Effect of nitrogen and water deficit type on the yield gap between the potential and attainable wheat yield
Water deficit and N fertilizer are the two primary limiting factors for wheat yield in the North China plain, the most important winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) production area in China. Analyzing the yield gap between the potential yield and the attainable yield can quantify the potential for increasing wheat production and exploring the limiting factors to yield gap in the high-yielding farming region of North China Plain. The Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer (DSSAT) model was used to identify methods to increase the grain yield and decrease the gap. In order to explore the impact of N and cultivars on wheat yield in the different drought types, the climate conditions during 1981 to 2011 growing seasons was categorized into low, moderate, and severe water deficit classes according to the anomaly percentage of the water deficit rate during the entire wheat growing season. There are differences (P < 0.0001) in the variations of the potential yields among three cultivars over 30 yr. For all three water deficit types, the more recent cultivars Jimai22 and Shijiazhuang8 had higher yields compared to the older ’Jinan17’. As the N fertilizer rate increased, the yield gap decreased more substantially during the low water deficit years because of the significant increase in attainable yield. Overall, the yield gaps were smaller with less water stress. Replacement of cultivars and appropriate N fertilizer application based on the forecasted drought types can narrow the yield gap effectively.