Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Corn straw return can increase labile soil organic carbon fractions and improve water-stable aggregates in Haplic Cambisol


Corn straw return to the field is a vital agronomic practice for increasing soil organic carbon (SOC) and its labile fractions, as well as soil aggregates and organic carbon (OC) associated with water-stable aggregates (WSA). Moreover, the labile SOC fractions play an important role in OC turnover and sequestration. The aims of this study were to determine how different corn straw returning modes affect the contents of labile SOC fractions and OC associated with WSA. Corn straw was returned in the following depths: (1) on undisturbed soil surface (NTS), (2) in the 0-10 cm soil depth (MTS), (3) in the 0-20 cm soil depth (CTS), and (4) no corn straw applied (CK). After five years (2014-2018), soil was sampled in the 0-20 and 20-40 cm depths to measure the water-extractable organic C (WEOC), permanganate oxidizable C (KMnO4-C), light fraction organic C (LFOC), and WSA fractions. The results showed that compared with CK, corn straw amended soils (NTS, MTS and CTS) increased SOC content by 11.55%-16.58%, WEOC by 41.38%-51.42%, KMnO4-C and LFOC by 29.84%-34.09% and 56.68%-65.36% in the 0-40 cm soil depth. The LFOC and KMnO4-C were proved to be the most sensitive fractions to different corn straw returning modes. Compared with CK, soils amended with corn straw increased mean weight diameter by 24.24%-40.48% in the 0-20 cm soil depth. The NTS and MTS preserved more than 60.00% of OC in macro-aggregates compared with CK. No significant difference was found in corn yield across all corn straw returning modes throughout the study period, indicating that adoption of NTS and MTS would increase SOC content and improve soil structure, and would not decline crop production.

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