Systems approaches can help to evaluate and improve the agronomic and economic viability of nitrogen application in the frequently water-limited environments. This requires a sound understanding of crop physiological processes and well tested simulation models. Thus, this experiment on spring wheat aimed to better quantify water x nitrogen effects on wheat by deriving some key crop physiological parameters that have proven useful in simulating crop growth. For spring wheat grown in Northern Australia under four levels of nitrogen (0 to 360 kg N ha−1) and either entirely on stored soil moisture or under full irrigation, kernel yields ranged from 343 to 719 g m−2. Yield increases were strongly associated with increases in kernel number (9150-19950 kernels m−2), indicating the sensitivity of this parameter to water and N availability. Total water extraction under a rain shelter was 240 mm with a maximum extraction depth of 1.5 m. A substantial amount of mineral nitrogen available deep in the profile (below 0.9 m) was taken up by the crop. This was the source of nitrogen uptake observed after anthesis. Under dry conditions this late uptake accounted for approximately 50% of total nitrogen uptake and resulted in high (>2%) kernel nitrogen percentages even when no nitrogen was applied. Anthesis LAI values under sub-optimal water supply were reduced by 63% and under sub-optimal nitrogen supply by 50%. Radiation use efficiency (RUE) based on total incident short-wave radiation was 1.34 g MJ−1 and did not differ among treatments. The conservative nature of RUE was the result of the crop reducing leaf area rather than leaf nitrogen content (which would have affected photosynthetic activity) under these moderate levels of nitrogen limitation. The transpiration efficiency coefficient was also conservative and averaged 4.7 Pa in the dry treatments. Kernel nitrogen percentage varied from 2.08 to 2.42%. The study provides a data set and a basis to consider ways to improve simulation capabilities of water and nitrogen effects on spring wheat.