Exploring optimal soil mulching to enhance maize yield and water use efficiency in dryland areas in China

Liang Gaimei, Wang Yuguo*, Chi Baoliang, Li Nana, Chen Wenliang, Qin Wei

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Water and nutrient availability significantly limits global crop production, especially for dryland agriculture in arid and semi-arid regions. To explore the optimal soil mulching options for the Loess Plateau in China, a 3-year field study was conducted to investigate the effects of various soil mulching practices on soil temperature and the water use and grain yield of spring maize. The treatments included traditional flat farming (CK), narrow plastic film mulch (NM), wide plastic film mulch (WM) and narrow plastic film mulch + maize straw mulch between rows (MS). The results showed that MS treatment increased consistently soil temperature during the initial stages of maize growth, and more importantly, it reduced diurnal temperature variation. MS also increased in soil water storage by 10.1%, leading to the highest water use efficiency (WUE = 30.9 kg ha−1 mm−1) over CK on 3 year average. MS significantly increased maize yield and net income of farmers by up to 20%, compared to CK. In conclusion, optimisation of soil mulching strategies significantly enhanced crop yield and water productivity in dryland agriculture in China. Our study provides important guidance for exploring better soil management practice for dryland agriculture in the other regions of the world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-282
JournalActa Agriculturae Scandinavica Section B: Soil and Plant Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2018


  • dryland
  • maize yield
  • mulch
  • precipitation
  • Soil water


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