This paper studied the fertilizer rate (FR), fertilizer use efficiency (FUE) and fertilizer overuse rate (FOR) of rice, corn and wheat in China from 1998 to 2018 and briefly analysed the reasons why farmers were willing to apply more fertilizers. (1) The FR of grain in China reached 373.7 kg/ha in 2018, an increase of 26.8% compared to that in 1998. In 2018, the FR for corn was the highest, at 411.2 kg/ha, compared to the values of 338.3 kg/ha for rice and 371.7 kg/ha for wheat. (2) In recent years, the FUE of grain in China has obviously improved, with values of 32.9% in 1998, 36.7% in 2008, and 39.3% in 2018. In 2018, the FUE for rice was the highest (41.2%), followed by that for corn (39.9%), and the FUE for wheat was the lowest (36.0%). (3) By 2018, fertilizer was overused in all zones of rice, corn and wheat. In 2018, the average FOR for wheat reached 69.0%, which was 35.9% higher than that for corn and 42.8% higher than that for rice. (4) The lower price of chemical fertilizers was the main reason leading to overapplication. (5) Establishing market mechanisms and adjusting regional planting structures can be effective in reducing the application of chemical fertilizers.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bai X, Wang Y, Huo X et al., 2019. Assessing fertilizer use efficiency and its determinants for apple production in China. Ecological Indicators, 104: 268–278.
Bouwman A F, Beusen A H W, Lassaletta L et al., 2017. Lessons from temporal and spatial patterns in global use of N and P fertilizer on cropland. Scientific Reports, 7(1): 1–11.
Chen C, Pan J J, Shu K L et al., 2014. A review of precision fertilization research. Environmental Earth Sciences, 71(9): 4073–4080.
Chen T, Zeng X, Hu Q, 2002. Utilization efficiency of chemical fertilizers among different counties in China. Acta Geographica Sinica, 57(5): 531–538. (in Chinese)
Chen X, Ma L, Ma W, 2018. What has caused the use of fertilizers to skyrocket in China? Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems, 110(2): 241–255.
Cui Z, Chen X, Zhang F, 2010. Current nitrogen management status and measures to improve the intensive wheat-maize system in China. Ambio, 39(5/6): 376–384.
Dai H, Sun T, Zhang K et al., 2015. Research on rural nonpoint source pollution in the process of urban-rural integration in the economically-developed area in China based on the improved STIRPAT model. Sustainability, 7(1): 782–793. https://doi.org/10.3390/su7010782.
Dhillon J, Torres G, Driver E et al., 2017. World phosphorus use efficiency in cereal crops. Agronomy Journal, 109(4): 1670–1677.
Drechsel P, Heffer P, Magen H et al., 2015. Managing water and fertilizer for sustainable agricultural intensification. International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI), and International Potash Institute (IPI). Paris, France.
Fixen P, Brentrup F, Bruulsema T et al., 2015. Nutrient/fertilizer use efficiency: Measurement, current situation and trends. In: International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI), and International Potash Institute (IPI). Managing Water and Fertilizer for Sustainable Agricultural Intensification. Paris, Chapter 2, 8–38.
He R, Shao C F, Shi R G, et al., 2020. Development trend and driving factors of agricultural chemical fertilizer efficiency in China. Sustainability, 12(11): 4607. doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/su12114607.
Huang J K, Hu R, Cao J et al., 2008. Training programs and in-the-field guidance to reduce China’s overuse of fertilizer without hurting profitability. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 63(5): 165–167.
Huang W, Jiang L, 2019. Efficiency performance of fertilizer use in arable agricultural production in China. China Agricultural Economic Review, 11(1): 52–69.
Jiang J Y, Jiang S, Xu J, 2020. Lowering nitrogen inputs and optimizing fertilizer types can reduce direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions from rice-wheat rotation systems. European Journal of Soil Biology, 97: doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejsobi.2020.103152.
Kusano E, Yin C, Chien H, 2019. Fertilizer-use efficiency of farmers using manure in Liaozhong County, China. Jarq-Japan Agricultural Research Quarterly, 53(2): 127–133.
Lassaletta L, Billen G, Grizzetti B et al., 2014. 50 year trends in nitrogen use efficiency of world cropping systems: The relationship between yield and nitrogen input to cropland. Environmental Research Letters, 9(10): doi: https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/9/10/105011.
Li J, Li S, Liu Y, 2009. Effects of increased ammonia on root/shoot ratio, grain yield and nitrogen use efficiency of two wheat varieties with various N supply. Plant Soil and Environment, 55(7): 273–280.
Li W, Ou Q, Chen Y, 2014. Decomposition of China’s CO2 emissions from agriculture utilizing an improved Kaya identity. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 21(22): 13000–13006.
Li Y, Zhang W, Ma L et al., 2013. An analysis of China’s fertilizer policies: Impacts on the industry, food security, and the environment. Journal of Environmental Quality, 42(4): 972–981.
Li Z, Wang X, Wei J et al., 2010. Life cycle assessment of fertilization in corn production in different regions of China. Acta Scientiae Circumstantiae, 30(9): 1912–1920. (in Chinese)
Liu X, Wang H, Zhou J et al., 2016. Effect of N fertilization pattern on rice yield, N use efficiency and fertilizer-N fate in the Yangtze River Basin, China. Plos One, 11(11). doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0166002.
Long X L, Luo Y S, Sun H P et al., 2018. Fertilizer using intensity and environmental efficiency for China’s agriculture sector from 1997 to 2014. Natural Hazards, 92(3): 1573–1591.
Lv S, Wang X, Liu G, 2015. A simple and reasonable calculation equation of balanced fertilization. Agronomy-Basel, 52: 180–187.
Ma F L, Zhang S Y, Gao D Q et al., 2020. The problems and countermeasures of fertilization for corn in the eastern mountainous area of Jilin Province. Modern Agricultural Science and Technology, 24: 147–148, 152. (in Chinese)
Ma S, Li F, Xu B et al., 2010. Effect of lowering the root/shoot ratio by pruning roots on water use efficiency and grain yield of winter wheat. Field Crops Research, 115(2): 158–164.
Omara P, Aula L, Oyebiyi F et al., 2019. World cereal nitrogen use efficiency trends: Review and current knowledge. Agrosystems, Geosciences & Environment, 2(1): 1–8.
Purnomo J, Subiksa I G M, 2021. Effect of P fertilizer formula to the growth and yield of sweet corn on peatland. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, 648(1): 012194.
Quan Z, Li S, Zhang X et al., 2020. Fertilizer nitrogen use efficiency and fates in maize cropping systems across China: Field N-15 tracer studies. Soil & Tillage Research, 197: doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.still.2019.104498.
Shi K, Shang J, 2018. Research on the fertilizer application behavior and agricultural non-point source pollution control in green agricultural planting. Boletin De Malariologia Y Salud Ambiental, 58(1): 12–19.
Shi P, Guo M, Ou S et al., 2020. Formula fertilization of nitrogen and potassium fertilizers reduces cadmium accumulation in Panax notoginseng. Archives of Agronomy and Soil Science, 66(3): 343–357.
Song D, Hou S, Wang X, 2018. Nutrient resource quantity of crop straw and its potential of substituting. Journal of Plant Nutrition and Fertilizers, 24(1): 1–21. (in Chinese)
Swaney D P, Howarth R W, Hong B, 2018. Nitrogen use efficiency and crop production: Patterns of regional variation in the United States, 1987–2012. Science of the Total Environment, 635: 498–511.
Wang L, Zheng H, Zhao H et al., 2017. Nitrogen balance dynamics during 2000–2010 in the Yangtze River Basin croplands, with special reference to the relative contributions of cropland area and synthetic fertilizer N application rate changes. Plos One, 12(7). doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180613.
Wang S, Tan Y, Fan H et al., 2015. Responses of soil microarthropods to inorganic and organic fertilizers in a poplar plantation in a coastal area of eastern China. Applied Soil Ecology, 89: 69–75.
Wang Y, Wang M, Shi X et al., 2016. Spatial patterns of net primary productivity of crops in China. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 36(19): 6318–6327. (in Chinese)
Wehmeyer H, de Guia Annalyn H, Melanie C, 2020. Reduction of fertilizer use in South China: Impacts and implications on smallholder rice farmers. Sustainability, 12(6): doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/su12062240.
Williams J, McCool D, Reardon C et al., 2013. Root: Shoot ratios and belowground biomass distribution for Pacific Northwest dryland crops. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 68(5): 349–360.
Wu H, Ge Y, 2019. Excessive application of fertilizer, agricultural non-point source pollution, and farmers’ policy choice. Sustainability, 11(4): doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/su11041165.
Wu Y, Wang E, Miao C, 2019. Fertilizer use in China: The role of agricultural support policies. Sustainability, 11(16): doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/su11164391.
Xin L J, Li X B, Tan M H, 2012. Temporal and regional variations of China’s fertilizer consumption by crops during 1998–2008. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 22(4): 643–652.
Zeng X M, Fan B J, Xu F S et al., 2012. Effects of modified fertilization technology on the grain yield and nitrogen use efficiency of midseason rice. Field Crops Research, 137: 203–212.
Zhang X, Davidson E, Mauzerall D et al., 2015. Managing nitrogen for sustainable development. Nature, 528(7580): 51–59.
Zhou J, Xia F, Liu X et al., 2014. Effects of nitrogen fertilizer on the acidification of two typical acid soils in South China. Journal of Soils and Sediments, 14(2): 415–422.
Foundation: The Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research Program, No.2019QZKK0603; Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.XDA20040000, No.XDA20090000
Xin Liangjie (1979-), PhD and Associate Professor, specialized in land use change and its effects. E-mail: email@example.com
About this article
Cite this article
Xin, L. Chemical fertilizer rate, use efficiency and reduction of cereal crops in China, 1998–2018. J. Geogr. Sci. 32, 65–78 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11442-022-1936-2