Manipulating plant geometry to improve microclimate, grain yield, and harvest index in grain sorghum. Academic Article uri icon


  • Cultivar selection, planting geometry, and plant population are the key factors determining grain sorghum yields in water deficit areas. The objective of this study was to investigate whether clump geometry (three plants clustered) improves microclimate within crop canopy when plants are grown under varying water levels. In a 2-yr sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L. Moench) greenhouse study, plants were grown at two geometries (clump and conventional evenly spaced planting, ESP), two water levels (high and low, representing well-watered and water-limited condition, respectively), and three soil surface treatments (lid covered, straw-mulched, and bare). Air temperature and relative humidity (RH) within the plant canopy were measured every five minutes at different growth stages. Mean vapor pressure deficits (VPDs) within the clumps were consistently lower than those for ESPs, indicating that clumps improved the microclimate. Clumps had significantly higher harvest index (HI) compared to ESPs (0.48 vs. 0.43), which was largely due to clumps having an average of 0.4 tillers per plant compared to 1.2 tillers per plant for ESPs. Grain yield in the current study was similar between clumps and ESPs. However, our results suggest that improved microclimate was likely a reason for clumps producing significantly higher grain yields compared to ESPs in previous studies.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

altmetric score

  • 1.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Thapa, S., Stewart, B. A., Xue, Q., & Chen, Y.

citation count

  • 4

complete list of authors

  • Thapa, Sushil||Stewart, Bob A||Xue, Qingwu||Chen, Yuanquan

editor list (cited editors)

  • Aroca, R.

publication date

  • March 2017