Abstract Fertilizer application for rice production has increased significantly in southern China to raise yields, but has led to problems with lodging, quality decline and environmental pollution. Therefore, research on fertilizer-saving cultivation technologies for high-yielding rice is necessary. A two-factor experiment was conducted to evaluate the effects of seedling-addition treatment (SAT) and nitrogen-saving treatment (NST) on yield formation and nitrogen absorption of individual plants and plant groups under the seedling-throwing cultivation system. Numbers of spikelets per panicle and filled grains per panicle of individual plants declined under decreased nitrogen application, but was compensated by substantially increased effective panicles number and total number of glumous flowers under SAT. Under the optimal SAT–NST treatments of 18% less N fertilizer and 32% additional seedlings, yield increased 1.79% and 4.29% compared with that of conventional practice (CK) in 2015 and 2016, respectively. The mature-stage individual-plant biomass under SAT–NST treatments decreased by 27.46% and 20.49% compared with CK in 2015 and 2016, but plant-group biomass did not differ significantly (all >16 t ha−1). Under SAT–NST treatments, effective number of panicles was positively correlated with maximum number of seedlings (r = 0.643) and N absorption amount in the tillering stage (r = 0.901)
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