In-crop nitrogen (N) application is used widely in rainfed winter wheat production to reduce lodging risk; however, uncertainty exists as to its ability to reduce lodging risk in subtropical irrigated wheat production without simultaneously reducing yield potential. The objective of this study was therefore to determine whether in-crop N application reduces lodging risk without reducing yield of irrigated spring wheat in a subtropical environment. Irrigated small-plot experiments were conducted to compare the effect of alternative N timing on lodging and yield in two cultivars. Variable N regimes were imposed during the vegetative growth phase, after which additional N was applied to ensure that total season N application was uniform across N-timing treatments. Treatments with low N at sowing had significantly less lodging and were the highest yielding, exhibiting yield increases of up to 0.8 t ha–1 compared to treatments with high N at sowing. Increased leaf area index, biomass and tiller count at the end of the vegetative growth phase were correlated with increased lodging in both cultivars, although the strength of the correlation varied with cultivar and season. We conclude that canopy-management techniques can be used to simultaneously increase yield and decrease lodging in irrigated spring wheat in the subtropics, but require different implementation from techniques used in temperate regions of Australia.
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Vol. 67 • No. 9