Global dimming reduces incident global radiation but increases the fraction of diffuse radiation, and thus affects crop yields; however, the underlying mechanisms of such an effect have not been revealed. We hypothesized that crop source–sink imbalance of either carbon (C) or nitrogen (N) during grain filling is a key factor underlying the effect of global dimming on yields. We presented a practical framework to assess both C and N source–sink relationships, using data of biomass and N accumulation from periodical sampling conducted in field experiments for wheat and rice from 2013 to 2016. We found a fertilization effect of the increased diffuse radiation fraction under global dimming, which alleviated the negative impact of decreased global radiation on source supply and sink growth, but the source supply and sink growth were still decreased by dimming, for both C and N. In wheat, the C source supply decreased more than the C sink demand, and as a result, crops remobilized more pre-heading C reserves, in response to dimming. However, these responses were converse in rice, which presumably stemmed from the more increment in radiation use efficiency and the more limited sink size in rice than wheat. The global dimming affected source supply and sink growth of C more significantly than that of N. Therefore, yields in both crops were dependent more on the source–sink imbalance of C than that of N during grain filling. Our revealed source–sink relationships, and their differences and similarities between wheat and rice, provide a basis for designing strategies to alleviate the impact of global dimming on crop productivity.
- diffuse radiation fertilization effect
- global dimming
- source–sink relationship