Aims The objective was to clarify the relationship between soil texture and characteristics of winter wheat cultivars in regard to nitrogen metabolism and utilization with different protein content. We planted the cultivars on three types of soil with different texture and looked for the optimum winter wheat cultivar under specific soil texture conditions.
Methods Field experiments using three winter wheat cultivars (‘ZM366’, ‘AK58’ and ‘ZM22’) with different protein content were carried out on soils of three textures, i.e. sandy, loam and clay soils, at the city of Huaxian, Henan Province, China during the 2011–2012 winter wheat growing season.
Important findings Soil texture greatly affected patterns of N metabolism and utilization efficiency. Glutamine synthetase (GS) activity and free amino acid content in the three varieties graphed as inverted “V”-shapes with different peak time depending on the soil texture. The peak of plants grown on sandy soil occurred 10 days earlier than plants on loam and clay soils. Moreover, on May 22 the GS activity and free amino acid content of plants grown on sandy soil was not detected. Cultivars grown on loam soil had the highest pre- and post-anthesis N accumulation (NA) of total plant, leaves, stems and grains, as well as nitrogen remobilization to grain (NR), grain yield and N use efficiency (NUE). Whereas, the highest N remobilization efficiency (NRE), contribution of N remobilized to grain nitrogen (NRC), N harvest index (NHI) and N physiological efficiency (NPE) appeared in the plants grown on sandy soil. Also, the NRC was 82.46%–95.84% and NR was about seven-fold higher than post-anthesis NA for plants on sandy soil. However, contribution of post-anthesis NA was higher for plants grown on loam soil and clay soil which were 36.6% and 29.2%, respectively. Among the three winter wheat cultivars planted on the same soil texture, ‘ZM366’ was the highest with GS activity, free amino acid content, grain yield, protein content, NUE and NPE on sandy soil. However, for loam soil, ‘AK58’ is the best, and ‘ZM22’ was the best on clay soil. Consequently, it is important to breed and cultivate winter wheat cultivars according to soil texture. We concluded that ‘ZM366’ is the most suitable cultivar for sandy soil, ‘AK58’ is the best for loam soil, and ‘ZM22’ is the best for clay soil, so as to obtain higher yield and high quality in winter wheat and improve NUE.