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Plant Physiol. 1981 Nov;68(5):1180-5.

The effects of ear removal on senescence and metabolism of maize.

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  • 1Department of Agronomy, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois 61801.


Ears were removed from field grown maize (Zea mays L.) to determine the effects on senescence and metabolism and to clarify conflicting literature reports pertaining to these effects. Ears were removed at three days after anthesis and comparisons were made of changes in metabolism between eared and earless plants until grain of the eared plants matured as judged by black layer formation.The initial visual symptom following ear removal was the development of reddish colored leaves. As judged by leaf yellowing, the removal of ears not only initiated an earlier onset but enhanced the rate of senescence. With this exception, the visual patterns of senescence were similar for earless and eared plants. Other characteristics associated with ear removal were: (a) marked decrease in dry weight and reduced N accumulation by the whole plant; (b) progressive, parallel decreases in leaf reduced N, nitrate reductase activity, and chlorophyll; (c) increases in carbohydrate content of both the leaf and stalk and of reduced N in the stalk. These changes indicate that ear removal reduced photosynthesis and nitrate reduction by approximately equal proportions and that the stalk serves as an alternate sink for both carbohydrate and nitrogen.The remobilization of nitrogen from the leaf was not dependent on the presence of an ear. A logical reason for the more rapid loss of nitrogen from the leaf of the earless plants appears to be the cessation of nitrate uptake and/or flux of nitrate to the leaves.From these results and from related experiments we tentatively conclude that the loss of nitrogen from the leaf is a major cause of death of the intact maize plant.

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