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Effect of long-term fertilizer type with film mulching on maize yield, soil aggregation and bacteria on the Loess Plateau of China
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  • pengfei Dang,
  • Tiantian Huang,
  • Chen Lu,
  • Yüze Li,
  • Miaomiao Zhang,
  • Xiaoliang Qin,
  • Yinglong Chen,
  • K Siddique
pengfei Dang
Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University
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Tiantian Huang
Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University
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Chen Lu
Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University
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Yüze Li
Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University
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Miaomiao Zhang
Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University
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Xiaoliang Qin
Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University
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Yinglong Chen
The universtiy of Western Australia
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K Siddique
The University of Western Australia
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Abstract

Plastic-film mulching (PM) is used widely in China; however, the long-term effects of fertilizer type with PM on maize yield, soil aggregate stability, and soil bacterial communities are not well known in the dryland regions of northern China. A 7-year field experiment (2013–2019) was undertaken on maize (Zea mays L.) and included three treatments: no mulching with urea (CK), mulching with urea (PU), and mulching with controlled-release fertilizer (PC). Both PU and PC increased maize yield, water use efficiency (WUE), and partial factor productivity from applied N (PFPN), relative to CK. PC increased maize yield more than PU, but decreased soil organic carbon (SOC) content, more so in PC, which was mainly due to the decline in SOC stocks in the 250–2000, 53–250, and <53 μm soil aggregates. The soil bacterial community structure was driven by SOC, C: N ratio, total nitrogen (TN), pH, microaggregates, clay and silt in CK, and by larger macroaggregates and mean weight diameter in PC and PU. Both PC and PU significantly changed soil bacterial community beta diversity, and decreased both positive and negative links of the co-occurrence network, relative to CK. Better soil nutrient conditions in PC explained the small number of positive and negative links between soil bacteria. Our results suggest that PC and PU can increase maize yield on the Loess Plateau; however, appropriate agricultural management measures, such as straw returning or organic fertilizer addition, are needed to mitigate the decline in SOC under PM, especially PC.