Seed Biotechnology Center, UC DavisUC Davis

Nitrogen Use Efficiency

Plants need nitrogen to grow, develop and produce usable products. Since plants get their nitrogen from the soil, farmers must replenish nitrogen to ensure successful growth and to replace nitrogen removed in the harvested crop. Nitrogen is generally applied to the soil through various types of fertilizers. Due to the substantial yield increases resulting from fertilization, farmers have steadily increased the amount of fertilizer added per unit of land area.

What happens if plants don’t have enough nitrogen?
When plants are not provided with sufficient nitrogen, they become nitrogen deficient. Plants with nitrogen deficiency often have spindly stems and their growth is stunted.

What is nitrogen use efficiency?
Nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) is the fraction of applied nitrogen that is absorbed and used by the plant. Improving a plant’s ability to utilize nitrogen is a key component in enhancing environmental sustainability. Today, improved plant breeding through the use of genetic engineering has the greatest potential to produce plants that will utilize fertilizer more efficiently than conventional varieties.


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