Optimizing nitrogen rates for synergistically achieving high yield and high nitrogen use efficiency with low environmental risks in wheat production – Evidences from a long-term experiment in the North China Plain

Suya Hu, Bowen Qiao, Yuhao Yang, RM Rees, Wenhai Huang, Jun Zou, Li Zhang, Haoyu Zheng, Shouyang Liu, Shuaijie Shen, Fu Chen, Xiaogang Yin*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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    Abstract

    The optimization of nitrogen (N) fertilization has become an ever more important global challenge with the aim of achieving high crop yields and high N use efficiency (NUE) with low environmental risks. The North China Plain (NCP) is China's most important wheat (Triticum aestivum Linn.) production region, and a global hotspot for N fertilizer use. How much nitrogen can be saved compared to the farmers’ level that would not influence wheat yield, and lead to high NUE with low N surplus? It is still challenging as there are not enough evidences from the long-term experiments. Thus, continuous detailed observations from an ongoing long-term experiment in the NCP since 2010 with five N rates, namely 0 (N0), 60 (N60), 120 (N120), 180 (N180) and 240 (N240) kg N ha −1, were included in the study. Our results indicated that stable high wheat yield cannot be achieved without enough N inputs from the long-term, because of severely depleted N pool in the N0 and N60 treatments seriously influenced root growth and wheat development thus damaged wheat yield. Though highest wheat yield was obtained in the N240 treatment, the high N rate caused lowest NUE and largest N surplus with high soil mineral N (SMN) with the mean value of 143 kg N ha −1 at the 0–60 cm layer at harvest. Besides, both root weight density (RWD) and root length density (RLD) were much lower in the N240 treatment compared to that in the N180 treatment. Our integrative analyses clearly indicate that the optimal N application for achieving high yield, high NUE and low environmental risks in wheat production was 180 kg N ha −1 based on long-term observations. Our results should be beneficial for promoting sustainable wheat production in the NCP and similar regions with wheat-based double cropping over the world.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number126681
    JournalEuropean Journal of Agronomy
    Volume142
    Early online date8 Nov 2022
    DOIs
    Publication statusPrint publication - Jan 2023

    Keywords

    • wheat
    • yield
    • Roots
    • N surplus
    • N use efficiency
    • Yield
    • Wheat
    • Soil mineral nitrogen

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