The biological improvement of fertilizer nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) is hampered by the poor characterization of the phenotype and genotype for crop N response and NUE. In an attempt to identify phenotypic traits for N-response and NUE in the earliest stages of plant growth, we analyzed the N-responsive germination, respiration, urease activities, and root/shoot growth of 21 Indica genotypes of rice (Oryza sativa var. indica). We found that N delays germination from 0 to 12 h in a genotype-dependent and source-dependent manner, especially with urea and nitrate.