Balancing crop productivity with resource use efficiency and beneficial environmental consequences is essential for sustainable agricultural development worldwide. Various strategies and approaches have been proposed and debated, but turning the concept into management practices in the field with measurable outcomes over several scales remains a challenge. An innovative approach, Integrated Soil-Crop System Management (ISSM), for producing more grain with greater nutrient use efficiencies and less environmental pollution is presented. The ISSM approach has been used in China, in field experiments as well as in thousands of farmer fields, to substantially increase the yields of maize, rice and wheat while simultaneously increasing nitrogen use efficiency and reducing environmental footprints. The scientific principle, implementation strategy and procedures of ISSM are discussed and examples of its demonstrated successes at local and regional levels across China are given. Perspectives for further development of ISSM and expanding its potential impact are also proposed and discussed.