Nutrient management adaptation for dryland maize yields and water use efficiency to long-term rainfall variability in China

X.B. Wang, K. Dai, Y. Wang, X. Zhang, Q. Zhao, X. Wu, D. Cai, W.B. Hoogmoed, O. Oenema

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Rainfed crop production in northern China is constrained by low and variable rainfall, and by improper management practices. This study explored both the impact of long-term rainfall variability and the long-term effects of various combinations of maize stover, cattle manure and mineral fertiliser (NP) applications on maize (Zea mays L.) yields and water use efficiency (WUE) under reduced tillage practices, at Shouyang Dryland Farming Experimental Station in northern China from 1993 onwards. The experiment was set up according to an incomplete, optimal design, with 3 factors at five levels and 12 treatments including a control with two replications. Grain yields were greatly influenced by the amount of rain during the growing season, and by soil water at sowing. Annual mean grain yields ranged from 3 to 10 t ha-1 and treatment mean yields from 4.2 to 7.2 t ha-1. The WUE ranged from 40 in treatments with balanced nutrient inputs in dry (weather/or soil) years to 6.5 kg ha-1 mm-1 for the control treatments in wet years. The WUE averaged over the 15-year period ranged from 11 to 19 kg ha-1 mm-1. Balanced combination of stover (3000–6000 kg), manure (1500–6000 kg) and N fertiliser (105 kg) gave the highest yield and hence WUE. It is suggested that 100 kg N per ha should be a best choice, to be adapted according to availability of stover and manure. Possible management options under variable rainfall conditions to alleviate occurring moisture stress for crops must be tailored to the rainfall pattern. The potentials of split applications, targeted to the need of the growing crop (response nutrient management), should be explored to further improve grain yield and WUE.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1344-1350
JournalAgricultural Water Management
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • nitrogen losses
  • grain-yield
  • north china
  • fertilization
  • wheat
  • placement
  • tillage
  • systems
  • rice

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