Plant and Soil

, Volume 390, Issue 1–2, pp 431–442 | Cite as

Soil properties and apricot growth under intercropping and mulching with erect milk vetch in the loess hilly-gully region

  • Sheni Du
  • Gangshuan Bai
  • Jian Yu
Review Article


Background and aims

Soil in the loess hilly-gully region of northern Shaanxi Province, China, is infertile and rainfall is scarce and uneven. The objectives of this study were to improve soil quality, promote apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) growth, and assess whether erect milk vetch (Astragalus adsurgens Pall.) and apricot compete for soil moisture and soil nutrients under intercropping systems.


Taking clean tillage as the control, soil moisture and soil nutrients were monitored in apricot orchards in which erect milk vetch was interplanted for 5 years and interplant-mulched and mulched for 4 years.


Intercropping and intercrop-mulching with erect milk vetch reduced soil moisture and soil nutrients and decreased fruit yield, fruit weight, and economic output. Mulching with erect milk vetch increased soil moisture in the 0–60-cm soil layer; increased soil organic matter, total N, and soil-available nutrients in the 0–20-cm soil layer; and increased fruit yield, fruit weight, and economic output.


Under intercropping and intercrop-mulching, erect milk vetch and apricot competed for soil moisture and soil nutrients. Intercropping and intercrop-mulching with erect milk vetch are inappropriate, but mulching with erect milk vetch is a suitable method for managing soil quality in apricot orchards in the loess hilly-gully region.


Apricot Erect milk vetch Intercropping Mulching Soil moisture Soil nutrients 



Control treatment, in which the soil management consisted of clean tillage and apricot was the only species planted


Intercrop-mulching treatment, in which the plot was intercropped with erect milk vetch in spring 2008 and erect milk vetch was mowed and used to provide uniform mulch in the autumn of each year


Intercropping treatment, in which the plot was intercropped with erect milk vetch in spring 2008 and the erect milk vetch was mowed and removed from the plot in the late autumn of each year


Mulching treatment, in which the ground surface throughout the plot was mulched uniformly, with the erect milk vetch removed from the ICA plot in the late autumn of each year



This work was supported by the National Science and Technology Support Program, Nos. 2011BAD31B05, 2011BAD29B03, and 2014BAD14B006.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Soil and Water ConservationNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Institute of Soil and Water ConservationChinese Academy of Sciences & Ministry of Water ResourcesYanglingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Institute of Inner Mongolia Hydraulic ResearchHuhhotPeople’s Republic of China

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