Using a modified soil quality index to evaluate densely tilled soils with different yields in Northeast China

  • Nan Mei
  • Bin Yang
  • Ping Tian
  • Ying Jiang
  • Pengxiang Sui
  • Daquan Sun
  • Zhenping Zhang
  • Hua Qi
Sustainable Environmental Management


Northeastern China has long-term densely tilled soils that supply approximately 20% of the annual total national grains. There are very few reports on the agricultural soil quality subjecting to the predatory tillage. Here, the soil quality index (SQI) of a brunisolic soil was calculated using the minimum data set (MDS) and integrated quality index (IQI). The topsoil layer was divided into plow layer (11.9 ± 1.9 cm) and plow pan (11.4 ± 2.6 cm) in fields of high yields (HYB), medium yields (MYB), and low yields (LYB). Our results showed that the MDS of the topsoil layer only contained chemical indicators. The bulk density (BD), as one of the most important soil quality indicators, was found of no significant differences in the topsoil layers. In different layers (i.e., the topsoil layer, plow layer, and plow pan), the value of SQI presented a consistent tendency of HYB > MYB > LYB (p < 0.05). The correlation between SQI and yield was higher in the plow layer (0.60) and plow pan (0.63) than the topsoil layer (0.47). This further verified the reasonability of using soil stratification for SQI calculation. Our findings indicate the potential of using soil quality assessments to examine soil productivity (e.g., fertilizer deficiency) in crop lands with soil stratification.


Densely tilled soil Soil properties Minimum data set Soil quality index Critical limit 



We wish to thank the staffs of Zhangzhuang cooperative for providing field supports.

Funding information

This study was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFD0300801, 2016YFD0300103), the Special Fund for Agro-scientific Research in the Public Interest (201503116), and the National Science Foundation of China (31700560).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nan Mei
    • 1
  • Bin Yang
    • 2
  • Ping Tian
    • 1
  • Ying Jiang
    • 1
  • Pengxiang Sui
    • 1
  • Daquan Sun
    • 3
  • Zhenping Zhang
    • 4
  • Hua Qi
    • 1
  1. 1.College of AgronomyShenyang Agricultural UniversityShenyangChina
  2. 2.CAS Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical GardenChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.College of Agriculture and BioresourcesUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  4. 4.Institute of crop scienceShenyang Academy of Agricultural SciencesLiaoningChina

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