Precision nitrogen (N) management (PNM) strategies are urgently needed for the sustainability of rain-fed maize (Zea mays L.) production in Northeast China. The objective of this study was to develop an active canopy sensor (ACS)-based PNM strategy for rain-fed maize through improving in-season prediction of yield potential (YP 0 ), response index to side-dress N based on harvested yield (RI Harvest ), and side-dress N agronomic efficiency (AE NS ). Field experiments involving six N rate treatments and three planting densities were conducted in three growing seasons (2015-2017) in two different soil types. A hand-held GreenSeeker sensor was used at V8-9 growth stage to collect normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and ratio vegetation index (RVI). The results indicated that NDVI or RVI combined with relative plant height (NDVI*RH or RVI*RH) were more strongly related to YP0 (R 2 = 0.44-0.78) than only using NDVI or RVI (R 2 = 0.26-0.68). The improvedNfertilizer optimization algorithm (INFOA) using in-season predicted AENS optimized N rates better than the N fertilizer optimization algorithm (NFOA) using average constant AENS. The INFOA-based PNM strategies could increase marginal returns by 212 $ ha -1 and 70 $ ha -1 , reduce N surplus by 65% and 62%, and improve N use efficiency (NUE) by 4%-40% and 11%-65% compared with farmer's typical N management in the black and aeolian sandy soils, respectively. It is concluded that the ACS-based PNM strategies have the potential to significantly improve profitability and sustainability of maize production in Northeast China. More studies are needed to further improve N management strategies using more advanced sensing technologies and incorporating weather and soil information.
- Plant height
- Precision nitrogen management
- Soil type