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Alternate row mulching optimizes soil temperature and water conditions and improves wheat yield in dryland farming

YAN, Qiu-yan, DONG, Fei, LOU, Ge, YANG, Feng, LU, Jin-xiu, LI, Feng, ZHANG, Jian-cheng, LI, Jun-hui, DUAN, Zeng-qiang
Journal of integrative agriculture 2018 v.17 no.11 pp. 2558-2569
aboveground biomass, arid lands, developmental stages, dryland farming, evapotranspiration, field experimentation, grain yield, models, mulching, soil surface layers, soil temperature, soil water, soil water storage, straw mulches, water content, water storage, water use efficiency, winter wheat, China
Straw mulching allows for effective water storage in dryland wheat production. Finding a suitable straw mulching model that facilitates wheat growth was the objective of this study. A 2-year field experiment was conducted to investigate the effects of two straw mulching patterns (FM, full coverage within all the rows; HM, half coverage within alternate rows) and two mulching rates (4.5 and 9.0 t ha−1) on soil moisture, soil temperature, grain yield, and water use efficiency (WUE) of winter wheat in northern China, with no mulching (M0) as the control. Results showed that mulching increased the soil water storage in all growth stages under high mulching rates, with a stronger effect in later growth stages. Water storage under the HM model was greater in later stages than under the FM model. Soil water content of HM groups was higher than that of FM groups, especially in surface soil layers. Evapotranspiration decreased in mulched groups and was higher under high mulching rates. Aboveground biomass during each growth stage under the HM model was higher than that under M0 and FM models with the same mulched rate, leading to a relatively higher grain yield under the HM model. Mulching increased WUE, a trend that was more obvious under HM9.0 treatment. Warming effect of soil temperature under the HM pattern persisted longer than under the FM model with the same mulching rates. Accumulated soil temperature under mulched treatments increased, and the period of negative soil temperature decreased by 9–12 days under FM and by 10–20 days under HM. Thus, the HM pattern with 9.0 t ha−1 mulching rate is beneficial for both soil temperature and water content management and can contribute to high yields and high WUE for wheat production in China.