status was unaffected in both treatments, and leaf water potential and midday photosynthesis were only transiently reduced by heating with complete recovery after the treatment period. Therefore, the reduction in Wv2 reproductive biomass was most likely due to greater sensitivity of reproductive structures to direct effects of high temperature stress.

Go to original publication Download PDF

The Ort Lab is supported by many public and private partnerships, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, the UK Government's Department for International Development, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

Privacy Policy | Contact Us