Experiments are described which analyse the effects of date of sowing and of a black petroleum soil mulch on the growth of two maize hybrids. The two hybrids used were Anjou 210, which is late maturing in S.E. England, and Kelvedon 75A, which is an early hybrid.
As sowing was delayed from mid-April until the end of May, so there was a greater development of vegetative tissue (mainly stem) and leaf area which reached peaks at a later stage after silking. In Anjou 210 early sowing led to higher grain yields (12%) as the production of peak vegetative weight near to the time of silking allowed dry matter produced after that stage, still at a time of high radiation, to move direct to the oars. Also, the remobilization of the secondary source of grain dry matter, namely previously stored photosynthate from the stem, occurred earlier with early sowing and to a greater extent when a longer grain-filling period was allowed.
The hybrid K 75A had a lower vegetative weight, and earlier silking coincided with higher levels of radiation, and the resultant increase in net assimilation rate led to a higher proportion of dry matter being partitioned into the ear. Because this hybrid flowered and senesced early, reserves of stem carbohydrate were low and the time available to transfer carbohydrate to the ear was short, resulting in lower yields than in the later maturing Anjou 210. K 75A also responded unexpectedly to the sowing treatments. Although late sowing gave higher grain yields in both hybrids up to 156 days after sowing, in the case of K 75 A, the early senescence curtailed the continuation of grain fill that would normally give early sowing an advantage and hence the late sown K 75 A produced 10 % more grain.
The application of a black petroleum mulch to the surface of the soil to raise soil temperature enhanced the benefits derived from early sowing. Plants given this treatment produced greater leaf areas and vegetative dry weights. As a result more carbohydrate was translocated from the stem during the grain-filling period, increasing grain yield by 13% following an increase in both number of grains and individual grain weight.