Characteristics of soil nutrients, heavy metals and tea quality in different intercropping patterns

  • Bo Wen
  • Xiaolei Zhang
  • Shuang Ren
  • Yu Duan
  • Yanyuan Zhang
  • Xujun Zhu
  • Yuhua Wang
  • Yuanchun Ma
  • Wanping FangEmail author


Intercropping is an important agroforestry practice that can not only increase biodiversity, improve microenvironment and resource utilization, but also improve crop yield and quality. In this paper, the soil environmental characteristics and tea quality of three tea-fruit intercropping patterns (loquat-tea, waxberry-tea, and citrus-tea) and pure tea garden were studied. The soil samples of 0–10 cm, 10–20 cm and 20–30 cm depths in different seasons (spring and autumn) were collected to analyze the physicochemical characteristics of the soil. Corresponding tea bud samples in spring were collected for the determination of the main chemical components. The soil nutrient of the three intercropping patterns was higher than that of the single tea plantation, while the heavy metal content and pH value were opposite. Moreover, the difference in soil nutrient and pH under intercropping patterns were correlated with the sampling period. The tea plantation under intercropping patterns had higher free amino acid content, lower catechins content and the ratio of phenol to amino acids, which is conducive to the formation of green tea quality. Under the patterns of loquat-tea intercropping and citrus-tea intercropping, soil nutrients were higher than that of waxberry-tea intercropping. For the tea plantation soil heavy metals, waxberry-tea intercropping and citrus-tea intercropping had lower concentration than that of loquat-tea intercropping. However, citrus-tea intercropping is superior to the other two intercropping patterns for tea quality. These results may enhance the understanding of tea-fruit intercropping patterns for improving the soil environment of tea plantation and the quality of tea.


Agroforestry systems Mixture cultivation Fertility condition Catechins Caffeine Free amino acids 



This research was supported by the earmarked fund for Jiangsu Agricultural Industry Technology System (JATS[2018]280), The Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (KYZ201842; KYZ201841), The National Natural Science Foundation of China (31870680; 31770733), the Earmarked Fund for China Agriculture Research System (CARS-19), and Jiangsu Agriculture Science and Technology Innovation Fund (CX(17)2018).

Supplementary material

10457_2019_463_MOESM1_ESM.docx (14 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 13 kb)


  1. Akanvou R, Bastiaans L, Kropff MJ, Goudriaan J, Becker M (2010) Characterization of growth, nitrogen accumulation and competitive ability of six tropical legumes for potential use in intercropping systems. J Agron Crop Sci 187:111–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alcázar A, Ballesteros O, Jurado JM, Pablos F, Martín MJ, Vilches JL et al (2007) Differentiation of green, white, black, Oolong, and Pu-erh teas according to their free amino acids content. J Agric Food Chem 55:5960–5965PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alguacil MM, Torrecillas E, Garcíaorenes F, Roldán A (2014) Changes in the composition and diversity of AMF communities mediated by management practices in a Mediterranean soil are related with increases in soil biological activity. Soil Biol Biochem 76:34–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. An L, Pan Y, Wang Z, Zhu C (2011) Heavy metal absorption status of five plant species in monoculture and intercropping. Plant Soil 345:237–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boudreau MA (2013) Diseases in intercropping systems. Annu Rev Phytopathol 51:499–519PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. Brooker RW, Bennett AE, Wen-Feng C, Daniell TJ, George TS, Hallett PD et al (2015) Improving intercropping: a synthesis of research in agronomy, plant physiology and ecology. New Phytol 206:107–117PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. Brooker RW, Karley AJ, Newton AC, Pakeman RJ, Schöb C (2016) Facilitation and sustainable agriculture: a mechanistic approach to reconciling crop production and conservation. Funct Ecol 30:98–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chen YX, Xu J, Yu MG, Chen XC, Shi JY (2010) Lead contamination in different varieties of tea plant (Camellia sinensis L.) and factors affecting lead bioavailability. J Sci Food Agric 90:1501–1507PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  9. Chifflot V, Bertoni G, Cabanettes A, Gavaland A (2006) Beneficial effects of intercropping on the growth and nitrogen status of young wild cherry and hybrid walnut trees. Agrofor Syst 66:13–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cong WF, Ellis H, Li L, Johan S, Sun J, Bao X et al (2015) Intercropping enhances soil carbon and nitrogen. Glob Change Biol 21:1715–1726CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Costa WAJMD, Surenthran P, Attanayake KB (2005) Tree-crop interactions in hedgerow intercropping with different tree species and tea in Sri Lanka: 2. Soil and plant nutrients. Agrofor Syst 63:211–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dong MH, Gu JR, Liu TF, Yang DF et al (2015) Differences and correlation of soil mineral nutrients in Dongting Biluochun Tea Intercropping Garden. Zhejiang Agric Sci 56:812–816Google Scholar
  13. Fan F, Zhang F, Song Y, Sun J, Bao X, Guo T et al (2006) Nitrogen fixation of Faba Bean (Vicia faba L.) interacting with a non-legume in two contrasting intercropping systems. Plant Soil 283:275–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Feng L, Gao MJ, Hou RY, Hu XY, Zhang L, Wan XC et al (2014) Determination of quality constituents in the young leaves of albino tea cultivars. Food Chem 155:98–104PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gramlich A, Tandy S, Andres C, Paniagua JC, Armengot L, Schneider M et al (2017) Cadmium uptake by cocoa trees in agroforestry and monoculture systems under conventional and organic management. Sci Total Environ 580:677–686PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Guo XF, Li HS, Chen HY (2017) The effects of biochar and intercropping on the Cd, Cr and Zn speciation in soils and plant uptake by Machilus pauhoi. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 98:574–581PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Han WY, Huang JG, Li X, Li ZX, Ahammed GJ, Yan P et al (2017) Altitudinal effects on the quality of green tea in east China: a climate change perspective. Eur Food Res Technol 243:323–330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hauggaard-Nielsen H, Jensen ES (2005) Facilitative root interactions in intercrops. Plant Soil 274:237–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jing Z, Cheng J, Jishuai SU, Bai YU, Jin J (2014) Changes in plant community composition and soil properties under 3-decade grazing exclusion in semiarid grassland. Ecol Eng 64:171–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Karak T, Bora K, Paul RK, Das S, Khare P, Dutta AK et al (2017) Paradigm shift of contamination risk of six heavy metals in tea (Camellia sinensis L.) growing soil: a new approach influenced byinorganic and organic amendments. J Hazard Mater 338:250–264PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  21. Khan AG, Kuek C, Chaudhry TM, Khoo CS, Hayes WJ (2000) Role of plants, mycorrhizae and phytochelators in heavy metal contaminated land remediation. Chemosphere 41:197–207PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  22. Kromp B (1999) Carabid beetles in sustainable agriculture: a review on pest control efficacy, cultivation impacts and enhancement. Agric Ecosyst Environ 74:187–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lan-Sook L, Hea CJ, Nari S, Sang-Hee K, Jong-Dae P, Dae-Ja J et al (2013) Metabolomic analysis of the effect of shade treatment on the nutritional and sensory qualities of green tea. J Agric Food Chem 61:332–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lee LS, Choi JH, Son N, Kim SH, Park JD, Jang DJ et al (2013) Metabolomic analysis of the effect of shade treatment on the nutritional and sensory qualities of green tea. J Agric Food Chem 61:332–338PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  25. Lee JE, Lee BJ, Chung JO, Kim HN, Kim EH, Jung S et al (2015) Metabolomic unveiling of a diverse range of green tea (Camellia sinensis) metabolites dependent on geography. Food Chem 174:452–459PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. Lin ZH, Qi YP, Chen RB, Zhang FZ, Chenabe LS (2012) Effects of phosphorus supply on the quality of green tea. Food Chem 130:908–914CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ma YH, Fu SL, Zhang XP, Zhao K, Chen HYH (2017) Intercropping improves soil nutrient availability, soil enzyme activity and tea quantity and quality. Appl Soil Ecol 119:171–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mcdonald MA, Healey JR, Stevens PA (2002) The effects of secondary forest clearance and subsequent land-use on erosion losses and soil properties in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. Agric Ecosyst Environ 92:1–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rivest D, Cogliastro A (2019) Establishment success of seven hardwoods in a tree-based intercropping system in southern Quebec, Canada. Agrofor Syst 93:1073–1080CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sano T, Horie H, Matsunaga A, Hirono Y (2018) Effect of shading intensity on morphologica and color traits and on chemical components of new tea (Camellia sinensis L.) shoots under direct covering cultivation. J Sci Food Agric 98:5666–5676PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Souza HND, Goede RGMD, Brussaard L, Cardoso IM, Duarte EMG, Fernandes R et al (2012) Protective shade, tree diversity and soil properties in coffee agroforestry systems in the Atlantic Rainforest biome. Agric Ecosyst Environ 146:179–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Steffan-Dewenter I, Kessler M, Barkmann J, Bos MM, Buchori D, Erasmi S et al (2007) Trade offs between income, biodiversity, and ecosystem functioning during tropical rainforest conversion and agroforestry intensification. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 104:4973–4978PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sun YX, Wu QY, Hu HY, Tian J (2009) Effect of bromide on the formation of disinfection by-products during wastewater chlorination. Water Res 43:2391–2398PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Vandermeer J (1989) The ecology of intercropping. Trends Ecol Evol 4:324–325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wang ZG, Bao XG, Li XF, Jin X, Zhao JH, Sun JH et al (2015) Intercropping maintains soil fertility in terms of chemical properties and enzyme activities on a timescale of one decade. Plant Soil 391:265–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Wang G, Liu HQ, Gong Y, Wei Y, Miao AJ, Yang LY et al (2017) Risk assessment of metals in urban soils from a typical industrial city, Suzhou, Eastern China. Int J Environ Res Publ Health 14:1025CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Webster R (2010) Soil sampling and methods of analysis. Eur J Soil Sci 59:1010–1011CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wei M, Jiang ST, Luo JP (2011) Determination of nitrate–nitrogen with ultraviolet spectrophotometry. Environ Sci Technol 29:495–499Google Scholar
  39. Wen B, Li L, Duan Y, Zhang Y, Shen J, Xia M et al (2018) Zn, Ni, Mn, Cr, Pb and Cu in soil–tea ecosystem: the concentrations, spatial relationship and potential control. Chemosphere 204:92–100PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Xiang G, Man W, Ruineng X, Xiurong W, Ruqian P, Hye-Ji K et al (2014) Root interactions in a maize/soybean intercropping system control soybean soil-borne disease, red crown rot. PLoS ONE 9:e95031CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Yang CS (1997) Inhibition of carcinogenesis by tea. Nature 389:134–135PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  42. Zhang Y, Chen HYH, Reich PB (2012) Forest productivity increases with evenness, species richness and trait variation: a global meta-analysis. J Ecol 100:742–749CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Zhang Z, Chao Z, Xu Y, Huang X, Zhang L, Wei M (2016) Effects of intercropping tea with aromatic plants on population dynamics of arthropods in Chinese tea plantations. J Pest Sci 90:1–11Google Scholar
  44. Zhu S, Ma X, Guo R, Ai S, Liu B, Zhang W et al (2016) A field study on heavy metals phytoattenuation potential of monocropping and intercropping of maize and/or legumes in weakly alkaline soils. Int J Phytoremediat 18:1014–1021CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tea Research Institute, College of HorticultureNanjing Agricultural UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.College of Landscape ArchitectureNanjing Forestry UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.College of Economics and ManagementNanjing Forestry UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China

Personalised recommendations