Intercropping increases the grain yield to feed the ever‑growing population in the world by cultivating two crop species on the same area of land. It has been proven that N‑fertilizer postponed topdressing can boost the productivity of cereal/legume intercropping. However, whether the application of this technology to cereal/cereal intercropping can still increase grain yield is unclear. A field experiment was conducted from 2018 to 2020 in the arid region of northwestern China to investigate the accumulation and distribution of dry matter and yield performance of wheat/maize intercropping in response to N‑fertilizer postponed topdressing application. There were three N application treatments (referred as N1, N2, N3) for maize and the total amount were all 360 kg N ha−1. N fertilizer were applied at four time, i.e. prior to sowing, at jointing stage, at pre‑tasseling stage, and at 15 days post‑silking stage, respectively. The N3 treatment was traditionally used for maize production and allocations subjected to these four stages were 2:3:4:1. The N1 and N2 were postponed topdressing treatments which allocations were 2:1:4:3 and 2:2:4:2, respectively. The results showed that the postponed topdressing N fertilizer treatments boosted the maximum average crop growth rate (CGR) of wheat/ maize intercropping. The N1 and N2 treatments increased the average maximum CGR by 32.9% and 16.4% during the co‑growth period, respectively, and the second average maximum CGR was increased by 29.8% and 12.6% during the maize recovery growth stage, respectively, compared with the N3 treatment. The N1 treatment was superior to other treatments, since it increased the CGR of intercropped wheat by 44.7% during the co‑growth period and accelerated the CGR of intercropped maize by 29.8% after the wheat had been harvested. This treatment also increased the biomass and grain yield of intercropping by 8.6% and 33.7%, respectively, compared with the current N management practice. This yield gain was primarily attributable to the higher total translocation of dry matter. The N1 treatment increased the transfer amount of intercropped wheat by 28.4% from leaf and by 51.6% from stem, as well as increased the intercropped maize by 49.0% of leaf, 36.6% of stem, and 103.6% of husk, compared to N3 treatment, respectively. Integrated the N fertilizer postponed topdressing to the wheat/maize intercropping system have a promotion effect on increasing the translocation of dry matter to grain in vegetative organs. Therefore, the harvest index of intercropped wheat and maize with N1 was 5.9% and 5.3% greater than that of N3, respectively. This demonstrated that optimizing the management of N fertilizer can increase the grain yield from wheat/maize intercropping via the promotion of accumulation and translocation of dry matter.