The aim of this study was to verify the applicability of the critical nitrogen concentration dilution curve (Nc) of wheat grown under different irrigation conditions in the field, and discuss the feasibility of using the N nutrition index (NNI) to optimize N fertilizer application. The high-yield, medium-protein wheat varieties Zhoumai 27 and Zhoumai 22 were used in field experiments in two different locations (Zhengzhou and Shangshui) in Huang-Huai, China. Plants were grown under rainfed and irrigation conditions, with five N application rates. Nc models of the leaves, stems, and whole plant were constructed, followed by establishment of an NNI model and accumulative N deficit model (Nand
). As previous research reported, our results also showed that the critical N concentration and biomass formed a power function relationship (N = aDW−b
). When the biomass was the same, the critical N concentration was higher under irrigation than rainfed treatment. Meanwhile, the fitting accuracy (R2
) of the Nc model was also higher under irrigation than rainfed treatment in both sites, and was higher in the stems and whole plant. The NNI calculated using the Nc model increased with increasing N application, reflecting N deficiency. Moreover, there was a significant negative linear correlation between NNI and Nand
, and both indices could be uniformly modeled between locations and water treatments. The accuracy of the Nand
model was highest in the whole plant, followed by the leaves and stems. The models constructed in this paper provide a theoretical basis for accurate management of N fertilizer application in wheat production.
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