Effects Of Mulching On Water Use Efficiency Biology Essay

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In many semiarid and arid regions, use of brackish ground water has become expected for irrigation to balance rapidly increasing water demands. Addition of organic material such as FYM and crop residues would be useful in improving soils that are otherwise deteriorated when brackish water containing excess of salts is used for irrigation. Keeping in view role of mulching and farm manure in ameliorating ill effects of brackish water, two years (2009-2010) field studies will be conducted to evaluate the effects of mulching (control, 25, 50, 75 and 100 % soil cover) and farm manure (control, 10, 20 and 30 Mg ha-1) on water use efficiency, soil properties and crop growth. A randomized complete block design with four replications will be followed for laying out the experiments. Crops (cotton, mungbean, and wheat) will be grown during their normal planting seasons, with recommended seed rate and planting methodology. These crops will be irrigated with brackish water and measured amount of irrigation will be ensured using cut-throat flume. Soil physical parameters (bulk density, porosity, and infiltration rate) and chemical parameters will also be measured at crop harvest. Water use efficiency and salt balance will also be calculated. Data regarding growth and yield components of crops will be recorded. Data will be analyzed by using MSTATC a microcomputer statistical software package.


In most of our agriculturally productive area that falls in arid and semiarid regions, irrigation water is vital for successful crop production. Although irrigation water has the compensation over rainfall for being under control as to the time when required and amount of application but at the same time it has disadvantages like constraint of pumping and having unpredictable amounts of salts affecting adversely the plant growth and soil properties. Addition of organic material such as farm manure (FM) and crop residues would be useful in improving soils that are otherwise deteriorated when brackish water is used for irrigation (Hornick and Parr, 1987; Ghafoor et al., 1997; Chaudhry et al., 2000; Qureshi and Masih, 2002) as a result lossess in crop yield are also observed (Akhtar et al., 2001). Physical properties of soils affected adversely are saturated hydraulic conductivity (Siyaz et al. 1983) bulk density and porosity (Dane and Klute, 1977; Costa et al., 1991), soil strength (Ghafoor et al. 1997) and infiltration rate (Chaudhry et al., 1984) when brackish water is used for irrigation purpose for several years. Agricultural crops perform differently with brackish water irrigation in relation to their growth and yield. The concentration and composition of solutes in the irrigation water determine the speed and nature of physical changes induced in any soil (Shainberg and Caiserman, 1971; Frenkel et al., 1978; Girdhar and Yadav, 1982; Zartman and Gichuru, 1984; Abu-Sharar and Salameh, 1995).

Dera Ghazi Khan is one of the driest areas of arid region of Punjab. It suffers from problems such as high temperature, less rainfall, high evapotranspiration rate, brackish water and wind storms which have lead to high risk of desertification and exacerbated by the effect of land use changes. Some area is left abandoned due to poor quality of soil and water. A major point of concern is the impoverishment of soil quality and increase of soil erosion and water loss due to degrading top soil. Similarly, due to arid climate and high temperature, extremely low levels of soil organic carbon (SOC) contents have been found in most soils. To reduce evapotranspiration from the soil typhae mulch and farm manure can be used that is easily available. Surface freshwater is scarce and if ground water is used adequately, the problem of water shortage would be alleviated.

The safe use of brackish water for crop production could be facilitated by several soil management measures (e.g., tillage, deep ploughing, sanding, manuring and mulching).Now irrigated agriculture is entering an "age of management" for avoiding crop water deficit, there is need to adopt management practices that limit evaporation losses. For increasing water use efficiency one of the water management practices is mulching. Straw mulching is a promising management option for farmers to control soil salinity, as it decreases soil water evaporation, and regulated soil water and salt movement (Deng et al., 2003; Qiao et al., 2006).

Efficient use of brackish water to produce crop is our objective which could be achieved by the application of surface mulch and farm manure. Many materials have been used as mulch, such as plastic film, crop residue, straw, paper pellets, gravel-sand, rock fragment, volcanic ash, poultry and live-stock litters, city rubbish, etc. However plastic film and straw were used most commonly (Tejedor et al., 2002; Li, 2003; Berglund et al., 2006). Organic amendments have received renewed attention to improve soil fertility for crop production. Kirchmann and Witter (1992) found that most common method that was used to enhance organic matter level in agricultural soils is crop rotation, residue management and application of farm manure.

To recognize safe and efficient ways of using brackish water in arid region (D.G.Khan), field experiments will be conducted to evaluate the effects of different mulch and farm manure on the growth of crops while using brackish water for irrigation. Therefore, the present study was planned to address the following objectives:

To evaluate impacts of soil mulching material and farm manure on water use efficiency and soil properties.

To evaluate impact of brackish water on soil properties and growth of different crops.


Some of the related work in the relevant field as revealed as under

1.1) Effect of mulching on ameliorating ill effects of brackish water

Huang et al. (2001) observed that wheat straw mulching prevented salt accumulation and led to a relatively constant salt level in the 0-10 cm depth. They also found that salt content in the 10-30 cm depth was reduced, and the transient changes in salt content in the 30-60 cm depth were smaller than those of the overlying layers when soil was mulched with wheat straw. Zheng et al. (2002) demonstrated that wheat straw mulching effectively decreased soil surface evaporation and conserved soil water. Moreover, wheat straw mulching can effectively restrain surface soil salinization caused by irrigation with brackish water and mitigate the negative effect of irrigation with brackish water on the growth of cotton. Deng et al. (2003) also showed that maize straw mulching could retain rainwater, hinder run off and evaporation of water, prevent soil from secondary salinization and promote leaching of salts by rainwater. Moreover,when maize straw cover of 5 cm thickness was used, sunflower yields were greater than when 3 cm thick maize straw and plastic film mulches were used.

Yan min et al. (2006) conducted research to see the effect of different mulch materials on winter wheat production by using slightly saline water for irrigation because freshwater shortage is the main problem in Heilonggang lower-lying plain. They wanted to find an effective way to use the brackish water in winter wheat production. They used surface mulch that has significant effect in reducing evaporation and decreasing soil salinity level. They used four treatments that were: no mulch, mulch with plastic film, mulch with corn straw and mulch with concrete slab between the rows. The result indicated that different mulch materials had different effect on soil conditions: concrete and straw mulch seems more favorable for conserving soil water; and plastic film is the best treatment for increasing soil temperature; concrete mulch decreases the soil surface salinity level more in comparison to the other two material mulches. However the straw mulch decreases wheat grain yield due to low temperature, although it conserve more soil water content. Straw mulch is not very fit for winter wheat production in this area. Concrete mulch has similar effect with plastic film mulch on promoting winter wheat development and growth. As a new mulch material, the concrete mulch has some advantage such as repeated use, without pollution and low cost, compared to plastic mulch, so they recommend that it can be used as a complementary material to plastic film.

Sheng et al. (2008) studied about potential use of gray water and brackish groundwater in which mulch was used as soil conditioner for cotton production. They concluded that cotton plants grow about 5 inches higher when irrigated with gray water than those irrigated with brackish groundwater with no soil mulch. Cotton irrigated with gray water produced approximately 70% more lint in the plots with soil mulch than those with no soil mulch. When cotton was irrigated with brackish groundwater in the plots with soil mulch produced 1.5 times higher lint than those without mulch. Finally they concluded that alternative sources of water such as gray and brackish ground water are more attractive sources for irrigation of cotton if mulch used as conditioner.

Pang et al. (2009) conducted an experiment to observe the effect of brackish water irrigation and straw mulching on soil salinity and crop yield in a winter wheat-summer maize double cropping system. The experiment was laid out in a splitplot design. They used different rates of straw mulching (0, 4.5, 6.0, 7.5, 15.0 and 30.0 Mg ha-1) that were assigned to the main plots and two irrigation water qualities (i.e. brackish water with salt content of 3.0-5.0 g L-1 and fresh water with only 1.27 g salt L-1) that were applied to subplots. They concluded that the salt content remained relatively stable in fresh water irrigation plots while brackish water irrigation significantly increased the salt content at different soil depths in the upper 1 m soil layer during the two growing seasons. Vertical distribution of salt in the brackish water irrigation plots affected by straw mulching and the average salt contents within the 0- 20, 20-40 and 0-100 cm soil depths was 10.2, 14.0 and 1.8% lower than that without straw mulch. No salt accumulation occurred to a depth of 1 m with brackish water irrigation and there was no correlation between the value of salt accumulated in 1 m of soil and straw mulch rate. In 2000 and 2001, the salt content within 0-40 cm soil layer in brackish water irrigation plots increased due to high evaporation rates during April-June, and then decreased up to September as salts were leached by rain. Straw mulching affected the salt content in the 0-40 cm soil layer in brackish water irrigation plots in different periods of 2000 and 2001, but no correlation between salt content and straw mulch rates was observed except in September of 2000. Unlike for wheat, the yield of maize increased as the straw mulch rate increased.

Al-Dhuhli et al. (2010) conducted an experiment to compare effects of two different mulching materials (date palm leaves and black plastic in addition to control without any mulch) and resultant growth of sorghum. They used two levels of water salinity (3 and 6 dSm-1) and three levels of water application (1.0 ETc, 1.2 ETc and 1.4 ETc). They concluded that date palm leaves mulch was more effective in conserving soil water content, reducing salt accumulation in the soil, reducing soil temperature and resulting in higher yield of sorghum compared to the plastic mulch that was flourishing to maintain moisture at even higher level than date palm mulch but it raised soil temperature as well.

1.2) Effect of manuring on ameliorating ill effects of brackish water

A significant response was observed by Blaise et al., (2003) in four years at the lower level (N30P13K25 + 5 t FYM ha-1) and six years at the higher level (N45P19K37 + 7.5 t FYM ha-1), while in sorghum a response was only observed in two years of the eight years. A field experiment was conducted by Chaoudhary et al., (2004) to study the effect of long term irrigation with sodic and saline sodic waters in the presence and absence of amendments on soil properties and their influence on growth, yield and quality of sugarcane. They used good quality water (CW), sodic water (RSC, 10 me L-1) and saline-sodic water (RSC, 10 me L -1 and EC, 3 dS m-1) for irrigation by using two amendments viz. FM at 20 t ha-1 every year and gypsum applied with each irrigation to neutralize 7.5 me L-1 of RSC, were superimposed on these water treatments. They concluded that long term irrigation with sodic and saline sodic waters increased pH, EC and ESP of the soils. The injurious effects were relatively harsh under saline sodic irrigation. The cane yield and yield contributing parameters (cane height, average number of millable canes and cane thickness) decreased drastically over the years under sodic and saline sodic irrigations. The useful effect of gypsum was more marked in increasing cane yield under sodic (30%) compared to saline sodic irrigation (13%). On the other hand, FM was more efficient under saline sodic (38%) than under sodic water irrigation (23%). The results of the study proposed that sustainable cane and sugar yields with high quality juice can be obtained by applying gypsum/FM or both under sodic and only FM under saline sodic water irrigation.

Sangakkara et al. (2004) found that incorporation of organic matter enhanced germination, growth of shoots, roots and nodulation of mung bean. Root growth measured in terms of root length densities was stimulated by organic matter incorporation. The benefits of the organic matter were also evident in seed yields and harvest indices. Seed cotton yields were the highest when farmyard manure was applied.

Antoine et al. (2006) suggest that it is advantageous to apply FYM as it improves fiber yield by way of improved GOT and maintains a positive nutrient balance in the soil. Chemical analysis showed that bird manure contained important quantities of organic matter (57.5%) and Nitrogen (7.2%) but lower quantities of Phosphorus (1.3%) and Potassium (1%). Cotton plant had a better development and growth when only bird manure was applied to soil or combined with mineral fertilizer. In the same way seed cotton yield was improved with addition of FM (5 Mg ha−1). Uniformity ratio and ginning out turn (GOT) was greater in the FM amended plots than the plots without FM (Blaise et al., 2004).Ghafoor et al. (2008) conducted experiments on rice and wheat crop under arid land condition. They also concluded that low quality groundwater could be successfully used to irrigate crops on medium textured salin-sodic soils. Farm manure addition along with gypsum proved more beneficial result for wheat than rice but rice crop proved better for soil amelioration. Wheat yielded better and contributed more to net benefit than rice.

Ahmad et al. (2009) conducted a pot experiment by using sand dune soil under greenhouse conditions to evaluate the response of wheat to the application of farm manure (FM) or poultry manure (PM). They irrigated pots with irrigation water having two salinity levels (0.11 and 2.0 dS m-1) and two irrigation intervals (daily and every second day). They applied manure that was applied at a rate of 20 Mg ha-1. They measured soil water content 1 h before every irrigation. They concluded that soil treated with PM retained more water than that treated with FM, while the control (no manure) contained the least water. By using good-quality water, FM treatment resulted in 78 and 21% higher dry matter yield compared to the control and PM treatments, respectively, under daily irrigation. While when saline water was used for daily irrigation the increase was 29 and 55%, respectively. With the alternate day irrigation treatment a similar trend was observed; FM gave the highest dry matter yield. The number of tillers and plant height showed that FM was superior to PM, which in turn was better than the control under irrigation with good-quality water despite of the irrigation interval. FM was still always the best, when water of the uppermost salinity was used for irrigation, but the control was now superior to the PM treatment. At the end of the experiment the electrical conductivity of the soil measured was slightly higher with PM, as compared to the FM and control treatments. A significant communication between irrigation water quality and manure application was observed, moving plant growth. PM motivated the undesirable influence of saline water on plant growth by escalating soil salinity.

1.3) Effect of Manuring and Mulching on Water Use efficiency

Mulch has been reported to increase soil water storage and crop yield, and to reduce soil water stress under some conditions. Chaudhary et al. (1988) observed the response of gram to the application of wheat straw, maize Stover and rice straw mulches. Their study showed that mulch treatment moderated soil temperature, improved water retention in the soil, increased biomass and enhanced crop yield. Texture also directly affects water-holding capacity of a soil. When mulch was applied, irrigated silty soil increased 29 - 74% higher soil water around seed (Tisdall and Adam, 1986).

Barros and Hanks (1993) observed that mulched plots had a higher WUE (yield/ET) than did bare plots for a given irrigation level but increased as irrigation level increased. Seasonal differences in evapotranspiration (ET) between bare and mulched plots were small. The yield-ET relationship for mulch was linear but was distinctly different from bare soil, indicating a different partitioning of ET into soil water evaporation (Es) and Transpiration (Tr). Mulch reduced Es by about 45 mm, at the same ET, and Tr was increased by 45 mm. However, for the same irrigation level, ET was lower for mulched than for bare plots. An application of organic mulch (air-dry material from natural meadows Festucetum falax rubrae), resulted in a significant decrease of soil temperature in the area of tuber growth, and the conservation of soil moisture (Momirovic, 1995).

Iqbal et al. 2003 conducted a pot experiment to evaluate the effect of mulch and irrigation level on biomass and water use efficiency of forage maize using clay and loam soils. They used two mulch levels, i.e. 0 (control) and 6.7 Mg ha and three irrigation levels viz. 100 %, 80 % and 60 % of total crop water requirement (CWR) that was determined at 30 mm deficit. They revealed that wheat straw mulch significantly affected the growth of maize as it decreased in fresh weight of shoot, increased in leaf area index and water use efficiency. Maximum plant growth was noted in the case of (100 % CWR) followed by (60% CWR) and (80% CWR). More WUE (18.89 kg/ha/mm) was observed in mulched soil than that from the non-mulched soil (17.38 kg/ha/mm).

Haderian et al., (2006) concluded that application of organic amendment to the soil surface is widely used in order to ameliorate topsoil physical conditions, especially with respect to temperature, evaporation and water content. Water intercepted by mulch and crop canopy involves loss through evaporation that never replenishes the soil water. Interception loss by maize (Zea mays L.) canopy and mulch modified the soil water balance by adversely affecting soil water content beneath thicker application. Mulching had a beneficial effect on soil water and temperature regimes.


Field experiments will be conducted to study the effect of mulching material, i.e. (Typha latifolia) and farm manure on water use efficiency, soil properties and growth of different crops while using brackish water for irrigation for two years (2009-2010) at the Research Farm, College of Agriculture, Dera Ghazi Khan. The selected fields will be properly leveled, divided into plots according to the treatments and the details of treatments are as under:

Experiment No. 1: Effect of mulching (M) and farm manure (FM) on water use efficiency, soil properties and cotton growth while using brackish water for irrigation


T1 M1 : Control (no soil coverage)

T2 M2 : 6 kg plot-1 (25 % soil coverage)

T3 M3 : 12 kg plot-1 (50 % soil coverage)

T4 M4 : 18 kg plot-1 (75 % soil coverage) T5 M5 : 24 kg plot-1 (100 % soil coverage)

T6: FM1 : Control (without farmyard manure)

T7: FM2 : 10 Mg ha-1 (32 Kg plot-1)

T8: FM3 : 20 Mg ha-1 (64 Kg plot-1)

T9: FM4 : 30 Mg ha-1 (96 Kg plot-1)

The experiment will be laid out in randomized complete block design (RCBD) with four replications. Net plot size will be 4.5 X 7 m2. In case of mulching, Typhae will be spreaded on soil to give 25, 50, 75 and 100% soil coverage and in manuring treatments, different rates of farm manure will be incorporated into soil at the time of sowing crop. Recommended doses of fertilizers and pesticides will be used for cotton crop as and when required. Weeds will be controlled by hoeing along with weedicides.

Experiment No. 2: Effect of mulching (M) and farm manure (FM) on water use efficiency, soil properties and mungbean growth while using brackish water for irrigation


T1: M1 : Control (no soil coverage)

T2: M2 : 3 kg plot-1 (25 % soil coverage)

T3: M3 : 6 kg plot-1 (50 % soil coverage)

T4: M4 : 9 kg plot-1 (75 % soil coverage) T5: M5 : 12 kg plot-1 (100 % soil coverage)

T6: FM1 : Control (without farmyard manure)

T7: FM2 : 10 Mg ha-1 (18 Kg plot-1)

T8: FM3 : 20 Mg ha-1 (36 Kg plot-1)

T9: FM4 : 30 Mg ha-1 (54 Kg plot-1)

The experiment will be laid out in randomized complete block design (RCBD) with four replications. Net plot size of 3 X 5 m2 will be maintained. In case of mulching, Typhae will be spreaded on soil to give 25, 50, 75 and 100% soil coverage and in manuring treatments, different rates of farm manure will be incorporated into soil at the time of sowing crop. Recommended doses of fertilizers will also be used.

Experiment No. 3: Effects of mulching (M) and farm manure (FM) on water use efficiency, soil properties and wheat growth while using brackish water for irrigation


T1 M1 : Control (no soil coverage)

T2 M2 : 6 kg plot-1 (25 % soil coverage)

T3 M3 : 12 kg plot-1 (50 % soil coverage)

T4 M4 : 18 kg plot-1 (75 % soil coverage) T5 M5 : 24 kg plot-1 (100 % soil coverage)

T6: FM1 : Control (without farmyard manure)

T7: FM2 : 10 Mg ha-1 (32 Kg plot-1)

T8: FM3 : 20 Mg ha-1 (64 Kg plot-1)

T9: FM4 : 30 Mg ha-1 (96 Kg plot-1)

The experiment will be laid out in randomized complete block design (RCBD) with four replications. Net plot size will be 4.5 X 7 m2. In case of mulching, Typhae will be spreaded on soil to give 25, 50, 75 and 100% soil coverage and in manuring treatments, different rates of farm manure will be incorporated into soil at the time of sowing crop.

1. Soil analysis

The soil samples will be taken to determine physical and chemical properties of soil from the area before sowing and after harvesting of each crop from each plot. Soil samples will be collected from 0-15, 15-30, 30-45, 45-60, 60-90 and 90-120 cm before sowing and after harvesting of each crop. Soil will be analyzed using the methods described as under:

1.1: Chemical properties of soil

Soil pH will be recorded by Kent Eil 7015 pH meter using buffer solutions of 4 and 9 pH as standards. Electrical conductivity will be measured using digital Jenway Conductivity Meter Model 4070. Carbonates, bicarbonates, chloride and sulphates will be determined by methods of US Salinity Laboratory Staff (1954). Organic matter will be determined by using method of Moodie et al. (1959). Nitrogen (N) by kjeldahl method (Bremner, 1994), available P by Olsen method, Na and K by Flame Photometer.

1.2: Physical properties of soil

Particle soil analysis will be done by using Bouyoucos hydrometer method (Moodie et al., 1959), infiltration rate by using Aronovici (1955) method at the start of the study and after harvesting of both crops in order to evaluate the impact of different treatments. Soil water contents, will be determined according to the method of Klute (1986). Soil samples will be taken near the root sampling position to measure bulk density by using core sampler (Blake and Hartge, 1986).

1.3: Soil salinity and salt balance calculation

For soil salinity, the method using an extraction ratio of 1:5 (EC 1:5) will be applied. Salt concentrations inferred from measured electrical conductivity values will be converted to salt content on a percent base using the empirical formula suggested by Yan and Wei (1994):

S = EC1:5 *5 *0:064

Salt accumulation, SAS, will be calculated as the difference between the amount of salinity at the end of the irrigation cycle, SSE, and the salinity at the beginning of the cycle, SSB, plus the salinity applied in the irrigation water, SFW. In summary, SAS will be calculated using the following equation (Xin and Li, 1990):


2. Crop husbandry

Crops (cotton, mungbean and wheat) will be sown during their normal planting seasons with recommended seed rate and planting methodology and irrigated with brackish water. Samples of brackish water used for irrigation, will be collected and analyzed for EC, SAR and RSC. The exact amount of water to be applied will be ensured using the following relationship.



Q = flow rate (m3 min-1)

T = time (min.)

A = plot area (m2)

D = depth of water to be applied (m)

A measured amount of irrigation will be applied to each plot with the help of a cut-throat flume. All other agronomic practices will be carried out uniformly. Water use efficiency will be calculated as the ratio of grain yield and water applied in terms of kg ha‑1 mm-1 by the following equation.

Crop yield (kg ha-1)

IWUE = ---------------------------------

Total water applied (mm)

2.1 Plant sampling and analysis

Plant sampling will be carried out at maturity. Samples will be randomly taken from field for determination of fresh weight, dry weight and economic yield. Before harvest of each crop, roots will be sampled by following method of Bohm (1979). Root length will be measured by following techniques of Tenant (1975). The NPK concentrations will be determined by following methods of Rayan et al. (2001).

4. Data Analalysis

Data will be analyzed by using MSTATC a microcomputer statistical software package (Anonymous, 1986). Treatment means will be compared at 5% probability level by using Least Significant Difference (LSD) test (Steel and Torrie, 1980).


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