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Journal of Arid Land  2023, Vol. 15 Issue (10): 1231-1244    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-023-0108-2
Research article     
Nitrogen application levels based on critical nitrogen absorption regulate processing tomatoes productivity, nitrogen uptake, nitrate distributions, and root growth in Xinjiang, China
JING Bo1,2, SHI Wenjuan2, DIAO Ming1,*()
1Key Laboratory of Special Fruits and Vegetables Cultivation Physiology and Germplasm Resources Utilization of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, Department of Horticulture, Agricultural College, Shihezi University, Shihezi 832003, China
2State Key Laboratory of Eco-hydraulics in Northwest Arid Region of China, Xi'an University of Technology, Xi'an 710048, China
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The unreasonable nitrogen (N) supply and low productivity are the main factors restricting the sustainable development of processing tomatoes. In addition, the mechanism by which the N application strategy affects root growth and nitrate distributions in processing tomatoes remains unclear. In this study, we applied four N application levels to a field (including 0 (N0), 200 (N200), 300 (N300), and 400 (N400) kg/hm2) based on the critical N absorption ratio at each growth stage (planting stage to flowering stage: 22%; fruit setting stage: 24%; red ripening stage: 45%; and maturity stage: 9%). The results indicated that N300 treatment significantly improved the aboveground dry matter (DM), yield, N uptake, and nitrogen use efficiency (NUE), while N400 treatment increased nitrate nitrogen (NO3--N) residue in the 20-60 cm soil layer. Temporal variations of total root dry weight (TRDW) and total root length (TRL) showed a single-peak curve. Overall, N300 treatment improved the secondary root parameter of TRDW, while N400 treatment improved the secondary root parameter of TRL. The grey correlation coefficients indicated that root dry weight density (RDWD) in the surface soil (0-20 cm) had the strongest relationship with yield, whereas root length density (RLD) in the middle soil (20-40 cm) had a strong relationship with yield. The path model indicated that N uptake is a crucial factor affecting aboveground DM, TRDW, and yield. The above results indicate that N application levels based on critical N absorption improve the production of processing tomatoes by regulating N uptake and root distribution. Furthermore, the results of this study provide a theoretical basis for precise N management.

Key wordscritical N absorption      nitrogen use efficiency (NUE)      beta model      total root dry weight (TRDW)      root growth      processing tomato     
Received: 27 February 2023      Published: 31 October 2023
Corresponding Authors: *DIAO Ming (E-mail:
About author: First author contact:

The second and third authors contributed equally to this work.

Cite this article:

JING Bo, SHI Wenjuan, DIAO Ming. Nitrogen application levels based on critical nitrogen absorption regulate processing tomatoes productivity, nitrogen uptake, nitrate distributions, and root growth in Xinjiang, China. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(10): 1231-1244.

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Fig. 1 Daily precipitation, maximum temperature (Tmax), and minimum temperature (Tmin) during the growing season of processing tomatoes in 2018 (a) and 2019 (b)
Year pH Total N (g/kg) Available P (g/kg) Available K (g/kg) Organic matter (g/kg)
2018 7.53 0.85 0.02 0.34 10.12
2019 7.50 0.76 0.02 0.26 12.35
Table 1 Initial chemical properties of topsoil (0-40 cm) in 2018 and 2019
Fig. 2 (a), overhead view of the planting pattern of processing tomatoes in the experimental field; (b), stereoscopic view of root samples taken using the layered-mining method
Fig. 3 Aboveground dry matter (DM; a), yield (b), nitrogen (N) uptake (c), and nitrogen use efficiency (NUE; d) under different N application levels in 2018 and 2019. N0, N200, N300, and N400 represent the N application levels of 0, 200, 300, and 400 kg/hm2, respectively. Different lowercase letters in the same year indicate significant differences among different N application levels at P<0.05 level. ** indicates significance at P<0.01 level. Bars are standard errors.
Fig. 4 Beta model of the variations in total root dry weight (TRDW; a and b) and total root length (TRL; c and d) under different N application levels in 2018 and 2019. The fitting curves are the beta equation fitting curves of the N application levels at 0, 200, 300, and 400 kg/hm2.
Year Root
N application level Secondary root parameter
wmax (g/m2 or m/m2)# te (d) tm (d) ca ((g/m2)•d-1 or (m/m2)•d-1)## cm ((g/m2)•d-1 or (m/m2)•d-1)##
2018 TRDW N0 134.34d 86.62a 53.80c 1.55d 2.59d
N200 216.16c 84.99b 52.25c 2.54c 4.21c
N300 403.28a 81.60c 60.47a 4.94a 10.19a
N400 267.95b 79.90c 56.45b 3.35b 6.40b
TRL N0 355.76c 69.16a 43.05b 5.14c 8.59c
N200 408.77b 68.93a 41.14b 5.91b 9.61b
N300 581.57a 71.61a 42.61b 8.12a 13.14a
N400 596.53a 72.02a 47.24a 8.28a 14.48a
2019 TRDW N0 112.07d 88.03a 47.97b 1.27d 1.97d
N200 177.91c 81.47b 48.42b 2.02bc 3.53c
N300 308.10a 79.61b 57.08a 3.87a 7.55a
N400 222.65b 80.83b 56.17a 2.75b 5.14ab
TRL N0 348.19d 71.68a 47.20a 5.36b 8.53b
N200 371.98c 71.23a 45.19a 5.22b 8.86b
N300 514.03b 73.25a 42.58b 7.02a 11.20a
N400 555.99a 74.85a 47.21a 7.43a 12.54a
Table 2 Secondary root parameters under different N application levels
Fig. 5 Soil nitrate nitrogen (NO3--N) content in the 0-80 cm soil layers under different N application levels in 2018 (a) and 2019 (b). Bars are standard errors.
Fig. 6 Changes in root dry weight density (RDWD; a and b) and root length density (RLD; c and d) in different soil layers under different N application levels in 2018 and 2019. Bars are standard errors.
Root parameter N application level Soil depth (cm)
2018 2019
0-20 20-40 40-60 0-20 20-40 40-60
N0 0.649* 0.536 0.494 0.614 0.548 0.599
N200 0.651* 0.501 0.515 0.729** 0.544 0.587
N300 0.685 0.645 0.595 0.759* 0.677 0.657
N400 0.635 0.534 0.478 0.693 0.549 0.523
N0 0.559 0.859** 0.557 0.641 0.727* 0.554
N200 0.573 0.676 0.508 0.583 0.637 0.540
N300 0.553 0.559 0.581 0.499 0.576 0.481
N400 0.673 0.757* 0.610 0.671 0.726 0.663
Table 3 Grey correlation coefficients between root parameters in different soil layers with yield under different N application levels
Fig. 7 Path model among aboveground DM, TRDW, N uptake, soil NO3--N content, and yield. Blue lines represent positive relationships, while red lines represent negative relationships. The width of the arrows represents the strength of significant standardised path coefficients. * and ** indicate significant path coefficient at P<0.05 and P<0.01 levels, respectively.
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