Farm-scale practical strategies to increase nitrogen use efficiency and reduce nitrogen footprint in crop production across the North China Plain

Yuhao Yang, Jun Zou, Wenhai Huang, Kiril Manevski, Jørgen E Olesen, RM Rees, Suya Hu, Kurt Christian Kersebaum, Gaetan Louarn, Fabien Ferchaud, Jisheng Si, Schuping Xiong, Xinya Wen, Fu Chen, Xiaogang Yin*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)
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    Achieving a pathway for green development is a critically important challenge for agriculture in China and beyond. The current study evaluates the effects of a range of management interventions including planting, fertilizer nitrogen (N) rate optimization and increasing farm size to promote agricultural green development across the North China Plain (NCP) based on large-scale farm surveys. Our results showed that the mean annual N fertilizer rate for wheat-soybean rotation was much lower than that of wheat-maize and wheat-peanut. Interestingly, our study indicated strong pre-crop effects of summer soybean (Glycine max (Linn.) Merr.) on the following winter wheat (Triticum aestivum Linn.) in N saving compared to summer maize (Zea mays Linn.) and summer peanuts (Arachis hypogaea Linn.), the low N rate for summer soybean and its ‘legume’ carryover effects led to the low N rate, N surplus and N footprint, and high N use efficiency (NUE) in wheat-soybean. The survey results showed that the optimal N rates for achieving maximum yield of summer maize, summer peanuts and winter wheat were 229, 249 and 236–260 kg ha −1 across the NCP, respectively. Moreover, better N management is beneficial for reducing the N surplus and leads to higher NUE and lower N footprint. Generally, large farms applied less N fertilizer than small farms, thus leading to a lower N surplus and higher N partial factor productivity with the same yield level. Here we show for the first time that the combinations of crop rotation design, optimizing N rate application and increasing farm size are very efficient in reducing N fertilizer applications and the N footprint with stable crop yields. N management should play a more important role in agricultural green development across the NCP and similar regions around the world.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number108526
    JournalField Crops Research
    Early online date5 Apr 2022
    Publication statusPrint publication - 1 Jul 2022


    • nitrogen
    • Crop rotation
    • Nitrogen use efficiency
    • Crop rotations
    • Nitrogen surplus
    • Nitrogen footprint
    • North China Plain


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