Application of insect-proof nets in pesticide-free rice creates an altered microclimate and differential agronomic performance
Yang, G.; Guo, Z.; Ji, H.; Sheng, J.; Chen, L.; Zhao, Y.
Peerj 6: E6135
Insect-proof nets are commonly used in crop production and scientific research because of their environmental, economic, and agronomic benefits. However, insect-proof nets can unintentionally alter the microclimate inside the screenhouse and therefore greatly affect plant growth and yield. To examine the microclimate and agronomic performance of pesticide-free rice under insect-proof nets, two-year field experiments were carried out in 2011 and 2012. In the present study, the experiment was conducted by using a split-plot design considering the cultivation environment (open field cultivation (OFC) and insect-proof nets cultivation (IPNC)) as the main plot and the varieties as the subplot (Suxiangjing3 and Nanjing44). IPNC significantly reduced the air speed and solar radiation, and slightly increased the daytime soil temperature, daytime air temperature, and nighttime relative humidity. By contrast, the nighttime soil temperature, nighttime air temperature, and daytime relative humidity were relatively unaffected. The grain yield of both rice cultivars decreased significantly under IPNC, which was largely attributed to the reduced panicle number. The reduced panicle number was largely associated with the decreased maximum tiller number, which was positively correlated with the tillering rate, time of tillering onset, and tillering cessation for both rice cultivars under IPNC. In addition, dry matter accumulation significantly decreased for both rice cultivars under IPNC, which was mainly caused by the decreased leaf area duration resulting from the reduced leaf area index. By contrast, the mean net assimilation rate was relatively unaffected by IPNC. Insect-proof nets altered the microclimate in comparison with OFC by reducing the air speed and changing the radiation regime, which significantly affected dry matter production and yield of both japonica rice cultivars. Our results indicated that cultivation measures that could increase the tillering rate and the maximum tiller number under IPNC would lead to a significant increase in panicle number, ultimately increasing grain yield. In addition, maintaining a high leaf area duration by increasing the leaf area index would be important to compensate for the dry matter accumulation losses under IPNC. These findings are critical to provide a theoretical basis for improving agronomic performance of pesticide-free rice under IPNC.