Nitrogen nutrient index and leaf function affect rice yield and nitrogen efficiency

  • Jiuxin Guo
  • Songnan Yang
  • Limin Gao
  • Zhifeng Lu
  • Junjie Guo
  • Yuming Sun
  • Yali Kong
  • Ning Ling
  • Qirong Shen
  • Shiwei GuoEmail author
Regular Article



To investigate the ability of higher nitrogen (N) use efficiency (NUE) in rice production to achieve higher grain yields by optimal N management (OPT).


In 2012 and 2013, four field experiments were conducted in Liyang and Rugao counties, Jiangsu Province, China to investigate the ability of the N-nutrient index (NNI) to mediate the effects of N-free control (CK), farmers’ fertilizer practice (FFP), and OPT N management methods on grain yield and NUE through regulating the leaf functions of rice.


Compared with FFP, the average rice yield and NUE for OPT were increased, while the N rate was reduced. NNI showed a dynamic change that reached an optimal status in OPT at the harvest stage. N management had a remarkable effect on the leaf area index (LAI), with OPT mitigating the differences between leaf positions, such that basal leaf LAI was improved to compensate for the decreased LAI of the top three leaves. During the grain-filling process, the top three leaves exhibited higher net photosynthesis rate (Pn) and higher grain weights and shorter grain-filling periods of both superior and inferior spikelets in OPT. Based on the contribution of different organs to grain production from the heading to harvest stage, two strategies of yield formation were observed, in which OPT enhanced the dependence on the stems (stem, sheath, and other leaves), while FFP was more dependent on the top three leaves.


Our results indicate that optimizing N application improves NNI and leaf functions to increase rice yield and NUE.


Optimal nitrogen management Rice yield Nitrogen use efficiency Nitrogen nutrient index Leaf function Grain-filling 



The present study was financially supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2017YFD0200206), the Special Fund for Agriculture Profession of China (20150312205) and the National Basic Research Program of China (2013CB127403). The authors are grateful to Professor Dr. Yi Zhou in Anhui Science and Technology University for the very valuable comments and suggestions on the manuscript. Excellent technical support in the field experiment provided by the Institute of Agriculture Science Research of Rugao County and the Station of Comprehensive Agricultural Service in Nandu Town of Liyang County, Jiangsu Province, China.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Magnesium Institute, College of Resources and EnvironmentFujian Agriculture and Forestry UniversityFuzhouChina
  2. 2.Jiangsu Provincial Key Lab for Organic Waste Utilization, National Engineering Research Center for Organic-based Fertilizers, Jiangsu Collaborative Innovation Center for Solid Organic Waste Resource Utilization, College of Resources and Environmental SciencesNanjing Agricultural UniversityNanjingChina

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