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Converting alfalfa pasture into annual cropland achieved high productivity and zero loss of soil organic carbon in a semiarid area
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  • Xu-long Zhang,
  • Yangyang Zhao,
  • Wenjuan Gao,
  • Xin Song,
  • Xintan Zhang,
  • Xiaoyan Shi,
  • Fengmin Li
Xu-long Zhang
Lanzhou University
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Yangyang Zhao
Lanzhou University
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Wenjuan Gao
Institute of Hydrobiology Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Xin Song
Lanzhou University
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Xintan Zhang
Lanzhou University
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Xiaoyan Shi
Lanzhou University
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Fengmin Li
Lanzhou University
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Abstract

Converting alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) into cropland (rotation cropland, RC) is a common way of land use to reuse degraded alfalfa pasture. However, it is a big challenge for RC to achieve high productivity and maintain high soil organic carbon (SOC) achieved by previous alfalfa. Here, we conducted a nine-year field experiment, with continuous cropland (CC) under plastic film mulching as reference, to evaluate soil moisture restoration, crop productivity, and SOC in RC also under plastic film mulching, in the case of fertilization and non-fertilization, respectively. SOC and total soil N in the alfalfa pasture before conversion were 12.3% and 7.7% higher, but the available P and inorganic-N were 59.2% and 71.5% lower than in CC, respectively. The crop yield and biomass were not significant between RC and CC following the second year of conversion in both fertilization and without fertilization cases. The SOC and total soil N in RC with fertilization were similar to the previous alfalfa pasture throughout the nine-year experiment, while decreased in RC without fertilization by 8.3% and 7.5% after the nine years. Soil moisture in RC at 0-0.6 m restored to the level of CC only one year after the conversion, and restored from 77.6% and 56.2% of CC to 95.3% and 69.2% at 0.6-2 and 2-5 m through nine-years after conversion. These findings help to dispel the worries about the long-term low production and rapid decline of SOC in RC and support for sustainable high-productivity and high SOC sequestration in dryland farming.

Peer review status:UNDER REVIEW

09 Jun 2020Submitted to Land Degradation & Development
09 Jun 2020Submission Checks Completed
09 Jun 2020Assigned to Editor
10 Jun 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned
23 Jun 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
01 Jul 2020Editorial Decision: Revise Major
12 Jul 20201st Revision Received
13 Jul 2020Submission Checks Completed
13 Jul 2020Assigned to Editor
02 Aug 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
06 Aug 2020Editorial Decision: Revise Major
31 Aug 20202nd Revision Received
01 Sep 2020Submission Checks Completed
01 Sep 2020Assigned to Editor
24 Sep 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending