5 years ago

Black plastic mulch combined with summer cover crop increases the yield and water use efficiency of apple tree on the rainfed Loess Plateau

Wei Zheng, Zhiyuan Zhao, Jie Liu, Ziyan Li, Bingnian Zhai, Zhaohui Wang, Meijuan Wen
Water deficit significantly limits dryland rainfed fruit production, so increasing water conservation is crucial for improving fruit productivity in arid and semiarid areas. In this study, we tested two treatments in an apple orchard: 1) PC treatment comprising black plastic mulch (BPM) (in-row) with weed control (inter-row); 2) and PGC treatment comprising BPM (in-row) combined with a summer cover crop (inter-row) of rape (Brassica campestris L.), which was sown in mid-June and was living from July to September. Under PGC, the inter-row soil water storage increased by 17.9% and 11.5% compared with PC after the harvest in 2013 and 2014, respectively, but there was no significant increase in 2015. The evapotranspiration (ET) from the inter-row areas during the cover crop period was lower under PGC than PC in 2013 (19.6%), 2014 (11.3%), and 2015 (13.3%). However, the differences in the total ET from the inter-row areas between the two treatments were not obvious, and the total ET from in-row areas was higher under PGC than PC due to the increased water uptake by apple trees under PGC. The apple yield, water use efficiency during the cover crop period (WUEg) and total water use efficiency (WUE) fluctuated during the experimental years. Compared with PC, the apple yield increased by 14.1%, 18.8%, and 26.7% under PGC in 2013, 2014, and 2015, respectively. In addition, the WUEg was 26.4%, 24.7%, and 32.7% higher under PGC compared with PC in 2013, 2014, and 2015, respectively. Thus, the WUE under PGC was 13.8% and 11.7% higher than that under PC in 2013 and 2014, respectively, but the difference was not significant in 2015 (p = 0.0527). Thus, BPM combined with a summer cover crop is recommended for decreasing the summer ET and promoting apple production in rainfed dryland areas where the rainy season is usually the hot season.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0185705

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