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It is difficult to quantify the mechanism(s) responsible for competition-induced yield loss using traditional experimental techniques. A technique using yield and 13C discrimination (Δ) for wheat, a C3 plant, has been developed to separate total yield loss (TYL) into yield loss due to N (YLNS) and water (YLWS) stresses. The objective of this research was to determine whether the Δ approach could be used in corn, a C4 plant, to separate TYL into YLNS and yield loss due to a combination of water and light stresses (YLWLS). The field study had a factorial design using five corn densities and five N rates and was conducted in western Nebraska in 1999 and 2000. Relationships for YLNS and YLWLS with TYL were derived from only a portion of the yield and Δ data collected in 1999 and validated based on the remaining data collected in 1999 and 2000. In 1999, 20 to 40% of TYL was due to YLWLS, whereas in 2000, a dry year, YLWLS accounted for 60 to 80% of the TYL. Results from using the Δ-based approach were consistent with analysis of variance results. For example, calculated YLWLS values were related to measured YLWLS by the equation: calculated YLWLS = 19 + 0.91 (measured YLWLS) (r 2 = 0.95; P < 0.01). The Δ approach, based on a plant's physiological response to the environment, can be used to separate and quantify competition-induced YLNS and YLWLS in corn.
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