12 Jan 2011

Research Highlight - Southwestern China

Research Highlight - Southwest China

Research in the southwest province of Sichuan, has been evaluating the Effects of Different Surface Mulching and Cultivation Methods on Corn Yield and Nutrient Losses from Sloping Farmlands. Three types of surface mulching included a check (no mulching), wheat straw, and plastic film. The three methods of cultivation included non-ridged or flat cultivation, down-slope cultivation (ridged), and contour cultivation (ridged).

Results have found contour cultivation to be best at enhancing corn yield, followed by flat cultivation. The combination of plastic mulching + contour cultivation produced the highest corn yield, but any methods able to conserve more soil moisture could produce more corn yield on these rain-fed sloping lands.

Treatments without mulching led to much more severe water losses and soil erosion compared to those with mulching. In this case, the down-slope treatment performed the worst, followed by the flat cultivation treatment. The amounts of soil eroded from the down-slope treatment (25.4 t/ha) and flat cultivation treatment (22.3 t/ha) were about 5 to 6 times that observed from the contour treatment (4.3 t/ha). Straw mulching reduced soil losses to only 0.1 t/ha under contour cultivation and 0.9 t/ha under down-slope cultivation. Though plastic mulching was superior to straw mulching in terms of corn yield response, it increased soil erosion by more than 10 times to 2.2 t/ha under contour cultivation and 10.8 t/ha under down-slope cultivation. Since the nutrient losses from these sloping lands were induced by water loss and soil erosion, the quantity of N, P, and K losses was closely related to these factors.

Thus contour cultivation + plastic mulching was very effective at increasing corn yields on these rain-fed sloping lands; however, contour cultivation + straw mulching was superior in terms of both corn yield response and preventing the loss of nutrients.

Sichuan-BFDP 09 Project Leader: Dr. Chaowen Lin, Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Soil and Fertilizer Institute, linchaowen2002@yahoo.com

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