Plant and Soil

, Volume 337, Issue 1–2, pp 325–339 | Cite as

Effects of irrigation and nitrogen application rates on nitrate nitrogen distribution and fertilizer nitrogen loss, wheat yield and nitrogen uptake on a recently reclaimed sandy farmland

  • Qi Wang
  • Fengrui Li
  • Lin Zhao
  • Enhe ZhangEmail author
  • Shangli Shi
  • Wenzhi Zhao
  • Weixin Song
  • Maureen M. Vance
Regular Article


Monitoring of drinking water has shown an increase in nitrate-nitrogen (NO 3 -N) concentration in groundwater in some areas of the Heihe River Basin, Northwest China. A combination of careful irrigation and nitrogen (N) management is needed to improve N uptake efficiency and to minimize fertilizer N loss. A 2-year experiment investigated the effects of different irrigation and N application rates on soil NO 3 -N distribution and fertilizer N loss, wheat grain yield and N uptake on recently reclaimed sandy farmland. The experiment followed a completely randomized split-plot design, taking flood irrigation (0.6, 0.8 and 1.0 of the estimated evapotranspiration) as main plot treatment and N-supply as split-plot treatment (with five levels of 0, 79, 140, 221, 300 kg N ha−1). Fertilizer N loss was calculated according to N balance equation. Our results showed that, under deficit irrigation conditions, N fertilizer application at a rate of 300 kg ha−1 promoted NO 3 -N concentration in 0–200 cm depth soil profiles, and treatments with 221 kg N ha−1 also increased soil NO 3 -N concentrations only in the surface layers. Fertilizer N rates of 70 and 140 kg ha−1 did not increase NO 3 -N concentration in the 0–200 cm soil profile remaining after the spring wheat growing season. The amount of residual NO 3 -N in soil profiles decreased with the amount of irrigation. Compared with N0, the increases of fertilizer N loss, in N79, N140, N221 and N300 respectively, were 59.9, 104.6, 143.5 and 210.6 kg ha−1 over 2 years. Under these experimental conditions, a N rate of 221 kg ha−1 obtained the highest values of grain yield (2775 kg ha−1), above-ground dry matter (5310 kg ha−1) and plant N uptake (103.8 kg ha−1) over 2 years. The results clearly showed that the relative high grain yield and irrigation water productivity, and relative low N loss were achieved with application of 221 kg N ha−1 and low irrigation, the recommendation should be for those farmers who use the upper range of the recommended 150–400 kg N ha−1, that they can save about 45% of their N and 40% of their irrigation water application.


Irrigation Nitrogen Nitrate nitrogen losses Grain yield Crop nitrogen uptake 



analysis of variance


above ground dry matter




grain yield

I0.6, I0.8 and I 1.0

irrigation treatment


irrigation water productivity



N0, N79, N140, N221 and N300

nitrogen application treatment


nitrogen use efficiency


partial fertilizer productivity


water-use efficiency


agronomic efficiency


nitrogen fertilizer recovery fraction



This research was supported by the National Science and Technology Support Plan of China (2007BAD89B17), National Modern Pasture Industry Technology Research System, the National Basic Research Program (973) of China (2009CB421302), CAS/SAFEA International Partnership Program for Creative Research Teams (CXTD-Z2005-2-4) and National Natural Science Foundation (31060178). We thank would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for many helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qi Wang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Fengrui Li
    • 2
  • Lin Zhao
    • 3
  • Enhe Zhang
    • 4
    Email author
  • Shangli Shi
    • 1
  • Wenzhi Zhao
    • 2
  • Weixin Song
    • 5
  • Maureen M. Vance
    • 6
  1. 1.College of Grassland ScienceGansu Agricultural UniversityLanzhouChina
  2. 2.Linze Inland River Basin Research Station, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research InstituteChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina
  3. 3.Cryosphere Research Station of Qinghai-Xizang Plateau, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research InstituteChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina
  4. 4.Agronomy CollegeGansu Agricultural UniversityLanzhouChina
  5. 5.College of ScienceGansu Agricultural UniversityLanzhouChina
  6. 6.The Adult Reading Assistance SchemeChristchurchNew Zealand

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