Field experiments were conducted over two growing seasons to investigate the effects of variations in water regime and planting pattern on the growth of rice plant roots and shoots and on yield. Four water regimes were evaluated with split plot design: intermittent flooding during the vegetative stage only (IF-V); intermittent flooding extending into the reproductive stage (IF-R); not flooded (NF); and continuously flooded (CF), interacting with three different planting patterns: single seedling per hill with wider 3 o- 3 cm spacing (P1); single seedling per hill with closer 2 o- 2 cm spacing (P2); and three to four seedlings per hill with 2 o- 2 cm spacing (P3). The treatment combination CF/P3 corresponds most closely with current conventional practice. The other combinations were evaluated to contribute to a better understanding of the effects of the two parameters studied, respectively and together. IF-V/P1 was considered as an approximation of System of Rice Intensification (SRI) practice. This study found that the combination of singly transplanted seedlings, both P1 and P2, with the IF-V water regime improved root length density, root physiological activity, and chlorophyll content of the upper and lower leaves, leading to higher grain yield compared with the other treatment combinations. With continuous flooding (CF), P2 gave 23 % more yield compared with the P3 planting pattern. Combining IF-V and P2 produced 32 % more grain yield compared with the CF/P3 treatment. These results showed a synergistic effect on grain yield from reduced intra-hill competition and IF-V water management. In these trials, there was no significant yield difference between the IF-V/P1 and CF/P3 treatments. Wider spacing improved the performance of individual hills when grown under IF-V water regimes, but tiller number per unit area remained a dominant determinant of yield. The yield reduction observed for CF/P1 compared with CF/P3 indicated that in more hypoxic CF soils, denser plant populations can produce more than sparser ones, whereas the latter benefit from more aerobic soil conditions. Intermittent irrigation during the vegetative growth stage and transplanting single seedlings/hill are major elements of SRI methodology. These findings contribute to an understanding of why SRI methods can produce the higher yields reported. A consideration of the effects of interaction between planting pattern and water regime shows the need to establish empirically the optimum values for these treatments according to varietal, soil and climatic characteristics for the greatest yield response.
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