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Nitrogen Fertilization Effect on Soil Water and Wheat Yield in the Chinese Loess Plateau

Jun Wang, Wen-Zhao Liu, Ting-Hui Dang, Upendra M. Sainju
Agronomy journal 2013 v.105 no.1 pp. 143-149
Triticum aestivum, arid lands, dryland farming, evapotranspiration, fallow, fertilizer rates, grain yield, growing season, harvest date, leaching, loess, nitrogen fertilizers, planting, plateaus, silt, silt loam soils, soil organic carbon, soil pH, soil water, soil water content, soil water storage, water holding capacity, water uptake, water use efficiency, winter wheat, China
Long-term N fertilization may increase dryland winter wheat (L.) yield but also result in adverse effects, e.g., soil acidity development and water storage or increased N leaching. This study examined if long-term N fertilization affected the soil water balance and dryland winter wheat yield. We evaluated the effect of five N fertilization rates (0, 45, 90, 135, and 180 kg N ha) on the soil water balance, precipitation-storage efficiency (PSE), winter wheat yield, and water-use efficiency (WUE) from 2005 to 2010 in an experiment initiated in 1984 in a Heilutu silt loam in the Loess Plateau of China. Soil water contents at wheat planting and harvest were lower with N fertilization than without. Nitrogen fertilization increased soil water storage during the fallow period (SWSF) from 19 to 22%, water uptake during the growing season from 21 to 25%, PSE from 19 to 22%, and evapotranspiration from 7 to 8% compared to no N fertilization. Increased N rate enhanced soil organic C but had no impact on soil pH in 2005. Wheat yield increased up to 244% and WUE to 220% as the N rate increased. Although more soil water was depleted, N fertilization increased winter wheat yield and WUE by enhancing SWSF and PSE, and increased the water holding capacity by increasing soil organic matter compared to no N fertilization. Long-term N fertilization can increase winter wheat yield by utilizing soil water more efficiently, with minimum impact on soil acidity, in the Chinese Loess Plateau.