The growth and yield of five highland varieties of tropical maize were studied. Grain yields were between 4·7 and 8·8 t/ha. Crop growth rates (C) increased to a maximum of between 25 and 35 g/m2/day at silking and then declined. Grain growth rates (maximum 21 g/m2/day) exceeded current C during most of the grain-filling period.
After silking, when C exceeded grain growth rate, dry matter accumulated in the stem and husk, resulting in an increase of from 200 to 600 g/m2. Later, as grain growth rate increased and exceeded current C, some of this accumulated material was incorporated into the grain, and stem weight decreased. A comparison of the dry weight changes after flowering in these varieties with those reported for a hybrid that yielded 12 t grain/ha indicates that the smaller yield of the Mexican varieties was associated with smaller grain growth rates and the incorporation into the grain of a smaller fraction of the dry weight produced after flowering. These results suggest that the capacity of the grain ‘sink’ to utilize assimilates limited yields in the tropical varieties.