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Journal of Arid Land  2015, Vol. 7 Issue (1): 46-53    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-014-0076-7
Research Articles     
Long-term effects of gravel―sand mulch on soil orga¬nic carbon and nitrogen in the Loess Plateau of northwestern China
Yang QIU1, ZhongKui XIE1*, YaJun WANG1, Sukhdev S MALHI2, JiLong REN1
1 Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China;
2 Northeast Agricultural Research Foundation (NARF), Melfort S0E 1A0, Canada
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Abstract  Gravel–sand mulch has been used for centuries to conserve water in the Loess Plateau of north-western China. In this study, we assessed the influence of long-term (1996–2012) gravel–sand mulching of cultivated soils on total organic carbon (TOC), light fraction organic carbon (LFOC), microbial biomass carbon (MBC), total organic nitrogen (TON), particulate organic carbon (POC), mineral-associated organic carbon (MOC), permanganate-oxidizable carbon (KMnO4-C), and non-KMnO4-C at 0–60 cm depths. Mulching durations were 7, 11 and 16 years, with a non-mulched control. Compared to the control, there was no significant and consistently positive effect of the mulch on TOC, POC, MOC, KMnO4-C and non-KMnO4-C before 11 years of mulching, and these organic C fractions generally decreased significantly by 16 years. LFOC, TON and MBC to at a 0–20 cm depth increased with increasing mulching duration until 11 years, and then these fractions decreased significantly between 11 and 16 years, reaching values comparable to or lower than those in the control. KMnO4-C was most strongly correlated with the labile soil C fractions. Our findings suggest that although gravel–sand mulch may conserve soil moisture, it may also lead to long-term decreases in labile soil organic C fractions and total organic N in the study area. The addition of manure or composted manure would be a good choice to reverse the soil deterioration that occurs after 11 years by increasing the inputs of organic matter.

Received: 29 December 2013      Published: 10 February 2015

Funding for this research was provided by the Office of Agricultural Program, Chinese Academy of Sciences (kscx2-ew-b-1-8) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41171027).

Corresponding Authors: ZhongKui XIE     E-mail:
Cite this article:

Yang QIU, ZhongKui XIE, YaJun WANG, Sukhdev S MALHI, JiLong REN. Long-term effects of gravel―sand mulch on soil orga¬nic carbon and nitrogen in the Loess Plateau of northwestern China. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(1): 46-53.

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