Gravel-sand mulch thickness effects on soil temperature, evaporation, water use efficiency and yield of watermelon yield in semi-arid Loess Plateau, China.

Wang, Y., Xie, Z., Malhi, S.S., Vera, C.L., and Zhang, Y. (2014). "Gravel-sand mulch thickness effects on soil temperature, evaporation, water use efficiency and yield of watermelon yield in semi-arid Loess Plateau, China.", Acta Ecologica Sinica, 34(5), pp. 261-265. doi : 10.1016/j.chnaes.2014.05.007  Access to full text

Abstract

Mulch thickness is one of the important factors affecting soil moisture and temperature. Two field experiments were conducted at Gaolan, Gansu, China, to investigate the influence of gravel-sand mixture mulch thickness on soil temperature, evaporation, evapotranspiration, water use efficiency (WUE) and yield. There were 5 levels of gravel-sand mulch thickness in Experiment 1 (3, 5, 7, 9 and 11 cm; without crop) and 4 levels of gravel-sand mulch thickness plus 80% plastic film mulch in Experiment 2 (3, 5, 8 and 11 cm; cropped to watermelon). There was a close negative relationship between mulch thickness and soil evaporation, with exponential function. Mulch decreased soil evaporation up to a thickness of 7 cm. The soil temperature from 11:00 to 18:00 was slightly lower with mulching compared to no mulching and, as a result, mulch not only decreased the temperature difference between day and night, but also it had a lag. In addition, the peak soil temperature at 5 cm depth was reduced and the soil temperature at night was raised with increased mulch thickness. Mulch had no further effect on soil temperature when thickness is greater than 7 cm. With 80% plastic film mulch, a significant effect on watermelon yield and WUE was detected among the different treatments used in this study, with the highest yield and WUE obtained with the 8 cm mulch thickness treatment. Therefore, 7–8 cm of mulch thickness appears to be the most appropriate option for gravel-sand mulch to sustain high watermelon yield and WUE.

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