Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 115, Issue 1, pp 117–136 | Cite as

Modeling crop yield and nitrogen use efficiency in wheat and maize production systems under future climate change

  • Shuo Liang
  • Xubo ZhangEmail author
  • Nan SunEmail author
  • Yuefen Li
  • Minggang Xu
  • Lianhai Wu
Original Article


In the face of global climate change, changes in nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) have not been widely considered to affect agricultural productivity. A modeling study was conducted to assess the impacts of future climates on crop yields and NUE in two wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and maize (Zea mays L.) rotation systems and one continuous maize system in northern China. Specifically, the process-based SPACSYS model was used to predict crop yields and NUE by 2100, under four climate scenarios (Baseline, RCP2.6, RCP4.5 and RCP8.5). The model was validated using data from three long-term experiments, each of which included four fertilization practices typical of the regions: non-fertilizer, combined mineral N, phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) (NPK), NPK plus manure and NPK plus straw. Validation showed SPACSYS well-simulated crop yields and N uptake (R2: 0.41–0.96; RMSE: 6–18%; and EF: 0.41–0.93). Under future climate change, the model predicted changes in maize yield by − 30.69% and 5.98% in northwestern and northeastern China, respectively, and wheat yield by − 16.37% in northwestern China. Future climates would cause greater NUE reductions in the northwest (wheat: 42.79%; maize: 33.73%) than in the northeast (maize: 3.97%) with smaller decreases in crop N uptake and N loss. Furthermore, manure application had higher crop NUEs (wheat: 6.66–31.27%; maize: 23.82–68.19%) and N uptakes than other treatments under future climate change. The results demonstrated the risks of future climate changes on crop yield and NUE in the study regions and can also help target fertilization practices for effectively mitigating climate change.


Climate change Yield Nitrogen use efficiency SPACSYS Crop rotation Northeastern and northwestern China 



This study was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2017YFC0503805), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41701333, 41620104006) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Non-profit National Research Institute (Y2017LM06). LW was supported by BBSRSC core funding via Grants BBS/E/C/000I0320 and BBS/E/C/000I0330.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 689 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 34 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Institute of Agricultural Resources and Regional PlanningChinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences/National Engineering Laboratory for Improving Quality of Arable LandBeijingChina
  3. 3.College of Earth SciencesJilin UniversityChangchunChina
  4. 4.Sustainable Agriculture SystemsRothamsted ResearchNorth Wyke, OkehamptonUK

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