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Plant density and crop productivity

THE CONCEPT OF COMPETITION Two plants, no matter how close, do not compete with each other so long as the growth resources are in excess of the needs of both. When the immediate supply of a single necessary factor falls below the combined demands of the plants competition begins. According to Donald (1963) competition occurs when each of two or more organisms seeks the measure it wants of any particular factor or thing and when the immediate supply of the factor or thing is below the combined demand of the organisms. Harper (1983) defined competition as the struggle between individuals within a population for available resources, when the level of resources is below the combined need of the members of the population.

light is available as a passing stream which must be intercepted by the leaves if it is not to be permanently lost to the plant. There is no store of light energy in the immediate environment of the plant. • The concept of a pool or store of material is not valid in the case of light. Instead. • In the case of nutrients.g Water. they will tend to share equally in the supply until it is exhausted and then simultaneously.1 THE NATURE OF COMPETITION • If all the plants in the community are nearly equal in competitive ability. an expression of the differing ability of plants to make use of the nutrients in different physical and chemical forms. the capacity to draw from the pool is in varying degree. to suffer the effect of depletion of the pool e. .

• Increasing the available space 10 times (100 to 1000 cm2) increased per plant yield 10 times (3.6 to 35.9 to 35.6 to 7.• 1.6).6). .4 or 17.2 MECHANISM OF PLANT POPULATION STRESS • Yield per plant is linearly correlated with available space. Increasing the available space per plant two times (100 to 200 or 500 to 1000 cm2) increased yield 2 times (3.


• Influence of light can be separated from that of soil by growing plants in pots of different depths and varying the distance between them.• The fact that grain yield per plant is proportional to available space is attributed by some authors to mutual shading (Papadakis 1970). The influence of depth is notorious (Papadakis 1954). . The fact that grain yield is proportional to available space explains why weeds reduce crop yields.

injurious to root growth. etc are added. As the dose increases. . resins.• Nutrients increase the yield when the soil is poor in fertility. • Plant roots fill the surrounding soil with substances. The theory explains why plants grown in solution have a stunted growth and they grow better when the solution is changed frequently or absorbing substances such as activated carbon. the incremental yield gradually decreases and may be negative at higher doses. The theory of injurious substances of the rhizosphere has been confirmed by Papadakis (1968).

PLANT POPULATION AND YIELD RELATIONSHIPS • Efficient interception of radiant energy incident to the crop surface requires adequate leaf area. to give complete ground cover. . Fig 1 Relationship between plant population and yield on four occasions (Hypothetical).2. This can be achieved by manipulating stand density and its distribution over the land surface. uniformly distributed.

that competition occurs early at high plant populations. • Two aspects of competition are important in determining the effects on yield: the amount (intensity) and the time of onset. competition may not occur at all and resources are not efficiently used. with most crop plants. At very low densities. It is desirable for him to define the relationships between plant population and crop yield quantitatively for advising the farmer on optimum plant population for realising maximum yield. • It is clear.• The agronomist is concerned with efficient use of resources by the crop. . Selection of plant population must avoid insufficient use of resources at low levels and excessive competition at high levels (Harper 1983).

Density-yield relationships Holliday (1960) suggested two density-yield relationships: parabolic and asymptotic. and a. b and c = regression constants . y = Yield per unit area. x = Plant population. The curve could be fitted by a quadratic equation: y=a+bx+cx2 where. PARABOLIC RELATIONSHIP The parabolic response curve is typically a flat-topped one with decrease in grain yield on both sides of an optimum (Fig 2).

yield rises to a maximum and then relatively constant at high densities.ASYMPTOTIC RELATIONSHIP When yield is the product of vegetative crop growth. The curve for biological yield can be defined by the expression for a rectangular hyperbole. with increase in density. . x = number of plants per unit area. the density-yield relationship is asymptotic. In an asymptotic relationship. Y = dry matter yield per unit area. A = the apparent maximum yield per plant. and b = the linear regression coefficient of the reciprocal of yield per plant and plant population. 1 y = Ax x --------------1 + Abx Where.

in general. . most components of yield of the individual plant. light. Other factors of growth such as temperature and humidity are not commodities in finite supply and hence are not the subject of competition. oxygen and carbon dioxide. The factors for which competition may occur among plants are nutrients. are reduced.3 CROP RESPONSES TO POPULATION CHANGES As plant density increases.

. the crop will continue to respond to higher levels of added nutrients. Conversely. so the density required to give maximum yield by annual crops increase. as plant density increases up to a certain limit.1 COMPETITION FOR NUTRIENTS There is sufficient evidence to derive the general principle that as fertility status is improved.3 COMPETITION FOR GROWTH RESOURCES 3.

Hence. so that the canopy as a whole intercepts maximum light. . Maximum light interception by the canopy can be achieved by improving the foliage pattern and increasing plant density. whilest light intensities in the field may reach 10000 foot-candles (Donald 1963). Increasing plant density: Light intensity required for maximum photosynthetic rate by individual leaf is about 15002000 foot-candles.3. but that in which the inter-plant and intraplant competition for light is reduced to a minimum. ). there is scope for increasing the plant population to increase the efficiency of plant canopy as a whole to utilise the available sunlight. Improving foliage pattern: An efficient plant type is the one with most leaves.2 COMPETITION FOR LIGHT Competition for light may occur whenever one plant casts a shadow on another or within a plant when one leaf shades another leaf.

have circular root distribution as against interpenetrated root growth at high densities. high densities are conducive for build up of pests and diseases. • With increasing density and competition for light. this self thinning will not reduce plant density to that giving highest grain yield.3. seedling mortality is common. However. usually. . • Widely spaced plants.4 EFFECT OF PLANT POPULATION ON CROP Plant densities influence crop growth considerably. • There will be marked increase in lodging at high plant densities. • High plant densities may decrease protein and oil content. • At very high plant densities. plant height may be markedly increased. and • In general.

Keeping the density constant.4. CROP GEOMETRY The way in which the crop plants are arranged (spatial arrangement or plant rectangularity) referred to as crop geometry. crop geometry can be manipulating inter and intra-row spacings. 1 SQUARE ARRANGEMENT 2 RECTANGULAR ARRANGEMENT in the field is usually total plant varied by .