Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 2143–2152 | Cite as

Long-term straw mulch effects on crop yields and soil organic carbon fractions at different depths under a no-till system on the Chengdu Plain, China

  • Zijun Zhou
  • Xiangzhong Zeng
  • Kun Chen
  • Zhu Li
  • Song Guo
  • Yuxian Shangguan
  • Hua Yu
  • Shihua Tu
  • Yusheng QinEmail author
Soils, Sec 1 • Soil Organic Matter Dynamics and Nutrient Cycling • Research Article



A 12-year field experiment was conducted to assess straw mulch effects on soil organic carbon fractions, the carbon pool management index (CPMI) at different depths, and crop yield under a no-till rice-wheat rotation system on the Chengdu Plain, southwestern China.

Materials and methods

There were two treatments in the experiment: no-till without straw mulch (CK) and no-till with straw mulch (SM). The soil was sampled at 0–5, 5–10, 10–20, and 20–30-cm depths. Soil total organic carbon (TOC), the labile organic carbon fractions, including particulate organic carbon (POC), dissolved organic carbon (DOC), microbial biomass carbon (MBC), and permanganate-oxidizable carbon (KMnO4-C), and the CPMI were analyzed. The crop grains were measured between September 2013 and May 2018.

Results and discussion

Between 2013 and 2018, rice and wheat grain yields under SM were comparable to CK, except there were higher rice yields in 2016 and higher wheat yields in 2017 under SM. The soil organic carbon decreased as soil depth increased in both treatments. Soil TOC, POC, and KMnO4-C concentrations at 0–5 and 5–10 cm, CPMI at 0–5 and 5–10 cm, and DOC at 0–5, 5–10, and 10–20-cm soil depths were significantly greater under SM than under CK, whereas the MBC at 0–5 and 5–10 cm under SM was lower than CK. The POC/TOC, KMnO4-C/TOC, and DOC/TOC ratios were greater under SM in the 0–5 and 5–10 cm, 0–5 cm, and 5–10 and 10–20-cm layers than CK, respectively, whereas the MBC/TOC ratio decreased under SM at 0–5, 5–10, and 10–20-cm depths.


The results showed that straw mulching should be adopted when a no-till rice-wheat cropping system is used in southwestern China because it leads to effective improvements in SOC sequestration while still maintaining normal crop yields.


Crop yields No-till Soil carbon fractions Soil different depths Straw mulch 



We thank International Science Editing ( for editing this manuscript.

Funding information

This work was financially supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (grant number 2016YFD0300907), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant number 41807103), the Special Fund for Agroscientific Research in the Public Interest (grant number 201503118), the Sichuan Science and Technology Program (grant number 2016JY0012), the Youth Foundation of Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences (grant number 2018QNJJ-017), and the Fund for Excellent Papers of Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences (grant number 2018LWJJ-006).


  1. Akhtar K, Wang WY, Ren GX, Khan A, Feng YZ, Yang GH (2018) Changes in soil enzymes, soil properties, and maize crop productivity under wheat straw mulching in Guanzhong, China. Soil Tillage Res 182:94–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barzegar AR, Yousefi A, Daryashenas A (2002) The effect of addition of different amounts and types of organic materials on soil physical properties and yield of wheat. Plant Soil 247:295–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beare MH, Hus S, Coleman DC, Hendrix PF (1997) Influences of mycelial fungi on soil aggregation and organic matter storage in conventional and no-tillage soils. Appl Soil Ecol 5:211–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bhattacharyya P, Roy KS, Neogi S, Adhya TK, Rao KS, Manna MC (2012) Effects of rice straw and nitrogen fertilization on greenhouse gas emissions and carbon storage in tropical flooded soil planted with rice. Soil Tillage Res 124:119–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blair GJ, Lefroy RDB, Lisle L (1995) Soil carbon fractions based on their degree of oxidation and the development of a carbon management index for agricultural systems. Aust J Agric Res 46:1459–1466CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blanco-Canqui H, Lal R (2007) Soil structure and organic carbon relationships following 10 years of wheat straw management in no-till. Soil Tillage Res 95:240–254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blanco-Canqui H, Lal R (2009) Crop residue removal impacts on soil productivity and environmental quality. Crit Rev Plant Sci 28:139–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blanco-Moure N, Gracia R, Bielsa AC, López MV (2016) Soil organic matter fractions as affected by tillage and soil texture under semiarid Mediterranean conditions. Soil Tillage Res 155:381–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bolinder MA, Angers DA, Gregorich EG, Carter MR (1999) The response of soil quality indicators to conservation management. Can J Soil Sci 79:37–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bossio DA, Scow KM (1998) Impacts of carbon and flooding on soil microbial communities: phospholipid fatty acid profiles and substrate utilization patterns. Microb Ecol 35:265–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brookes P, Powlson D, Jenkinson D (1982) Measurement of microbial biomass phosphorus in soil. Soil Biol Biochem 14:319–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cambardella CA, Elliott ET (1992) Particulate soil organic matter changes across a grassland cultivation sequence. Soil Sci Soc Am J 56:777–783CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cao XY, Olk DC, Chappell M, Cambardella CA, Miller LF, Mao JD (2011) Solid-state NMR analysis of soil organic matter fractions from integrated physical-chemical extraction. Soil Sci Soc Am J 75(4):1374–1384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chen SY, Zhang XY, Pei D, Sun HY, Chen SL (2007) Effects of straw mulching on soil temperature, evaporation and yield of winter wheat: field experiments on the North China plain. Ann Appl Biol 150:261–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chen HQ, Hou RX, Gong YS, Li HW, Fan MS, Kuzyakow Y (2009) Effects of 11 years of conservation tillage on soil organic matter fractions in wheat monoculture in loess plateau of China. Soil Tillage Res 106:85–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Chen ZM, Wang Q, Wang HY, Bao L, Zhou JM (2018) Crop yields and soil organic carbon fractions as influenced by straw incorporation in a rice-wheat cropping system in southeastern China. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 112:61–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cherubini F (2010) GHG balances of bioenergy systems—overview of key steps in the production chain and methodological concerns. Renew Energy 35:1565–1573CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cook HF, Valdes GS, Lee HC (2006) Mulch effects on rainfall interception, soil physical characteristics and temperature under Zea mays L. Soil Tillage Res 91:227–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Diekow J, Mielniczuk J, Knicker H, Bayer C, Dick DP, Kogel-Knaber I (2005) Carbon and nitrogen stocks in physical fractions of a subtropical Acrisol as influenced by long-term no-till cropping systems and N fertilization. Plant Soil 268:319–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dolan M, Clapp C, Allmaras R, Baker J, Molina J (2006) Soil organic carbon and nitrogen in a Minnesota soil as related to tillage: residue and nitrogen management. Soil Tillage Res 89:221–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Duval ME, Galantini JA, Capurro JE, Martinez JM (2016) Winter cover crops in soybean monoculture: effects on soil organic carbon and its fractions. Soil Tillage Res 161:95–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Erenstein O, Sayre K, Wall P, Hellin J, Dixon J (2012) Conservation agriculture in maize- and wheat-based systems in the (sub)tropics: lessons from adaptation initiatives in South Asia, Mexico, and Southern Africa. J Sustain Agric 36:180–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Funke A, Mumme J, Koon M, Diakité M (2013) Cascaded production of biogas and hydrochar from wheat straw: energetic potential and recovery of carbon and plant nutrients. Biomass Bioenergy 58:229–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ghani A, Dexter M, Perrott KW (2003) Hot-water extractable carbon in soils: a sensitive measurement for determining impacts of fertilisation, grazing and cultivation. Soil Biol Biochem 35:1231–1243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Giller KE, Witter E, Corbeels M, Tittonell P (2009) Conservation agriculture and smallholder farming in Africa: the heretics’ view. Field Crops Res 114:23–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gosling P, Parsons N, Bending GD (2013) What are the primary factors controlling the light fraction and particulate soil organic matter content of agricultural soils? Biol Fertil Soils 49:1001–1014CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Haynes RJ (2005) Labile organic matter fractions as central components of the quality of agricultural soils: an overview. Adv Agron 85:221–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hemwong S, Cadisch G, Toomsan B, Limpinuntana V, Vityakon P, Patanothai A (2008) Dynamics of residue decomposition and N2 fixation of grain legumes upon sugarcane residue retention as an alternative to burning. Soil Tillage Res 99:84–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hobbs PR (2007) Conservation agriculture: what is it and why is it important for future sustainable food production. J Agric Sci 145:127–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jain N, Bhatia A, Pathak H (2014) Emission of air pollutants from crop residue burning in India. Aerosol Air Qual Res 14:422–430CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jones DL, Willett VB (2006) Experimental evaluation of methods to quantify dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in soil. Soil Biol Biochem 38:991–999CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kassam A, Li HW, Niino Y, Friedrich T, Jin H, Wang XL (2014) Current status, prospect and policy and institutional support for conservation agriculture in the Asia-Pacific region. Int J Agric Biol Eng 7:1–13Google Scholar
  33. Kimura M, Asakama S (2006) Comparison of community structures of microbiota at main habitats in rice field ecosystems based on phospholipid fatty acid analysis. Biol Fertil Soils 43:20–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kirkegaard JA, Hunt JR (2010) Increasing productivity by matching farming system management and genotype in water-limited environments. J Exp Bot 61:4129–4143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lafond GP (1994) Effects off row spacing, seeding rate and nitrogen on yield of barley and wheat under zero-till management. Can J Soil Sci 74:703–711Google Scholar
  36. Lafond GP, Stumborg M, Lemke R, May WE, Holzapfel CB, Campbell CA (2009) Quantifying straw removal through baling and measuring the long-term impact on soil quality and wheat production. Agron J 101:529–537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lal R (1989) Conservation tillage for sustainable agriculture: tropics vs. temperate environments. Adv Agron 42:85–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lal R (2004) Soil carbon sequestration impacts on global climate change and food security. Science 304:1623–1627CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lal R (2018) Sustainable intensification of China’s agroecosystems by conservation agriculture. Soil Water Conserv Res 6:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lemke RL, Vandenbygaart AJ, Campbell CA, Lafond GP, Grant B (2010) Crop residue removal and fertilizer N: effects on soil organic carbon in a long-term crop rotation experiment on a udic boroll. Agric Ecosyst Environ 135:42–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Li S, Zhang SR, Pu YL, Li T, Xu XX, Jia YX, Deng OP, Gong GS (2016) Dynamics of soil labile organic carbon fractions and C-cycle enzyme activities under straw mulch in Chengdu plain. Soil Tillage Res 155:289–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Li Q, Li HB, Zhang L, Zhang SQ, Chen YL (2018a) Mulching improves yield and water-use efficiency of potato cropping in China: a meta-analysis. Field Crops Res 221:50–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Li J, Wen YC, Li XH, Li YT, Yang XD, Lin ZA, Song ZZ, Cooper JM, Zhao BQ (2018b) Soil labile organic carbon fractions and soil organic carbon stocks as affected by long-term organic and mineral fertilization regimes in the North China plain. Soil Tillage Res 175:281–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lou Y, Xu M, Wang W, Sun X, Zhao K (2011) Return rate of straw residue affects soil organic C sequestration by chemical fertilization. Soil Tillage Res 113:70–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lu RK (2000) Methods of soil and agro-chemistry analysis. China Agricultural Science and Technology Press, Beijing, pp 62–141Google Scholar
  46. Lu X, Li S, Bu Q, Cheng D, Duan W, Sun Z (2014) Effects of rainfall harvesting and mulching on corn yield and water use in the corn belt of Northeast China. Agron J 106:2175–2184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Lynd LR, Wyman CE, Gerngross TU (1999) Biocommodity engineering. Biotechnol Prog 15:777–793Google Scholar
  48. Madejón E, Murillo JM, Moreno F, López MV, Arrue JL, Alvaro-Fuentes J, Cantero C (2009) Effect of long-term conservation tillage on soil biochemical properties in Mediterranean Spanish areas. Soil Tillage Res 105:55–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Main M, Joseph A, Zhang Y, MacLean HL (2007) Assessing the energy potential of agricultural production bioenergy pathways for Canada. Can J Plant Sci 87:781–792CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Montiel-Rozasa MM, Domíngueza MT, Madejóna E, Madejóna P, Pastorellib R, Renella G (2018) Long-term effects of organic amendments on bacterial and fungal communities in a degraded Mediterranean soil. Geoderma 332:20–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Nayak AK, Gangwar B, Shukla AK, Mazumdar SP, Kumar A, Kumar V, Rai PK, Mohan U (2012) Long-term effect of different integrated nutrient management on soil organic carbon and its fractions and sustainability of rice-wheat system in indo Gangetic Plains of India. Field Crops Res 127:129–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Pittelkow CM, Liang XQ, Linquist BA, van Groenigen KJ, Lee J, Lund ME, van Gestel N, Six J, Venterea RT, van Kessel C (2015) Productivity limits and potentials of the principles of conservation agriculture. Nature 517:368–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Plaza-Bonilla D, Álvaro-Fuentes J, Cantero-Martínez C (2014) Identifying soil organic carbon fractions sensitive to agricultural management practices. Soil Tillage Res 139:19–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sanaullah M, Chabbi A, Maron P-A, Baumann K, Tardy V, Blagodatskaya E, Kuzyakov Y, Rumpel C (2016) How do microbial communities in top- and subsoil respond to root litter addition under field conditions? Soil Biol Biochem 103:28–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sharma P, Abrol V, Sharma RK (2011) Impact of tillage and mulch management on economics, energy requirement and crop performance in maize–wheat rotation in rainfed subhumid inceptisols India. Eur J Agron 34:46–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sinclair TR, Amir J (1996) Model analysis of a straw mulch system for continuous wheat in an arid climate. Field Crops Res 47:33–41Google Scholar
  57. Singh P, Heikkinen J, Ketoja E, Nuutinen V, Palojärvi A, Sheehy J, Esala M, Mitra S, Alakukku L, Regina K (2015) Tillage and crop residue management methods had minor effects on the stock and stabilization of topsoil carbon in a 30-year field experiment. Sci Total Environ 337:518–519Google Scholar
  58. Six J, Callewaert P, Degryze S, Morris SJ, Gregorich EG, Paul EA, Paustian K (2002) Measuring and understanding carbon storage in afforested soils by physical fractionation. Soil Sci Soc Am J 66:1981–1987CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Smith P, Martino D, Cai Z, Gwary D, Janzen H, Kumar P, McCarl B, Ogle S, O’Mara F, Rice C, Scholes B, Sirotenko O, Howden M, McAllister T, Pan G, Romanenkov V, Schneider U, Towprayoon S, Wattenbach M, Smith J (2008) Greenhouse gas mitigation in agriculture. Philos Trans R Soc B 363:789–813CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sommer R, Piggin C, Haddad A, Hajdibo A, Hayek P, Khalil Y (2012) Simulating the effects of zero tillage and crop residue retention on water relations and yield of wheat under rainfed semiarid Mediterranean conditions. Field Crops Res 132:40–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Stagnari F, Galieni A, Speca S, Cafiero G, Pisante M (2014) Effects of straw mulch on growth and yield of durum wheat during transition to conservation agriculture in Mediterranean environment. Field Crops Res 167:51–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Su W, Lu JW, Wang WN, Li XK, Ren T, Cong RH (2014) Influence of rice straw mulching on seed yield and nitrogen use efficiency of winter oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.) in intensive rice–oilseed rape cropping system. Field Crops Res 159:53–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Taa A, Tanner D, Bennie ATP (2004) Effects of stubble management, tillage and cropping sequence on wheat production in the south-eastern highlands of Ethiopia. Soil Tillage Res 76:69–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Tian J, Lu SH, Fan MS, Li XL, Kuzyakov Y (2013) Labile soil organic matter fractions as influenced by non-flooded mulching cultivation and cropping season in rice-wheat rotation. Eur J Soil Biol 56:19–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Tolk JA, Howell TA, Evett SR (1999) Effect of mulch, irrigation, and soil type on water use and yield of maize. Soil Tillage Res 50:137–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Vieira FCB, Bayer C, Zanatta JA, Dieckow J, Mielniczuk J, He ZL (2007) Carbon management index based on physical fractionation of soil organic matter in an Acrisol under long-term no-till cropping systems. Soil Tillage Res 96:195–204Google Scholar
  67. Wang XB, Wu HJ, Dai K, Zhang DC, Feng ZH, Zhao QS, Wu XP, Ke J, Cai DX, Oenema O, Hoogmoed WB (2012) Tillage and crop residue effects on rainfed wheat and maize production in northern China. Field Crops Res 132:106–116Google Scholar
  68. Wang XY, Yang L, Steinberger Y, Liu ZX, Liao SH, Xie GH (2013) Field crop residue estimate and availability for biofuel production in China. Renew Sust Energ Rev 27:864–875CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wang J, Xue Y, Pan JJ, Zheng XQ, Qin Q, Sun LJ, Song K (2018) Effects of tillage and straw incorporation on sequestration of organic carbon and crop yields. J Soil Water Conserv 5:121–127 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  70. Wu J, Joergensen R, Pommerening B, Chaussod R, Brookes P (1990) Measurement of soil microbial biomass C by fumigation-extraction—an automated procedure. Soil Biol Biochem 22:1167–1169 (in Chinese with English abstract) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Wuest SB, Caesar-TonThat TC, Wright SF, Williams JD (2005) Organic matter addition, N, and residue burning effects on infiltration, biological, and physical properties of an intensively tilled silt–loam soil. Soil Tillage Res 84:154–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Yan DZ, Wang DJ, Yang LZ (2007) Long-term effect of chemical fertilizer, straw, and manure on labile organic matter fractions in a paddy soil. Biol Fertil Soils 44:93–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Yang CM, Yang LZ, Zhu OY (2005) Organic carbon and its fractions in paddy soil as affected by different nutrient and water regimes. Geoderma 124:133–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Zhang P, Wei T, Wang H, Wang M, Meng X, Mou S, Zhang R, Jia Z, Han Q (2015) Effects of straw mulch on soil water and winter wheat production in dryland farming. Sci Rep 5:10725CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Zhang P, Chen XL, Wei T, Yang Z, Jia ZK, Yang BP, Han QF, Ren XL (2016) Effects of straw incorporation on the soil nutrient contents, enzyme activities, and crop yield in a semiarid region of China. Soil Tillage Res 160:65–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Zhang XF, Xin XL, Zhu AN, Zhang JB, Yang WL (2017) Effects of tillage and residue managements on organic C accumulation and soil aggregation in a sandy loam soil of the North China plain. Catena 156:176–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Zhao X, Liu SL, Pu C, Zhang XQ, Xue JF, Ren YX, Zhao XL, Chen F, Lal R, Zhang HL (2017) Crop yields under no-till farming in China: a meta-analysis. Eur J Agron 84:67–75Google Scholar
  78. Zhao YC, Wang MY, Hu SJ, Zhang XD, Ouyang Z, Zhang GL, Huang B, Zhao SW, Wu JS, Xie DT, Zhu B, Yu DS, Pan XZ, Xu SX, Shi XZ (2018) Economics- and policy-driven organic carbon input enhancement dominates soil organic carbon accumulation in Chinese croplands. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 115:4045–4050CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zijun Zhou
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xiangzhong Zeng
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kun Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Zhu Li
    • 3
  • Song Guo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yuxian Shangguan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hua Yu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shihua Tu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yusheng Qin
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Soil and Fertilizer InstituteSichuan Academy of Agricultural SciencesChengduChina
  2. 2.Monitoring and Experimental Station of Plant Nutrition and Agro-Environment for Sloping Land in South RegionMinistry of Agriculture and Rural AffairsChengduChina
  3. 3.College of ResourcesSichuan Agricultural UniversityChengduChina

Personalised recommendations