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Effects of mulches on water use in a winter wheat/summer maize rotation system in Loess Plateau, China

Abstract

Limited water resources often result in reduced crop yield and low water productivity (WP). In northwestern China, crop production is generally dependent on precipitation. Therefore, a variety of agricultural rainwater harvesting (ARH) techniques have been used for conserving soil moisture, ameliorating soil environment, increasing crop yield, and improving water use efficiency. A two-year (2013–2015) field experiment was conducted under a typical sub-humid drought-prone climate in Yangling (108°24′E, 34°20′N; 521 m a.s.l.), Shaanxi Province, China, to explore the effects of mulching (same for summer maize and winter wheat) on soil moisture, soil temperature, crop water consumption, and crop yield with a winter wheat/summer maize rotation. Crops were planted in a ridge-furrow pattern and the treatments consisted of a transparent film mulch over the ridges (M1), a crop straw mulch in the furrows (M2), a transparent film mulch over the ridges and a crop straw mulch in the furrows (M3), a black film mulch over the ridges and a crop straw mulch in the furrows (M4), and a control with no mulch (CK). Results showed that M4 was the best treatment for improving soil water storage and content, and decreasing crop water consumption during the summer maize and winter wheat rotation. In both maize and wheat seasons, M1 had a higher soil temperature than M2 and CK, and M3 had a higher soil temperature than M4. In the maize seasons, M4 had the highest yield, WP, and precipitation productivity (PP), with the average values for these parameters increasing by 30.9%, 39.0%, and 31.0%, respectively, compared to those in CK. In the wheat seasons, however, M3 had the highest yield, WP, and PP, with the average values for these parameters being 23.7%, 26.7%, and 23.8% higher, respectively, than those in CK. Annual yield (maize and wheat yields combined) and WP did not differ significantly between M3 and M4. These results suggested that M3 and M4 may thus be the optimal ARH practices for the production of winter wheat and summer maize, respectively, in arid and semi-arid areas.

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Acknowledgments

This study was supported by the Special Fund for Agro-scientific Research in the Public Interest (201503125, 201503105) and the Chinese National High Technology Research and Development Program (2011AA100504). The authors acknowledge editors and anonymous reviewers for providing helpful comments on this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Yuannong Li.

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Yin, M., Li, Y., Xu, Y. et al. Effects of mulches on water use in a winter wheat/summer maize rotation system in Loess Plateau, China. J. Arid Land 10, 277–291 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-018-0092-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-018-0092-0

Keywords

  • mulch
  • soil moisture
  • crop water consumption
  • water productivity
  • winter wheat/summer maize rotation