Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2009

Effects of mulching and catch cropping on soil temperature, soil moisture and wheat yield on the Loess Plateau of China

Zhang, Shulan; Lövdahl, Lars; Grip, Harald; Tong, Yanan; Yang, Xueyun; Wang, Quanjiu


Soil management can notably influence crop production under dryland farming in semiarid areas. Field experiments were conducted, from October 2001 to September 2004, with an attempt to evaluate the effects of field management regimes on thermal status at an upland site; and soil water and wheat production in a winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L) system at upland, terrace land and bottom land sites on the Loess Plateau, China. The field management regimes tested were: (i) the conventional practice (winter wheat followed by a ploughed summer bare fallow); (ii) conventional management, but a catch crop growing for certain time during fallow period used as green manure (after the wheat harvest, a catch crop were directly sown. instead of ploughing, and then incorporated into the soil roughly one month before wheat sowing); and (iii) wheat straw mulch (0.8 kg m(-2)), covering the soil throughout the year during the experimental period (no summer ploughing, straw was removed during wheat sowing). Soil temperature under catch cropping was lower during certain period of its growing by about 2 degrees C, slightly higher for short spells after incorporation and before wheat harvest, no observed effects during the rest time of a year relative to conventional practice at the upland site. Moreover, soil water storage levels under catch cropping were comparable with those of the conventional practice for all three years, but wheat yield substantially declined in the last year. Mulching showed different responses for the three land sites. At the upland site, daily mean soil temperatures under mulching at 10 cm depth were decreased in the warmer period by 0-4 degrees C, and increased in the colder period by 0-2 degrees C when compared to those of non-mulched soil. At upland and bottom land sites, mulching conserved an average of 28 and 20 mm more water in the upper 100 cm soil layer at the time of wheat sowing, respectively, than conventional practice. However, at the terrace, mulching had little effect on soil water storage, nor on wheat grain yield, relative to conventional practice. Therefore, considering the limited availability of mulch material in this region and the economic benefits, it is recommended that mulching may be beneficial to upland or bottom land, but not to terraced land. In addition, the application of catch cropping in this study did not show positive effects, the more comprehensive evaluation of this approach would be further needed. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Soil water storage; Upland; Terrace land; Bottom land

Published in

Soil and Tillage Research
2009, Volume: 102, number: 1, pages: 78-86