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Journal of Arid Land  2019, Vol. 11 Issue (4): 567-578    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-019-0065-y
Effects of different tillage and straw retention practices on soil aggregates and carbon and nitrogen sequestration in soils of the northwestern China
Jun WU1,2, STEPHEN Yeboah3, Liqun CAI1,2, Renzhi ZHANG1,2,*(), Peng QI1, Zhuzhu LUO1,2, Lingling LI2,4, Junhong XIE2,4, Bo DONG1
1 College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, Gansu Agricultural University, Lanzhou 730070, China
2 Gansu Provincial Key Lab of Arid land Crop Science, Gansu Agricultural University, Lanzhou 730070, China
3 Crops Research Institute, Kumasi 3785, Ghana
4College of Agronomy, Gansu Agricultural University, Lanzhou 730070, China
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Soil tillage and straw retention in dryland areas may affect the soil aggregates and the distribution of total organic carbon. The aims of this study were to establish how different tillage and straw retention practices affect the soil aggregates and soil organic carbon (SOC) and total nitrogen (TN) contents in the aggregate fractions based on a long-term (approximately 15 years) field experimentin the semi-arid western Loess Plateau, northwestern China. The experiment included four soil treatments, i.e., conventional tillage with straw removed (T), conventional tillage with straw incorporated (TS), no tillage with straw removed (NT) and no tillage with straw retention (NTS), which were arranged in a complete randomized block design. The wet-sieving method was used to separate four size fractions of aggregates, namely, large macroaggregates (LA, >2000 μm), small macroaggregates (SA, 250-2000 μm), microaggregates (MA, 53-250 μm), and silt and clay (SC, <53 μm). Compared to the conventional tillage practices (including T and TS treatments), the percentages of the macroaggregate fractions (LA and SA) under the conservation tillage practices (including NT and NTS treatments) were increased by 41.2%-56.6%, with the NTS treatment having the greatest effect. For soil layers of 0-5, 5-10 and 10-30 cm, values of the mean weight diameter (MWD) under the TS and NTS treatments were 10.68%, 13.83% and 17.65%, respectively. They were 18.45%, 19.15% and 14.12% higher than those under the T treatment, respectively. The maximum contents of the aggregate-associated SOC and TN were detected in the SA fraction, with the greatest effect being observed for the NTS treatment. The SOC and TN contents were significantly higher under the NTS and TS treatments than under the T treatment. Also, the increases in SOC and TN levels were much higher in the straw-retention plots than in the straw-removed plots. The macroaggregates (including LA and SA fractions) were the major pools for SOC and TN, regardless of tillage practices, storing 3.25-6.81 g C/kg soil and 0.34-0.62 g N/kg soil. Based on the above results, we recommend the NTS treatment as the best option to boost soil aggregates and to reinforce carbon and nitrogen sequestration in soils in the semi-arid western Loess Plateau of northwestern China.

Key wordssoil aggregates      soil organic carbon      total nitrogen      straw management      tillage practices      Loess Plateau     
Received: 20 August 2018      Published: 10 August 2019
Fund:  This research was financially supported by the Scientific Research Start-up Funds for Openly-Recruited Doctors (GAU-KYQD-2018-39), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31571594, 41661049) and the National Science and Technology Supporting Program of China (2015BAD22B04-03).
Corresponding Authors: Renzhi ZHANG     E-mail:
About author:

The first and second authors contributed equally to this work.

Cite this article:

Jun WU, STEPHEN Yeboah, Liqun CAI, Renzhi ZHANG, Peng QI, Zhuzhu LUO, Lingling LI, Junhong XIE, Bo DONG. Effects of different tillage and straw retention practices on soil aggregates and carbon and nitrogen sequestration in soils of the northwestern China. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(4): 567-578.

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