In-season optical sensing improves nitrogen-use efficiency for winter wheat

F. Li, Y. Miao, F. Zhang, Z. Cui, R. Li, X. Chen, H. Zhang, J. Schroder, W. R. Raun, L. Jia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Optical sensor-based N management strategies are promising approaches to improve N-use efficiency (NUE) and reduce environmental pollution risk. The objective of this study was to evaluate an active optical sensor-based in-season N management strategy for winter wheat (Tritkum aestiυum L.) in the North China Plain (NCP). Initially, 10 field experiments were conducted at four villages in NCP in the 2004/05, 2005/06, and 2006/07 growing seasons to evaluate the in-season N requirement prediction developed by Oklahoma State University. Then the N application rates, winter wheat grain yield, NUE, economic returns, residual N content after harvest and apparent N loss were compared among three different management systems on a total of 16 farmer fields in 2005/2006 and 14 farmer fields in 2006/2007. The systems included a sensor-based system, a soil test-based approach crediting soil residual mineral N (Nmin) to different depth at different growth stages, and common farmer practices. Averaged across site-years, the sensor-based, soil Nmin-based N management strategies, and farmer practices produced similar grain yields but used 67, 88, and 372 kg N ha , respectively. Nitrogen-use efficiencies were 61.3, 51.0, and 13.1% for the three methods of N recommendations, correspondingly. Their residual N content in the soil and apparent N loss were 115, 122, and 208 kg N ha-1, and 4, 15, and 205 kg N ha-1, respectively. The optical sensor-based N management strategy is relatively easy to use, has better potential to improve NUE and economic returns, and reduces residual soil N content and apparent N loss than other methods currently used in the NCP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1566-1574
Number of pages9
JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • CK, Check
  • Con, Conventional N fertilization
  • GDD, Growth degree days
  • INSEY, In-season estimated yield
  • N , Soil residual mineral N
  • NCP, North China plain
  • NDVI, Normalized difference vegetation index
  • NUE, Nitrogen use efficiency
  • Opt, optimized N fertilization
  • PNG, Predicted grain N uptake without additional N
  • PNG, Predicted non-N limiting grain N uptake
  • RI, Response index
  • YPN, Non-N limiting yield potential
  • YPO, Yield potential without additional N


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