Please wait a minute...
Journal of Arid Land  2015, Vol. 7 Issue (6): 806-813    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-015-0051-y
Brief Communication     
Changes in soil organic carbon and nitrogen after 26 years of farmland management on the Loess Plateau of China
ZHOU Zhengchao1*, ZHANG Xiaoyan1, GAN Zhuoting2
1 Department of Tourism and Environmental Sciences, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an 710062, China;
2 Key Laboratory of Disaster Survey and Mechanism Simulation of Shaanxi Province, Baoji University of Arts and Sciences, Baoji 721007, China
Download:   PDF(180KB)
Export: BibTeX | EndNote (RIS)      

Abstract  Soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) play a crucial role in determining the soil and environmental quality. In this study, we investigated the effects of 26 years (from 1984 to 2010) of farmland management on soil organic carbon (SOC) and soil N in abandoned, wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) non-fertilized, wheat fertilized (mineral fertilizer and organic manure) and alfalfa (Medicago Sativa L.) non-fertilized treatments in a semi-arid region of the Loess Plateau, China. Our results showed that SOC and soil total N contents in the 0–20 cm soil layer increased by 4.29 (24.4%) and 1.39 Mg/hm2 (100%), respectively, after the conversion of farmland to alfalfa land. Compared to the wheat non-fertilized treatment, SOC and soil total N contents in the 0–20 cm soil layer increased by 4.64 (26.4%) and 1.18 Mg/hm2 (85.5%), respectively, in the wheat fertilized treatment. In addition, we found that the extents of changes in SOC, soil total N and mineral N depended on soil depth were greater in the upper soil layer (0–30 cm) than in the deeper soil layer (30–100 cm) in the alfalfa land or fertilizer-applied wheat land. Fertilizer applied to winter wheat could increase the accumulation rates of SOC and soil total N. SOC concentration had a significant positive correlation with soil total N concentration. Therefore, this study suggested that farmland management, e.g. the conversion of farmland to alfalfa forage land and fertilizer application, could promote the sequestrations of C and N in soils in semi-arid regions.

Key wordscompetition      facilitation      functional trait      stress gradient      temporal variation     
Received: 15 January 2015      Published: 10 December 2015

The Fok Ying-Tong Education Foundation for Young Teachers in the Higher Education Institutions of China (131025) and the Natural Science Foundation of Shaanxi Province (2014KJXX-52)

Corresponding Authors: ZHOU Zhengchao     E-mail:
Cite this article:

ZHOU Zhengchao, ZHANG Xiaoyan, GAN Zhuoting. Changes in soil organic carbon and nitrogen after 26 years of farmland management on the Loess Plateau of China. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(6): 806-813.

URL:     OR

Baker J M, Ochsner T E, Venterea R T, et al. 2007. Tillage and soil carbon sequestration—what do we really know? Agricul-ture, Ecosystems & Environment, 118(1–4): 1–5.

Borlaug N. 2007. Feeding a hungry world. Science, 318: 359.

Bremner J M. 1996. Nitrogen-total. In: Sparks L, Page A L, Helmke P A, et al. Methods of Soil Analysis. Part 3: Chemical Methods. Madison: Soil Science Society of America Inc., 1085–1121.

Chang R Y, Fu B J, Liu G H, et al. 2011. Soil carbon sequestration potential for ‘‘Grain for Green’’ project in Loess Plateau, Chi-na. Environmental Management, 48: 1158–1172.

Dai E F, Zhai R X, Ge Q S, et al. 2014. Detecting the storage and change on topsoil organic carbon in grasslands of Inner Mongolia from 1980s to 2010s. Journal of Geographical Sci-ences, 24(6): 1035–1046.

Deng L, Shangguan Z P, Sweeney S. 2014a. ‘‘Grain for Green’’ driven land use change and carbon sequestration on the Loess Plateau, China. Scientific Reports, 4: 7039, doi: 10.1038/srep07039.

Deng L, Wang K B, Li J P, et al. 2014b. Carbon storage dynamics in alfalfa (Medicago sativa) fields on the Loess Plateau, China. CLEAN–Soil, Air, Water, 42: 1253–1262.

Glendining M J, Powlson D S. 1995. The effects of long contin-ued applications of inorganic nitrogen fertilizer on soil organic nitrogen—a review. In: Lal R, Stewart B A. Soil Management: Experimental Basis for Sustainability and Environmental Quality, Advances in Soil Science. Boca Raton: Lewis Pub-lishers, 385–446.

Huang M B, Dang T H, Gallichand J, et al. 2003. Effect of in-creased fertilizer applications to the wheat crop on soil-water depletion in the Loess Plateau, China. Agricultural Water Management, 58: 267–278.

Jenkinson D S, Harkness D D, Vance E D, et al. 1992. Calculating net primary production and annual input of organic matter to soil from radiocarbon measurements. Soil Biology and Bio-chemistry, 24: 295–308.

Johnson J M F, Franzluebbers A J, Weyers S L, et al. 2007. Agri-cultural opportunities to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental Pollution, 150: 107–124.

Krogh L, Noergaard A, Hermansen M, et al. 2003. Preliminary estimates of contemporary soil organic carbon stocks in Denmark using multiple datasets and four scaling-up methods. Agriculture, Ecosystem & Environment, 96: 19–28.

Lal R. 2002. Soil carbon dynamics in cropland and rangeland. Environmental Pollution, 116: 353–362.

Malhi S S, Brandt S, Gill K S. 2003. Cultivation and grassland type effects on light fraction and total organic C and N in a Dark Brown Chernozemic soil. Canadian Journal of Soil Sci-ence, 83: 145–153.

Mann L K. 1986. Changes in soil carbon storage after cultivation. Soil Science, 142: 279–288.

Manna M C, Swarup A, Wanjari R H, et al. 2005. Long-term effect of fertilizer and manure application on soil organic carbon storage, soil quality and yield sustainability under sub-humid and semi-arid tropical India. Field Crops Research, 93(2): 264–280.

Mclauchlan K K, Hobbie S E, Post W M. 2006. Conversion from agriculture to grassland builds soil organic matter on decadal timescales. Ecological Applications, 16(1): 143–153.

Mensah F, Schoenau J J, Malhi S S. 2003. Soil carbon changes in cultivated and excavated land converted to grasses in east-central Saskatchewan. Biogeochemistry, 63: 85–92.

Mulumba L N, Lal R. 2008. Mulching effects on selected soil physical properties. Soil and Tillage Research, 98: 106–111.

Nelson D W, Sommers L E. 1996. Total carbon, organic carbon, and organic matter. In: Sparks D L, Page A L, Helmke P A. Methods of Soil Analysis. Part 3: Chemical Methods. Madison: Soil Science Society of America Inc., 539–579.

Piovanelli C, Gamba C, Brandi G, et al. 2006. Tillage choices affect biochemical properties in the soil pro?le. Soil and Till-age Research, 90: 84–92.

Kumar S, Lal R, Liu D S, et al. 2013. Estimating the spatial dis-tribution of organic carbon density for the soils of Ohio, USA. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 23(2): 280–296.

Song X H, Peng C H, Zhou G M, et al. 2014. Chinese Grain for Green Program led to highly increased soil organic carbon levels: A meta-analysis. Scientific Reports, 4, 4460, doi:10.1038/srep04460.

Su Y Z. 2007. Soil carbon and nitrogen sequestration following the conversion of cropland to alfalfa forage land in northwest China. Soil and Tillage Research, 92: 181–189.

Thorburn P J, Meier E A, Collins K, et al. 2012. Changes in soil carbon sequestration, fractionation and soil fertility in re-sponse to sugarcane residue retention are site-specific. Soil and Tillage Research, 120: 99–111.

Wang Q, Zhang L, Li L, et al. 2009. Changes in carbon and nitro-gen of Chernozem soil along a cultivation chronosequence in a semi-arid 

grassland. European Journal of Soil Science, 60: 916–923.

Wang Z P, Han X G, Li L H. 2008. Effects of grassland conver-sion to

croplands on soil organic carbon in the temperate Inner Mon-golia. Journal of Environmental Management, 86: 529–534.

Wiesmeier M, Steffens M, Mueller C M, et al. 2012. Aggregate stability and physical protection of soil organic carbon in semi-arid steppe soils. European Journal of Soil Science, 63: 22–31.

Wu T Y, Schoenau J J, Li F M, et al. 2006. In?uence of tillage and rotation systems on distribution of organic carbon associated with particle-size fractions in Chernozemic soils of Saskatch-ewan, Canada. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 42: 338–344.

Yang R, Su Y Z, Wang M, et al. 2014. Spatial pattern of soil or-ganic carbon in desert grasslands of the diluvial-alluvial plains of northern Qilian Mountains. Journal of Arid Land, 6(2): 136–144.

Zhang T J, Wang Y W, Wang X G, et al. 2009. Organic carbon and nitrogen stocks in reed meadow soils converted to alfalfa ?elds. Soil and Tillage Research, 105: 143–148.

Zhou Z C, Shangguan Z P. 2007. Vertical distribution of fine roots in relation to soil factors in Pinus tabulaeformis Carr. forests of the Loess Plateau of China. Plant and Soil, 291: 119–129.
[1] Yadong XUE, Jia LI, Guli SAGEN, Yu ZHANG, Yunchuan DAI, Diqiang LI. Activity patterns and resource partitioning: seven species at watering sites in the Altun Mountains, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(6): 959-967.
[2] Bang LI, Wenxuan XU, A BLANK David, Muyang WANG, Weikang YANG. Diet characteristics of wild sheep (Ovis ammon darwini) in the Mengluoke Mountains, Xinjiang, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(3): 482-491.
[3] Yuchen WANG, Zhengfu BIAN, Shaogang LEI, Yu ZHANG. Investigating spatial and temporal variations of soil moisture content in an arid mining area using an improved thermal inertia model[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2017, 9(5): 712-726.
[4] Siqin TONG, Jiquan ZHANG, Yuhai BAO, Wurina, Terigele, Weilisi, Lianxiao. Spatial and temporal variations of vegetation cover and the relationships with climate factors in Inner Mongolia based on GIMMS NDVI3g data[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2017, 9(3): 394-407.
[5] Shufang GUO, Yuchun QI, Qin PENG, Yunshe DONG, Yunlong HE, Zhongqing YAN, Liqin WANG. Influences of drip and flood irrigation on soil carbon dioxide emission and soil carbon sequestration of maize cropland in the North China Plain[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2017, 9(2): 222-233.
[6] Di KANG, Jian DENG, Xiaowei QIN, Fei HAO, Shujuan GUO, Xinhui HAN, Gaihe YANG. Effect of competition on spatial patterns of oak forests on the Chinese Loess Plateau[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2017, 9(1): 122-131.
[7] LI Xiliang, HOU Xiangyang, REN Weibo, Taogetao BAOYIN, LIU Zhiying, Warwick BADGERY, LI Yaqiong, WU Xinhong, XU Huimin. Long-term effects of mowing on plasticity and allometry of Leymus chinensis in a temperate semi-arid grassland, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2016, 8(6): 899-909.
[8] WANG Shengli, NAN Zhongren, Daniel PRETE . Protecting wild yak (Bos mutus) species and preventing its hybrid in China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2016, 8(5): 811-814.
[9] YANG Xuemei, LIU Shizeng, YANG Taibao, XU Xianying, KANG Caizhou, TANG Jinnian, WEI Huaidong, Mihretab G GHEBREZGABHER, LI Zhiqi. Spatial-temporal dynamics of desert vegetation and its responses to climatic variations over the last three decades: a case study of Hexi region in Northwest China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2016, 8(4): 556-568.
[10] GeFei ZHANG, WenZhi ZHAO. Species-specific traits determine shrub-annual interactions during a growing season[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(3): 403-413.
[11] HaiNa ZHANG, PeiXi SU, ShanJia LI, ZiJuan ZHOU, TingTing XIE. Response of root traits of Reaumuria soongorica and Salsola passerina to facilitation[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2014, 6(5): 628-636.
[12] Dieter OVERDIECK, Daniel ZICHE, RuiDe YU. Gas exchange of Populus euphratica leaves in a riparian zone[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2013, 5(4): 531-541.
[13] ZongQiang CHANG, XiaoQing LIU, Qi FENG, ZongXi CHE, HaiYang XI, YongHong SU, JianHua SI. Non-growing season soil CO2 efflux and its changes in an alpine meadow ecosystem of the Qilian Mountains, Northwest China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2013, 5(4): 488-499.
[14] YuBi YAO, RunYuan WANG, JinHu YANG, Ping YUE, DengRong LU, GuoJu XIAO, Yang WANG, LinChun LIU. Changes in terrestrial surface dry and wet conditions on the Loess Plateau (China) during the last half century[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2013, 5(1): 15-24.
[15] Amit CHAKRABORTY, GuiQuan SUN, B. Larry LI. Spatial organization of multiple plant species in arid ecosystems: linking patterns and processes[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2010, 2(1): 9-13.