In order to investigate the response of maize photosynthetic characteristics and yield to water deficit and plastic-mulching in grain filling stage in arid areas of northwest China, a field experiment was conducted in Shiyanghe Basin Agriculture and Ecological Water-saving Experimental Station of China Agricultural University in 2017. Two plastic-mulching conditions(mulching M1 and non-mulching M0)and five irrigation levels(W1 to W5)for 10 treatments in total were designed for the experiment. The results showed that the stomatal restriction was the main reason for the decrease of photosynthetic rate in W1 and W2 treatments. In W3 treatments, the non-mulching treatments were dominated by non-stomatal restriction, while both stomatal and non-stomatal restrictions might exist simultaneously in the mulching treatments. In W4 and W5 treatments, the non-stomatal restriction was the main reason for the decrease of photosynthetic rate. The yield of maize in mulching treatments was significantly higher than that in non-mulching treatments. A mild water stress could improve the net photosynthetic rate and the yield of maize. In conclusion, under water deficit condition, mulching can increase the yield and harvest index(HI)of maize in arid areas of northwest China. Stomatal restriction is the main regulating factor in mild water deficit; in non-stomatal restriction, however, non-stomatal restriction becomes the major limiting factor in serious water deficit.
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