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Soil acidification in Chinese tea plantations

Yan, Peng, Wu, Liangquan, Wang, Donghui, Fu, Jianyu, Shen, Chen, Li, Xin, Zhang, Liping, Zhang, Lan, Fan, Lichao, Wenyan, Han
The Science of the total environment 2020 v.715 pp. 136963
acidification, acidity, agricultural management, crop production, fertilizer application, forests, fruits, grain crops, grasslands, mineral fertilizers, national surveys, organic foods, plantations, soil acidification, soil pH, soil sampling, tea, vegetables, China
Soil acidification is a major problem in intensive agricultural systems and is becoming increasingly serious. Most research has reported the soil acidification of cereal crops, forests, and grasslands. However, there is no information about soil acidification under tea cultivation on a national scale. Therefore, we conducted a nationwide survey of soil acidification in the major tea-planting areas of China and used two nationwide surveys in three Chinese counties to evaluate changes in soil acidity over the past 20–30 years. Finally, the acidity of soil from forests and traditional and organic tea plantations was compared to evaluate the effects of agricultural management on soil acidification in tea plantations. Our results show that: (1) the average soil pH was 4.68 nationally and ranged from 3.96 to 5.48 in different provinces. Overall, 46.0% of the soil samples had a pH <4.5, which is too acidic for tea growth and only 43.9% had a soil pH of 4.5–5.5, which is optimal for tea growth. (2) In the past 20–30 years, the greatest soil acidification was observed in tea plantations; the pH decreased by 0.47 to 1.43, which is much greater than the decrease seen in fruit and vegetable systems (0.40 to 1.08) and cereals (0.30 to 0.89). (3) Compared with forests, tea cultivation with chemical fertilizer application caused serious soil acidification, while no significant acidification was observed at organic tea plantations. In conclusion, serious soil acidification occurs nationally in China, and organic management is an adaptive choice for sustainable tea growth.