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Journal of Integrative Agriculture  2018, Vol. 17 Issue (03): 664-676    DOI: 10.1016/S2095-3119(17)61836-7
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Optimized nitrogen application methods to improve nitrogen use efficiency and nodule nitrogen fixation in a maize-soybean relay intercropping system
YONG Tai-wen1*, CHEN Ping1*, DONG Qian2, DU Qing1, YANG Feng1, WANG Xiao-chun1, LIU Wei-guo1, YANG Wen-yu  
1 College of Agronomy, Sichuan Agricultural University/Key Laboratory of Crop Eco-physiology and Farming System in Southwest, Ministry of Agriculture, Chengdu 611130, P.R.China
2 Shehong Farm Bureau, Suining 629200, P.R.China
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Abstract  In China, the abuse of chemical nitrogen (N) fertilizer results in decreasing N use efficiency (NUE), wasting resources and causing serious environmental problems.  Cereal-legume intercropping is widely used to enhance crop yield and improve resource use efficiency, especially in Southwest China.  To optimize N utilization and increase grain yield, we conducted a two-year field experiment with single-factor randomized block designs of a maize-soybean intercropping system (IMS).  Three N rates, NN (no nitrogen application), LN (lower N application: 270 kg N ha–1), and CN (conventional N application: 330 kg N ha–1), and three topdressing distances of LN (LND), e.g., 15 cm (LND1), 30 cm (LND2) and 45 cm (LND3) from maize rows were evaluated.  At the beginning seed stage (R5), the leghemoglobin content and nitrogenase activity of LND3 were 1.86 mg plant–1 and 0.14 mL h–1 plant–1, and those of LND1 and LND2 were increased by 31.4 and 24.5%, 6.4 and 32.9% compared with LND3, respectively.  The ureide content and N accumulation of soybean organs in LND1 and LND2 were higher than those of LND3.  The N uptake, NUE and N agronomy efficiency (NAE) of IMS under CN were 308.3 kg ha–1, 28.5%, and 5.7 kg grain kg–1 N, respectively; however, those of LN were significantly increased by 12.4, 72.5, and 51.6% compared with CN, respectively.  The total yield in LND1 and LND2 was increased by 12.3 and 8.3% compared with CN, respectively.  Those results suggested that LN with distances of 15–30 cm from the topdressing strip to the maize row was optimal in maize-soybean intercropping.  Lower N input with an optimized fertilization location for IMS increased N fixation and N use efficiency without decreasing grain yield.
Keywords:  relay intercropping        lower nitrogen        nitrogen use efficiency        nitrogen fixation        nitrogen uptake  
Received: 26 July 2017   Accepted:

The research was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFD0300202), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31671625, 31271669).

Corresponding Authors:  Correspondence YANG Wen-yu, Tel: +86-28-86290960, Fax: +86-28-86290870, E-mail:   
About author:  YONG Tai-wen, E-mail:; CHEN Ping, E-mail:; * These authors contributed equally to this work.

Cite this article: 

YONG Tai-wen, CHEN Ping, DONG Qian, DU Qing, YANG Feng, WANG Xiao-chun, LIU Wei-guo, YANG Wen-yu. 2018. Optimized nitrogen application methods to improve nitrogen use efficiency and nodule nitrogen fixation in a maize-soybean relay intercropping system. Journal of Integrative Agriculture, 17(03): 664-676.

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