University of Tasmania

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Productivity and water use efficiency of summer soybean-winter wheat rotation system under limited water supply in the North China Plain

journal contribution
posted on 2023-11-03, 02:15 authored by Jiangwen Nie, Matthew HarrisonMatthew Harrison, Jie Zhou, Lei Yang, Jie Zhao, Xiquan Wang, Ke LiuKe Liu, Shang Wang, Huadong Zang, Yadong Yang, Zhaohai Zeng
Development of novel crop rotations with superior water- and N-use efficiency will be fundamental in the quest for securing sustainable food supplies under environments that are increasingly resource limited. Here, our aim was to examine how replacing maize with soybean as part of winter wheat rotations impacted the nutrient-equivalent yield (EY), evapotranspiration (ET) and water-use efficiency (WUE) of rotation systems. We contrasted summer soybean-winter wheat (SW) and summer maize-winter wheat (MW) cropping systems under three nitrogen (N) fertilization regimes: no, medium, and high nitrogen application rates (0 N, MN, and HN, respectively). Results showed that SW not only resulted in lower annual yields, but also caused more variable inter-annual wheat productivity compared with MW. SW had similar annual productivities to MW in wet (2019–2020) and dry (2020–2021) years, but lower productivity than MW in an average precipitation year (45% reduction, 2018–2019). As well, SW had higher average annual ETs (633–854 mm) than MW, mainly was attributed to higher ETs (268–440 mm) in summer. SW reduced WUEs by 17% and 28% in average (2018–2019) and dry (2020–2021) years, respectively. Regardless of cropping system, N fertilization increased annual EYs and ETs by 10–18% and 5–18% compared with no fertilization, respectively. Together these comparable increments in EY and ET, we found that N fertilization had rare effects on annual WUE of both systems. Overall, our study demonstrated that replacing maize with soybean in winter wheat rotations increased annual ET and neither maintained productivity nor improved water productivity. Thus, we suggest that practitioners explore other drought tolerant grain legumes to generate more reliable yields and less water consumption under legume-based crop rotations.


Carbon Storage Partnership - Sustainable Pathways to CN30 (connected to C0027628) created to enable CI to capture admin role over full project on WARP. No additional funds to UTAS. : Meat and Livestock Australia Ltd


Publication title

European Journal of Agronomy



Article number







TIA - Research Institute



Publication status

  • Published

Rights statement

Copyright 2023 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Socio-economic Objectives

180303 Fresh, ground and surface water biodiversity, 260311 Soybeans, 260306 Maize, 260308 Rice, 260312 Wheat

UN Sustainable Development Goals

2 Zero Hunger, 1 No Poverty, 10 Reduced Inequalities, 12 Responsible Consumption and Production, 13 Climate Action, 15 Life on Land, 9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure