Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 96, Issue 1, pp 107–122 | Cite as

Separating nitrogen fertilizer and irrigation water application in an alternating furrow irrigation system for maize production

  • Kun Han
  • Chunju Zhou
  • Na Li
  • John P. Schmidt
  • Curtis J. Dell
  • Linquan Wang
Original Article


The efficient use of water and nitrogen represents a primary concern to agricultural production in Northwest China. A 2-year field experiment was conducted to assess the separation of nitrogen (N) fertilizer and irrigation water with alternating furrow irrigation (SNWAFI) in a maize (Zea mays L.) production system. Irrigation water use efficiency and nitrogen use efficiency with SNWAFI were generally greater than with conventional irrigation and fertilization (CIF). Response surfaces indicated that maximum maize yields were obtained with 238 kg urea-N ha−1 and 106 mm irrigation water in 2008 and 244 kg urea-N ha−1 and 95 mm of irrigation water in 2009. When the predicted yields were highest (6,384 and 6,549 kg ha−1), water use efficiency, N uptake, and N use efficiency were greater with SNWAFI than CIF. Conversely, soil NO3–N change during maize growing season decreased with SNWAFI compared CIF. With SNWAFI, optimizing irrigation water and N fertilizer rates can maximize yield, save irrigation water, and reduce N leaching.


Central composite rotatable design Alternating furrow irrigation Separating nitrogen fertilizer and irrigation water Irrigation water use efficiency Agronomic efficiency of fertilizer nitrogen 



This study was supported by the research grants from Chinese National Natural Science Fund (30571085, 2006), and by the program of innovation team (2010) of the Northwest A&F University, China. We specially thank Dr. Peter Kleinman in USDA-ARS for editing this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kun Han
    • 1
  • Chunju Zhou
    • 2
  • Na Li
    • 1
  • John P. Schmidt
    • 3
  • Curtis J. Dell
    • 4
  • Linquan Wang
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Resources and EnvironmentNorthwest Agriculture and Forestry UniversityYanglingChina
  2. 2.College of Life ScienceNorthwest Agriculture and Forestry UniversityYanglingChina
  3. 3.Champaign Research CenterDuPont PioneerIvesdaleUSA
  4. 4.Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit, Building 3702USDA-Agricultural Research ServiceUniversity ParkUSA

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