Integrated double mulching practices optimizes soil temperature and improves soil water utilization in arid environments.

Yin, W., Feng, F., Zhao, C., Yu, A.Z., Hu, F., Chai, Q., Gan, Y.T., and Guo, Y. (2016). "Integrated double mulching practices optimizes soil temperature and improves soil water utilization in arid environments.", International Journal of Biometeorology, pp. 1-15. doi : 10.1007/s00484-016-1134-y  Access to full text

Abstract

Water shortage threatens agricultural sustainability in many arid and semiarid areas of the world. It is unknown whether improved water conservation practices can be developed to alleviate this issue while increasing crop productivity. In this study, we developed a “double mulching” system, i.e., plastic film coupled with straw mulch, integrated together with intensified strip intercropping. We determined (i) the responses of soil evaporation and moisture conservation to the integrated double mulching system and (ii) the change of soil temperature during key plant growth stages under the integrated systems. Experiments were carried out in northwest China in 2009 to 2011. Results show that wheat-maize strip intercropping in combination with plastic film and straw covering on the soil surface increased soil moisture (mm) by an average of 3.8 % before sowing, 5.3 % during the wheat and maize co-growth period, 4.4 % after wheat harvest, and 4.9 % after maize harvest, compared to conventional practice (control). The double mulching decreased total evapotranspiration of the two intercrops by an average of 4.6 % (P < 0.05), compared to control. An added feature was that the double mulching system decreased soil temperature in the top 10-cm depth by 1.26 to 1.31 °C in the strips of the cool-season wheat, and by 1.31 to 1.51 °C in the strips of the warm-season maize through the 2 years. Soil temperature of maize strips higher as 1.25 to 1.94 °C than that of wheat strips in the top 10-cm soil depth under intercropping with the double mulching system; especially higher as 1.58 to 2.11 °C under intercropping with the conventional tillage; this allows the two intercrops to grow in a well “collaborative” status under the double mulching system during their co-growth period. The improvement of soil moisture and the optimization of soil temperature for the two intercrops allow us to conclude that wheat-maize intensification with the double mulching system can be used as an effective farming model in alleviating water shortage issues experiencing in water shortage areas.

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