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The field study was conducted in 2012 at the Changwu experimental station (35.28 ° N, 107.88 ° E, approximately 1,200 m above sea level) located in a typical dryland farming area on the Loess Plateau in northwestern China. The average annual precipitation in the area was 584 mm, with 466.4 mm and 307.9 mm falling between April and September (i.e., maize growth season) and between July and September (maize silking usually occurs in the middle of July), respectively. The rainfall during the spring maize growing season amounted to 480.8 mm in 2012, accounting for 91.5% of the annual precipitation. The annual average temperature is 9.7 °C, and the annual frost-free period is 171 days. The ground water table is at a depth of more than 50 m, making groundwater unavailable for plant growth. According to Chinese soil taxonomy, the soils at this site are Cumuli-Ustic Isohumosols (Gong et al. 2007) and contain 37% clay, 59% silt, and 4% sand with a pH of 8.4 and a bulk density of 1.3 g cm−3. The soil has gravimetric field water holding capacity of 20% ± 2 and gravimetric permanent wilting coefficient of 6% ± 2.

Table 1

Grain yield (Y) and crop WUE

Y (kg ha1)Biomass production (kg ha1)Harvest index (%)T (mm)ET (mm)WUET (g kg1)WUEET (g kg1)
7,088 ± 738 13,339 ± 1,356 48.2 ± 2.0 219.7 ± 6.2 414.5 ± 15.3 3.2 ± 0.1 1.7 ± 0.2 
Y (kg ha1)Biomass production (kg ha1)Harvest index (%)T (mm)ET (mm)WUET (g kg1)WUEET (g kg1)
7,088 ± 738 13,339 ± 1,356 48.2 ± 2.0 219.7 ± 6.2 414.5 ± 15.3 3.2 ± 0.1 1.7 ± 0.2 

Y (kg ha−1) means grain yield; T (mm) means transpiration; ET (mm) means evapotranspiration; WUET means grain weight in g divided by T in kg; WUEET means grain weight in g divided by ET in kg; values with different letters are significantly different at the 0.05 probability level.

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