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      Plastic-Film Mulching for Enhanced Water-Use Efficiency and Economic Returns from Maize Fields in Semiarid China


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          Film mulch has gradually been popularized to increase water availability to crops for improving and stabilizing agricultural production in the semiarid areas of Northwest China. To find more sustainable and economic film mulch methods for alleviating drought stress in semiarid region, it is necessary to test optimum planting methods in same cultivation conditions. A field experiment was conducted during 2013 and 2014 to evaluate the effects of different plastic film mulch methods on soil water, soil temperature, water use efficiency (WUE), yield and revenue. The treatments included: (i) the control, conventional flat planting without plastic film mulch (CK); (ii) flat planting with maize rows (60 cm spacing) on plastic film mulch (70 cm wide); (iii) furrow planting of maize (60 cm spacing), separated by consecutive plastic film-mulched ridges (each 50 cm wide and 15 cm tall); (iv) furrow planting of maize (60 cm spacing), separated by alternating large and small plastic film-mulched ridges (large ridges: 70 cm wide and 15 cm tall, small ridges 50 cm wide and 10 cm tall); and (v) furrow-flat planting of maize (60 cm spacing) with a large plastic film-mulched ridge (60 cm wide and 15 cm tall) alternating with a flat without plastic film-mulched space (60 cm wide). Topsoil temperature (5–25 cm) was significantly ( p < 0.05) higher in field plots with plastic film mulch than the control (CK), and resulted in greater soil water storage (0–200 cm) up to 40 days after planting. Maize grain yield and WUE were significantly ( p < 0.05) higher with the furrow planting methods (consecutive film-mulched ridges and alternating film-mulched ridges) than the check in both years. Maize yield was, on average, 29% ( p < 0.05) greater and 28% ( p < 0.05) greater with these furrow planting methods, while the average WUE increased by 22.8% ( p < 0.05) with consecutive film-mulched ridges and 21.1% ( p < 0.05) with alternating film-mulched ridges. The 2-year average net income increased by 1559, 528, and 350 Chinese Yuan (CNY) ha −1 with the consecutive film-mulched ridges, furrow-flat planting and alternating film-mulched ridges, respectively, compared with the control (CK). We conclude that the consecutive film-mulched ridge method was the most productive and profitable for maize in this semi-arid area with limited and erratic precipitation.

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          Plastic mulching in agriculture. Trading short-term agronomic benefits for long-term soil degradation?

          Plastic mulching has become a globally applied agricultural practice for its instant economic benefits such as higher yields, earlier harvests, improved fruit quality and increased water-use efficiency. However, knowledge of the sustainability of plastic mulching remains vague in terms of both an environmental and agronomic perspective. This review critically discusses the current understanding of the environmental impact of plastic mulch use by linking knowledge of agricultural benefits and research on the life cycle of plastic mulches with direct and indirect implications for long-term soil quality and ecosystem services. Adverse effects may arise from plastic additives, enhanced pesticide runoff and plastic residues likely to fragment into microplastics but remaining chemically intact and accumulating in soil where they can successively sorb agrochemicals. The quantification of microplastics in soil remains challenging due to the lack of appropriate analytical techniques. The cost and effort of recovering and recycling used mulching films may offset the aforementioned benefits in the long term. However, comparative and long-term agronomic assessments have not yet been conducted. Furthermore, plastic mulches have the potential to alter soil quality by shifting the edaphic biocoenosis (e.g. towards mycotoxigenic fungi), accelerate C/N metabolism eventually depleting soil organic matter stocks, increase soil water repellency and favour the release of greenhouse gases. A substantial process understanding of the interactions between the soil microclimate, water supply and biological activity under plastic mulches is still lacking but required to estimate potential risks for long-term soil quality. Currently, farmers mostly base their decision to apply plastic mulches rather on expected short-term benefits than on the consideration of long-term consequences. Future interdisciplinary research should therefore gain a deeper understanding of the incentives for farmers and public perception from both a psychological and economic perspective in order to develop new support strategies for the transition into a more environment-friendly food production.
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            Effect of mulch on soil temperature, moisture, weed infestation and yield of groundnut in northern Vietnam

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              Effects of plastic film mulch and tillage on maize productivity and soil parameters


                Author and article information

                Front Plant Sci
                Front Plant Sci
                Front. Plant Sci.
                Frontiers in Plant Science
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                06 April 2017
                : 8
                [1] 1The Chinese Institute of Water-Saving Agriculture, Northwest A&F University Yangling, China
                [2] 2Key Laboratory of Crop Physi-Ecology and Tillage Science in Northwestern Loess Plateau, Ministry of Agriculture, Northwest A&F University Yangling, China
                Author notes

                Edited by: Evangelia G. Drakou, University of Western Brittany, France

                Reviewed by: Andrey S. Zaitsev, Justus-Liebig-University, Germany and IPEE RAS, Russia; Joann K. Whalen, McGill University, Canada

                *Correspondence: Xiaolong Ren, rxlcxl@ 123456aliyun.com Zhikuan Jia, jiazk@ 123456126.com

                These authors have contributed equally to this work.

                This article was submitted to Agroecology and Land Use Systems, a section of the journal Frontiers in Plant Science

                Copyright © 2017 Zhang, Wei, Cai, Ali, Han, Ren and Jia.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 4, Tables: 5, Equations: 8, References: 33, Pages: 13, Words: 0
                Funded by: China Postdoctoral Science Foundation 10.13039/501100002858
                Plant Science
                Original Research

                Plant science & Botany
                crop growth,film mulch,maize yield,rainfed area,soil temperature,soil water storage


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