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Crop production in Pakistan and low nitrogen use efficiencies


Overuse of nitrogen (N) fertilizer, a crucial productivity factor in world cropping systems, is detrimental to the sustainability of crop production from an economic and environmental perspective. Mean yield, N fertilizer use, partial factor productivity (PFP) of N, N use efficiency (NUE) and N surplus in wheat, cotton and rice production in Pakistan, which account for 75% of total national fertilizer N use, were compared with those for the top producer countries for 2014. Pakistan was among the top four in terms of N use but had low mean yields, with the lowest PFP and NUE and highest N surplus. During 1961–2014 in Pakistan, N fertilizer use and N surplus grew at a much faster pace than mean yields; however, PFP and NUE continued to decline to much lower levels. The great potential for Pakistan to increase NUE lies in agronomic practices other than increasing N fertilization, such as balanced crop nutrition, irrigation management, inclusion of legumes in crop rotations, precision in-season N management and the use of enhanced efficiency fertilizers, as is the case for many other parts of the world.

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Fig. 1: PFP for N, NUE, N inputs and mean crop yields for cotton, wheat and rice for selected countries during 2014.
Fig. 2: N surplus (kg N ha−1) for cotton, wheat and rice for selected countries during 2014.
Fig. 3: Average development per crop in Pakistan for cotton, wheat and rice during 1961–2014.
Fig. 4: Global average development per crop for cotton, wheat and rice during 1961–2014.
Fig. 5: Nitrogen yield versus N input trajectories for cotton, wheat and rice in Pakistan during 1961–2014.

Data availability

The data used for this analysis are available for download at The corresponding author is prepared to respond to reasonable requests for data and results queries.


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Authors and Affiliations



A.N.S. and M.K.Q. conceived and planned the paper. A.N.S., A.W. and T.M. wrote the paper with input from all authors. A.N.S. and M.K.Q. were responsible for data selection, analysis and interpretation of results.

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Correspondence to Ahmad Naeem Shahzad or Abdul Wakeel.

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Shahzad, A.N., Qureshi, M.K., Wakeel, A. et al. Crop production in Pakistan and low nitrogen use efficiencies. Nat Sustain 2, 1106–1114 (2019).

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