Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 112, Issue 1, pp 75–86 | Cite as

Nitrogen use efficiency in different rice-based rotations in southern China

  • Anyong Hu
  • Tongtong Tang
  • Qin LiuEmail author
Original Article


Experiments in fields and micro-plots were conducted to investigate the optimal cropping system and nitrogen (N) fertilizer application rate and timing. The treatments consisted of Chinese milk vetch–rice (CMV–R) rotation with five N fertilizer application rates (0, 120, 180, 240, 300 kg N ha−1) during the rice-growing season, and fallow–rice (F–R) and wheat–rice (W–R) rotations with only one N application rate (240 kg N ha−1) each. Rice yield increased with increasing N fertilizer application rate under CMV–R rotation, and achieved highest yield under CMV–R180. There is a decreasing trend when N application rate exceeded 180 kg N ha−1. Rice yield was always higher under CMV–R240 compared to W–R240 and F–R240. During the 2012 rice season, the fertilizer N-use efficiency, residual N fertilizer in soil and N fertilizer recovery efficiency of CMV–R180 reached largest under CMV–R rotation with different N treatments. Furthermore, the fertilizer N-use and recovery efficiencies of CMV–R240 and F–R240 were far higher than those of W–R240. In 2013, fertilizer N-use efficiency was the highest (> 50%) at the heading stage, which was nearly twice as much as the efficiencies during the basal and tillering stages. The N fertilizer loss rate during the basal stage was significantly higher than that at the tillering and heading stages, which was up to 60%. CMV–R rotation with 180 kg N ha−1 achieved the highest rice yield of 9454 kg ha−1 and high fertilizer N-use efficiency (40.6%) under a relatively lower N application rate. Therefore, Chinese milk vetch–rice cropping system could be a promising approach for decreasing fertilizer inputs to prevent N pollution problems and increasing rice yield, especially for the intensive rice-based cropping systems in southern China.


Chinese milk vetch–rice rotation N application rate N-use efficiency Rice yield 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41271208), and the Key Projects in the National Science and Technology Pillar Program during the Twelfth Five-year Plan Period (2013BAD11B00). Financial support also came from the Special Fund for Agro-scientific Research in the Public Interest of China (201203030).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Cui ZL, Dou ZX, Chen XP, Ju XT, Zhang FS (2014) Managing agricultural nutrients for food security in China: past, present, and future. Agron J 106:191–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Dabney SM, Delgado JA, Reeves DW (2001) Using winter cover crops to improve soil and water quality. Commun Soil Sci Plan 32:1221–1250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dalal RC, Allen DE, Wang WJ, Reeves S, Gibson I (2011) Organic carbon and total nitrogen stocks in a Vertisol following 40 years of no-tillage, crop residue retention and nitrogen fertilisation. Soil Tillage Res 112:133–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. De Datta SK, Buresh RJ (1989) Integrated nitrogen management in irrigated rice. Adv Soil Sci 10:143–169Google Scholar
  5. Delin S, Nyberg A, Lindén B, Ferm M, Torstensson G, Lerenius C, Gruvaeus I (2008) Impact of crop protection on nitrogen utilisation and losses in winter wheat production. Eur J Agron 28:361–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ding YF, Liu SH, Wang SH, Wang CS, Huang PS, Ling QH (2004) Effects of amount of basic and tillering nitrogen applied on absorption and utilization of nitrogen in rice. Acta Agron Sin 30:762–767 (in Chinese) Google Scholar
  7. Douglas CL, King KA, Zuzel JF (1998) Nitrogen and phosphorus in surface runoff and sediment from a wheat–pea rotation in Northeastern Oregon. J Environ Qual 27:1170–1177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fageria NK, Baligar VC (2005) Enhancing nitrogen use efficiency in crop plants. Adv Agron 88:97–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fageria NK, Slaton NA, Baligar VC (2003) Nutrient management for improving lowland rice productivity and sustainability. Adv Agron 80:63–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fageria NK, Baligar VC, Bailey BA (2005) Role of cover crops in improving soil and row crop productivity. Commun Soil Sci Plan 36:2733–2757CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ghaley BB (2012) Uptake and utilization of 5-split nitrogen topdressing in an improved and a traditional rice cultivar in the Bhutan Highlands. Exp Agric 48:536–550CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Guo JH, Liu XJ, Zhang Y, Shen JL, Han WX, Zhang WF, Christie P, Goulding KWT, Vitousek PM, Zhang FS (2010) Significant acidification in major Chinese croplands. Science 327:1008–1010CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Ibewiro B, Sanginga N, Vanlauwe B, Merckx R (2000) Transformations and recovery of residue and fertilizer nitrogen-15 in a sandy Lixisol of West Africa. Biol Fertil Soils 31:261–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. IUSS Working Group WRB (2007) World reference base for soil resources 2006, first update 2007. World soil resources reports no. 103. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  15. Jiang LG, Cao WX (2001) Physiological mechanism and approaches for efficient nitrogen utilization in rice. Chin J Rice Sci 16:261–264 (in Chinese) Google Scholar
  16. Jing Q, Bouman B, van Keulen H, Hengsdijk H, Cao WX, Dai TB (2008) Disentangling the effect of environmental factors on yield and nitrogen uptake of irrigated rice in Asia. Agric Syst 98:177–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kim SY, Gutierrez J, Kim PJ (2012) Considering winter cover crop selection as green manure to control methane emission during rice cultivation in paddy soil. Agric Ecosyst Environ 161:130–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ladha JK, Chakraborty D (2016) Nitrogen and cereal production: opportunities for enhanced efficiency and reduced N losses. In: Proceedings of the 2016 international nitrogen initiative conference, solutions to improve nitrogen use efficiency for the world, 4–8 December 2016, Melbourne, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  19. Ling Q, Zhang H, Ding Y, Dai Q, Ling L, Wang S, Yang J, Zhu Q, Su Z (2007) Theory and technology of precise and quantitative cultivation in rice. China Agricultural Press, Beijing (in Chinese) Google Scholar
  20. Liu EK, Yan CR, Mei XR, He WQ, Bing SH, Ding LP, Liu Q, Liu S, Fan TL (2010) Long-term effect of chemical fertilizer, straw, and manure on soil chemical and biological properties in northwest China. Geoderma 158:173–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Liu CA, Li FR, Zhou LM, Zhang RH, Lin SL, Wang LJ, Siddique KHM, Li FM (2013a) Effect of organic manure and fertilizer on soil water and crop yields in newly-built terraces with loess soils in a semi-arid environment. Agric Water Manag 117:123–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Liu XJ, Zhang Y, Han WX, Tang AH, Shen JL, Cui ZL, Vitousek P, Erisman JW, Goulding K, Christie P, Fangmeier A, Zhang FS (2013b) Enhanced nitrogen deposition over China. Nature 494:459–462CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Mazzoncini M, Sapkota TB, Bàrberi P, Antichi D, Risaliti R (2011) Long-term effect of tillage, nitrogen fertilization and cover crops on soil organic carbon and total nitrogen content. Soil Tillage Res 114:165–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Min J, Shi WM, Xing GX, Powlson D, Zhu ZL (2012) Nitrous oxide emissions from vegetables grown in a polytunnel treated with high rates of applied nitrogen fertilizers in Southern China. Soil Use Manag 28:70–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mohammed YA, Kelly J, Chim BK, Rutto E, Waldschmidt K, Mullock J, Torres G, Desta KG, Raun W (2013) Nitrogen fertilizer management for improved grain quality and yield in winter wheat in Oklahoma. J Plant Nutr 36:749–761CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Motior MR, Amano T, Inoue H, Matsumoto Y, Shiraiwa T (2011) Nitrogen uptake and recovery from N fertilizer and legume crops in wetland rice measured by 15N and non-isotope techniques. J Plant Nutr 34:402–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Muthayya S, Sugimoto JD, Montgomery S, Maberly GF (2014) An overview of global rice production, supply, trade, and consumption. Ann NY Acad Sci 1324:7–14CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Nishio T, Oka N (2003) Effect of organic matter application on the fate of 15N-labeled ammonium fertilizer in an upland soil. Soil Sci Plant Nutr 49:397–403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Qiao J, Yang LZ, Yan TM, Xue F, Zhao D (2013) Rice dry matter and nitrogen accumulation, soil mineral N around root and N leaching, with increasing application rates of fertilizer. Eur J Agron 49:93–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rahman MM, Amano T, Shiraiwa T (2009) Nitrogen use efficiency and recovery from N fertilizer under rice-based cropping systems. Aust J Crop Sci 3:336–351Google Scholar
  31. Shafi M, Bakht J, Jan MT, Shah Z (2007) Soil C and N dynamics and maize (Zea may L.) yield as affected by cropping systems and residue management in North-western Pakistan. Soil Tillage Res 94:520–529CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Shang QY, Gao CM, Yang XX, Wu PP, Ling N, Shen QR, Guo SW (2014) Ammonia volatilization in Chinese double rice-cropping systems: a 3-year field measurement in long-term fertilizer experiments. Biol Fertil Soils 50:715–725CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Stevens WB, Hoeft RG, Mulvaney RL (2005) Fate of nitrogen-15 in a long-term nitrogen rate study. Agron J 97:1046–1053CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Tian YH, Yin B, He FY, Zhu ZL (2009) Recovery by crop and loss of nitrogen fertilizer applied in rice season in Taihu Lake region. Plant Nutr Fertil Sci 15:55–61 (in Chinese) Google Scholar
  35. Vlek PLG, Byrnes BH (1986) The efficacy and loss of fertilizer N in lowland rice. Fertil Res 9:131–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Xie ZJ, He YQ, Tu SX, Xu CX, Liu GR, Wang HM, Cao WD, Liu H (2017) Chinese milk vetch improves plant growth, development and 15 N recovery in the rice-based rotation system of South China. Sci Rep 7:3577CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. Xing GX, Zhu ZL (2000) An assessment of N loss from agricultural fields to the environment in China. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 57:67–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Yu YL, Xue HL, Yang LZ (2014) Winter legumes in rice crop rotations reduces nitrogen loss, and improves rice yield and soil nitrogen supply. Agron Sustain Dev 34:633–640CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Zentner RP, Campbell CA, Selles F, Jefferson PG, Lemke R (2006) Effect of fallow frequency, flexible rotations, legume green manure, and wheat class on the economics of wheat production in the Brown soil zone. Can J Plant Sci 86:413–423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Zhang YP, Zhu DF, Lin XQ, Jiao GA, Huang Q (2003) Roots distribution of rice in field and its relation to soil bulk density. Chin J Rice Sci 17:141–144 (in Chinese) Google Scholar
  41. Zhang FS, Cui ZL, Fan MS, Zhang WF, Chen XP, Jiang RF (2011) Integrated soil–crop system management: reducing environmental risk while increasing crop productivity and improving nutrient use efficiency in China. J Environ Qual 40:1051–1057CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Zhang ZJ, Chu G, Liu LJ, Wang ZQ, Wang XM, Zhang H, Yang JC, Zhang JH (2013) Mid-season nitrogen application strategies for rice varieties differing in panicle size. Field Crop Res 150:9–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Zhao X, Zhou Y, Wang SQ, Xing GX, Shi WM, Xu RK, Zhu ZL (2012) Nitrogen balance in a highly fertilized rice–wheat double-cropping system in southern China. Soil Sci Soc Am J 76:1068–1078CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Zhao X, Wang SQ, Xing GX (2015) Maintaining rice yield and reducing N pollution by substituting winter legume for wheat in a heavily-fertilized rice-based cropping system of southeast China. Agric Ecosyst Environ 202:79–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Zhu ZL (2008) Research on soil nitrogen in China. Acta Pedol Sin 45:778–783 (in Chinese) Google Scholar
  46. Zhu B, Yi LX, Guo LM, Chen G, Hu YG, Tang HM, Xiao CF, Xiao XP, Yang GL, Acharya SN, Zeng ZH (2012) Performance of two winter cover crops and their impacts on soil properties and two subsequent rice crops in Dongting Lake Plain, Hunan, China. Soil Tillage Res 124:95–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Soil ScienceChinese Academy of SciencesNanjingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations