Irrigation has been identified as the main driving factor of groundwater drawdown in the North China Plain (NCP). In order to develop appropriate irrigation strategies for satisfactory yields of wheat ( Triticum aestivum
L.), grain yield (GY), yield components, and water use efficiency (WUE) were studied. A field experiment was conducted with two types of winter wheat, 'Shimai15' and 'Shixin733', and five irrigation treatments, including rainfed and four spring irrigation water applications, in four growing seasons (2005 to 2009). Results showed that maximum GY was achieved with three irrigation treatments in the 2005-2006 and 2008-2009 dry seasons and two irrigation treatments in the 2006-2007 normal season. However, in the 2007-2008 wet season, the four irrigation treatments, especially the additional irrigation event at the reviving stage (28), produced maximum GY. Grain yield was significantly related to seasonal full evapotranspiration (ET) and 410 to 530 mm of seasonal full ET, including 143 mm rainfall and 214 mm irrigation water, which led to maximum GY. The two types of cultivars responded differently to irrigation management in different rainfall years. The yield of the water-saving cv. 'Shimai 15' was much higher in the dry seasons than in the other seasons. Variations of yield components were mainly caused by irrigation time and meteorological factors. The higher accumulated temperature during the sowing and tillering stages (24) and irrigation or precipitation at the reviving stage (28) significantly improved tiller growth. The lower average temperature in March and April greatly increased grain number per spike. Sunshine duration played a decisive role in improving grain weight. Our results provide very useful information about irrigation time and frequency of winter wheat in the NCP in order to obtain high yield but reduce the use of underground water.