Submitted to: Advances in Agronomy
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/3/2013
Publication Date: 5/1/2014
Citation: Kong, X., Lal, R., Li, B., Liu, H., Li, K., Feng, G.G., Zhang, Q., Zhang, B. 2014. Fertilizer intensification and its impacts in China's HHH Plains. In: Sparks, D.L., editor. Advances in Agronomy Volume 25. Burlington, NJ: Academic Press. p. 135-169. Interpretive Summary: China has succeeded in feeding 22% of the world’s population on only 7% of the arable land by application of high rates of fertilizers, which has accentuated controversy about agricultural sustainability. Therefore, this study determined the causes and effects of fertilizer intensification on crop yields and soil organic matter (SOM) concentration in cropland soils of the Huang Huai Hai (HHH) region, furthermore, identified the processes underpinning the farm households preference of applying high rate of N, P, K. Data from five long-term experiments over a period of 20 years and the National Bureau of Statistics of China were analyzed in this study. The HHH region produces almost 60-80% of China's wheat and 35-40% of China’s corn every year. Fertilizer intensification has increased crop yield, enhanced yield stability, and improved SOM concentration resulted from more residue return to soil in the HHH region. The adverse effects on water quality, hidden C cost of fertilizer use, and emissions of the N2O should be overlooked. Important among future research needs are precision agriculture, soil-tests, micronutrients and foliar applications, to enhance the use efficiency of fertilizers and reduce losses.
Technical Abstract: The accomplishment of China’s food security by application of high rates of fertilizers has generated several controversies regarding the quality of soil and water resources. Thus, the objective of this article is to assess the effects and causes of the fertilizer intensification in the Huang Huai Hai (HHH) plains in China based on the data from five long-term experiments conducted over a period of 20 years, and those from the National Bureau of Statistics of China. The HHH region produces almost 60-80% of China's wheat and 35-40% of China’s corn every year. The average increase in yield (kg ha-1) between 1985 and 2009 ranged from 1582 to 5860 for wheat and 4492 to 5610 for corn. However, the average rates (kg ha-1 yr-1) of fertilizer use are about 430 of N, 107 of P and 17 of K. The results from 5 long-term experiments on sites representating the HHH indicated that fertilizer intensification resulted in an increasing trend of high input of nutrients, high soil organic matter (SOM) concentration, high yields of wheat (Triticum aestivum) and corn (Zea mays), higher SOM concentration, and higher rate of application of fertilizer in agro ecosystems. These mechanisms motivated the farm households to apply higher rates of fertilizer to obtain higher and stable crop yields despite large uncertainties in crop production due to climate change and other risks. Important among future research needs are precision agriculture, soil-tests, micronutrients and foliar applications, to enhance the use efficiency of fertilizers and reduce losses.