Active canopy sensor (ACS)—based precision nitrogen (N) management (PNM) is a promising strategy to improve crop N use efficiency (NUE). The GreenSeeker (GS) sensor with two fixed bands has been applied to improve winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) N management in North China Plain (NCP). The Crop Circle (CC) ACS-470 active sensor is user configurable with three wavebands. The objective of this study was to develop a CC ACS-470 sensor-based PNM strategy for winter wheat in NCP and compare it with GS sensor-based N management strategy, soil Nmin test-based in-season N management strategy and conventional farmer’s practice. Four site-years of field N rate experiments were conducted from 2009 to 2013 to identify optimum CC vegetation indices for estimating early season winter wheat plant N uptake (PNU) and grain yield in Quzhou Experiment Station of China Agricultural University located in Hebei province of NCP. Another nine on-farm experiments were conducted at three different villages in Quzhou County in 2012/2013 to evaluate the performance of the developed N management strategy. The results indicated that the CC ACS-470 sensor could significantly improve estimation of early season PNU (R2 = 0.78) and grain yield (R2 = 0.62) of winter wheat over GS sensor (R2 = 0.60 and 0.33, respectively). All three in-season N management strategies achieved similar grain yield as compared with farmer’s practice. The three PNM strategies all significantly reduced N application rates and increased N partial factor productivity (PFP) by an average of 61–67 %. It is concluded that the CC sensor can improve estimation of early season winter wheat PNU and grain yield as compared to the GS sensor, but the PNM strategies based on these two sensors perform equally well for improving winter wheat NUE in NCP. More studies are needed to further develop and evaluate these active sensor-based PNM strategies under more diverse on-farm conditions.
- Crop Circle ACS 470 sensor
- GreenSeeker sensor
- In-season nitrogen management
- Nitrogen recommendation algorithm
- Nitrogen use efficiency
- Precision agriculture