Effects of gravel-sand mulch on the runoff, erosion, and nutrient losses in the Loess Plateau of north-western China under simulated rainfall
Gravel mulching is a characteristic agricultural technique that has been used for hundreds of years in the north-western Loess Plateau of China. However, the effects of the gravel-sand mulch on the processes of the runoff, soil erosion, and nutrient losses are neither fully distinguished nor even known in many parts of the world. This study investigated how different gravel particle sizes in the mulch affected the runoff, erosion as well as the extent of the nutrient losses in the surface runoff. The laboratory experiments were conducted using a rainfall simulator with three gravel mulch treatments: (1) fine gravel mulch (FG); (2) medium gravel mulch (MG); (3) coarse gravel mulch (CG) and a control group, bare soil (BS). The results of these rainfall simulation experiments gave estimates on how the grain size influences the runoff and losses of the soil and its nutrients. Applying the gravel mulch significantly delayed the runoff’s starting time when compared with the bare soil. Both the total runoff and soil loss increased with the grain size of the gravel mulch. Compared with the bare soil, the lowest surface runoff and soil loss was observed from the fine gravel treatment. These results clearly show that gravel mulch plays an important role in the runoff and sediment generation processes, and that it significantly reduces the surface runoff and soil loss. The losses of the total nitrogen (TN), total phosphorus (TP), and total organic carbon (TOC) from the bare soil were much higher than those under the gravel mulching. The fluctuations in these nutrient-loss processes were the most intense in the CG treatment, while the TC content, in initial runoff, was significantly higher in the FG than the other treatments. Our findings suggest gravel mulch is a useful water and soil conservation technique in the loess area of north-western China, and these results can inform one on the theoretical principles for properly utilising gravel-mulched fields.
Boer M., Puigdefábregas J. (2005): Effects of spatially structured vegetation patterns on hillslope erosion in a semiarid Mediterranean environment: A simulation study. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 30: 149–167. https://doi.org/10.1002/esp.1180
Bruce-Okine E., Lal R. (1975): Soil erodibility as determined by raindrop technique. Soil Science, 19: 149–157. https://doi.org/10.1097/00010694-197502000-00007
Cook H.F., Valdes G.S.B., Lee H.C. (2006): Mulch effects on rainfall interception, soil physical characteristics and temperature under Zea mays L. Soil and Tillage Research, 91: 227–235. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.still.2005.12.007
Douglas C.L., Kin K.A., Zuzel J.F. (1998): Nitrogen and phosohorus in surface runoff and sediment from a wheet-pea rotation in Northeasterm Oregon. Environmental Quality, 27: 1170–1177. https://doi.org/10.2134/jeq1998.00472425002700050023x
El Boushi I.M., Davis S.N. (1969): Water-retention characteristics of coarse rock particles. Journal of Hydrology, 8: 431–441. https://doi.org/10.1016/0022-1694(69)90102-4
Hahn C., Prasuhn V., Stamm C., Schulin R. (2012): Phosphorus losses in runoff from manured grassland of different soil p status at two rainfall intensities. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment, 153: 65–74.
Huo Y.M., Bi H.X., Zhu Y.J., Xu H.S., Wang X.X., Chang Y.F. (2015): Characteristics of artificial rainfall produced by QYJY-503C simulation system. Science of Soil and Water Conservation, 2: 35–40. (in Chinese)
Jia S.W., He X.B., Chen Y.M., Zheng F.L. (2004): Effect of soil erosion on soil organic carbon loss on the loess hilly areas. Research of Soil and Water Conservation, 11: 88–90.
Jiang D. (1997): Soil Erosion and Control Models in the Loess Plateau. Beijing, China Hydorelectricity Press.
Li X.Y. (2003): Gravel-sand mulch for soil and water conservation in the semiarid loess region of northwest China. Catena, 2: 105–127.
Li Z.G., Cao Y., Liu B.Z., Luo Z.D. (2008): Current status and developing trend of soil erosion in China. Science of Soil and Water Conservation, 6: 57–62.
Lin C.W., Luo C.Y., Pang L.Y. (2010): Effects of different cultivation and mulching methods on soil erosion and nutrient losses from a purple soil of sloping land. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 30: 62–66. (in Chinese)
Lv G., Wang T., Wang Y.C., Zhai J.X., Li Y.X. (2017): Effect of gravel content and particle size on soil infiltration in low mountainous upland region of Western Liaoning Province. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 31: 86–92. (in Chinese)
Ma Y.J., Li X.Y. (2011): Water accumulation in soil by gravel and sand mulches: inﬂuence of textural composition and thickness of mulch layers. Journal of Arid Environment, 75: 432−437.
Mamedov A.I., Huang C., Levy G.J. (2006): Antecedent moisture content and aging duration effects on seal formation and erosion in Smectitic soils. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 70: 832–843. https://doi.org/10.2136/sssaj2004.0391
Nachtergaele J., Poesen J.W., Van Wesemael B. (1998): Gravel mulching in vineyards of southern Switzerland. Soil and Tillage Research, 46: 51–59. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0167-1987(98)80107-4
Puustinen M., Koskiaho J., Peltonen K. (2005): Influence of cultivation methods on suspended solids and phosphorus concentrations in surface runoff on clayeysloped fields in boreal climate. Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment, 105: 565–579. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2004.08.005
Qiu Y., Xie Z.K., Wang Y.J. (2018): Influence of gravel mulch on rainfall interception under simulated rainfall. Soil and Water Research, 13: 115–118. https://doi.org/10.17221/172/2016-SWR
Römkens M.J.M., Helming K., Prasad S.N. (2001): Soil erosion under different rainfall intensities, surface roughness, and soil water regimes. Catena, 46: 103–123. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0341-8162(01)00161-8
Xie Z.K., Wang Y.J., Jiang W.L., We X.H. (2006a): Evaporation and evapo-transpiration in a watermelon field mulched with gravel of different sizes in northwest China. Agricultural Water Management, 81: 173–184. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agwat.2005.04.004
Xie Z.K., Wang Y.J., Wei X.H., Zhang Z.S. (2006b): Impacts of a gravel-sand mulch and supplemental drip irrigation on watermelon (Citrullus lanatus [Thunb.] Mats. & Nakai) root distribution and yield. Soil and Tillage Research, 89: 35–44.
Xie Z.K., Wang Y.J., Sukhdev S.M., Cecil L.V. (2010): Particle size effects on soil temperature, evaporation, water use efficiency and watermelon yield in fields mulched with gravel and sand in semi-arid Loess Plateau of northwest China. Agricultural Water Management, 97: 917–923. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agwat.2010.01.023
Xu G.C., Tang S.S., Lu K.X., Li P., Li Z.B., Gao H.D., Zhao B.H. (2015): Runoff and sediment yield under simulated rainfall on sand-covered slopes in a region subject to wind-water erosion. Environmental Earth Sciences, 74: 2523–2530. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-015-4266-1
You Z., Li Z.B. (2011): Mechanism and experiment of vegetation on slope to reduce runoff and sediment. Journal of Sediment Research, 3: 59–62.
YRCC (2002): Yellow River Near Future Management and Development Plan. Zhengzhou, Yellow River Conservancy Commission, State Council of China. (in Chinese)
Zhang F.B., Bai Y.J., Xie L.Y., Yang M.Y., Li Z.B., Wu X.R. (2017): Runoff and soil loss characteristics on loess slopes covered with aeolian sand layers of different thicknesses under simulated rainfall. Journal of Hydrology, 549: 244–251. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2017.04.002
Zuazo V.H.D., Pleguezuelo C.R.R. (2008): Soil-erosion and runoff prevention by plant covers: A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 28: 65–86. https://doi.org/10.1051/agro:2007062