PLoS One. 2022 Nov 10;17(11):e0277547. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0277547. eCollection 2022.
The amount of solar radiation intercepted by the plant canopy drives crop plant photosynthesis and the formation and development of plant organs. Radiation-use efficiency (RUE) is an index used to quantify the relationship between solar radiation and biomass, and crop yield can be increased by increasing RUE. The main goals of this study were to initially investigate the effects of plant densities on the aboveground dry matter of corn, and subsequently examine the effects of plant densities on RUE and leaf area index (LAI), and the effects of LAI on RUE. Finally, we provide a comparative assessment of the approaches used to determine RUE. Analyses were conducted using growth and meteorological data obtained for two field corn varieties (TNG1 and TNG7) grown under four different plant density conditions in central Taiwan in 2017. The RUE values obtained in this study were primarily estimated from the slope of the linear relationship between aboveground dry matter measured at periodic harvests and the corresponding cumulative intercepted photosynthetically active radiation up to the time of harvest. TNG1 and TNG7 with a row spacing of 37.5 cm × 20 cm had the largest amounts of aboveground dry matter and highest RUE values of 4.41 and 4.55 g MJ-1, respectively. We established that the higher the plant density, the higher were the values obtained for RUE and LAI. We also compared the different methods of estimating RUE and make recommendations in this regard. Our findings in this study will enable farmers to gain information on the dynamics of crop yield variation at an early stage of growth, and also provide reference values that can be incorporated in future crop yield models.