Measurements of nitric oxide (NO) emission from a typical Chinese rice–wheat rotation are continuously made during the non-waterlogged period by using an automatic system based on static chamber techniques. A positive correlation exists between NO emission and soil moisture content when surface soil temperature is > 20 °C. The diurnal variability in NO emission is characterized with day-peak, night-peak and irregular patterns, which are in close association with wheat growth. The diurnal NO emission under the day-peak pattern is correlated with the simultaneously observed surface soil temperature, whereas that under the night-peak and irregular pattern is dependent on surface soil temperature at 7 ± 2 and 3 ± 2 h before NO observation, respectively. The effect of soil temperature on NO emission is well described by F = α·eβ·T, where F is NO flux, T soil temperature, and α and b empirical coefficients. The parameter Q10; that is, the change in NO emission per 10 °C soil temperature, is correlated with the rates of fertilizer-N application. An approach orientated from the Arrhenius equation, , is developed in order to predict diurnal NO emission, where TK is the daily average soil temperature, ΔTK the deviation of soil temperature from the daily average, Ea the apparent activation energy, R the gas constant, t a given time within the one-day cycle, t delayed time for appearance of the diurnal NO emission peak, and k an empirical coefficient. Based on the results, the authors recommend that intermittent measurement of NO emission from a similar ecosystem would be best taken around 17:00. The molar ratio of NO/N2O over the non-waterlogged period is > 1 when soil moisture content was less than the field capacity, suggesting that NO emission was mainly derived from nitrification under this condition.