Assessment of crop nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) is important in agricultural research. Various approaches exist to analyze NUE. A recently proposed NUE concept is further developed and a calculation tool for practical use presented. A critical component in the NUE concept is the plants’ mean nitrogen (N) content during the main growth period (N’
). The N’
is delimited by the critical crop phenology stages initiating and terminating accelerated crop N uptake. Especially when experimental treatments and/or crop cultivars cause great variation in phenology, it is often not feasible to perform destructive plant harvests at the critical phenology stages for all treatments and cultivars, which may result in inaccurate estimates of N’
and, ultimately, the NUE components N uptake efficiency and yield-specific N efficiency. A method is proposed to accurately calculate the crop N contents at the relevant critical phenology stages even when sampling is made at other time points. The only requirements are two separate destructive plant harvests performed within the main growth period, together with the time points for the critical phenology events. The method was exemplified using data from wheat and the perennial energy crop Salix
, and an electronic calculation tool for the various NUE components is provided.
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