Temporal and spatial variations in nitrogen use efficiency of crop production in China

TitleTemporal and spatial variations in nitrogen use efficiency of crop production in China
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsYan X, Xia L, Ti C
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Date Published01/2022

The low value of nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) (around 30%) of crop production in China highlights the necessity to adopt reasonable N managements in national scale. After the implementation of ‘National Soil Testing and Formulated Fertilization’ program in 2005, many field experiments have reported an increase of NUE for crop productions in China. This has prompted discussion regarding the extent to which NUE in crop production has been improved. Here, we analyzed the temporal and spatial changes in NUE (crop N uptake/total N input) and cumulative synthetic and non-synthetic N fertilizer recovery efficiency of crop production in China during 1980–2014, and evaluated the relationship between NUE and economic growth (purchasing power parity, PPP) at national and provincial scale. The results showed that the overall NUE of crop production in China clearly increased from 35 to 42% during 2003–2014, and an increase in NUE was further evidenced by increases in cumulative recovery efficiency of both synthetic and non-synthetic N fertilizer. The relationship between NUE and PPP can be described by an environmental Kuznets curve at the national scale, with NUE first decreasing then increasing with PPP. However, this relationship exhibited large spatial variation: 1) In economically developed (e.g., Guangdong and Zhejiang) and undeveloped provinces (e.g., Yunnan and Guizhou), NUE generally decreased and then remained at low levels (20–35%) as PPP increased. 2) In major agricultural provinces with high (e.g., Shandong and Jiangsu) or intermediate levels (e.g., Hunan and Hebei) of economic development, a pronounced increasing trend in NUE with PPP was observed. These results highlight the necessity of developing region-oriented N management strategies to further increase the NUE of crop production in China, particularly in the economically developed and undeveloped provinces.