Improved management of soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) storage in agro-ecosystems represents an important strategy for ensuring food security and sustainable agricultural development in China. Accurate estimates of the distribution of soil C and N stores and their relationship to crop yield are crucial to developing appropriate cropland management policies. The current study examined the spatial variation of soil organic C (SOC), total soil N (TSN), and associated variables in the surface layer (0–40 cm) of soils from intensive agricultural systems in 19 counties within Henan Province, China, and compared these patterns with crop yield. Mean soil C and N concentrations were 14.9 g kg-1 and 1.37 g kg-1, respectively, whereas soil C and N stores were 4.1 kg m-2 and 0.4 kg m-2, respectively. Total crop production of each county was significantly, positively related to SOC, TSN, soil C and N store, and soil C and N stock. Soil C and N were positively correlated with soil bulk density but negatively correlated with soil porosity. These results indicate that variations in soil C could regulate crop yield in intensive agricultural systems, and that spatial patterns of C and N levels in soils may be regulated by both climatic factors and agro-ecosystem management. When developing suitable management programs, the importance of soil C and N stores and their effects on crop yield should be considered.
Zhang X, Q Wang, FS Gilliam, Y Wang, F Cha, C Li. 2014. Spatial variation in carbon and nitrogen in cultivated soils in the Henan Province, China: Potential effect on crop yield. PLOS ONE 9:1-10.