Developing active canopy sensor-based precision nitrogen management strategies for maize in Northeast China

Xinbing Wang, Yuxin Miao, Rui Dong, Zhichao Chen, Yanjie Guan, Xuezhi Yue, Zheng Fang, David J. Mulla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


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 (YP0), response index to side-dress N based on harvested yield (RIHarvest), and side-dress N agronomic efficiency (AENS). 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 (R2 = 0.44-0.78) than only using NDVI or RVI (R2 = 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number706
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 29 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: The research was funded by the National Basic Research Program (2015CB150405), National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016 YFD0200600, 2016YFD0200602), the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/P004555/1) and Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SINOGRAIN II, CHN-17/0019).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors.


  • Plant height
  • Precision nitrogen management
  • Profitability
  • Soil type
  • Sustainability


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