eesti teaduste
akadeemia kirjastus
Estonian Journal of Ecology
Effect of organic mulches on the content of organic carbon in the soil; pp. 100–106
PDF | doi: 10.3176/eco.2013.2.02

Kristina Bajorienė, Darija Jodaugienė, Rita Pupalienė, Aušra Sinkevičienė

Natural organic mulch eventually breaks down and adds organic material to the soil. The increase of the amount of soil organic carbon (SOC) is regarded as the main advantage of organic mulches. The aim of our investigation was to evaluate the effect of different organic mulches and different thicknesses of the mulch layer on the content of SOC. The field experiment was carried out in the Pomological Garden of Aleksandras Stulginskis University (54°53¢N, 23°50¢E) in a certified organic field. The soil was Calc(ar)i-Endohypogleyic Luvisol. The following treatments were applied: factor A – mulch: (1) without mulch, (2) straw, (3) peat, (4) sawdust, and (5) grass. Factor B – thickness of mulch layer: (1) 5 cm and (2) 10 cm. The influence of organic mulches was investigated in 2004–2009 and their residual effect in 2010–2011. In the article the data of 2008–2011 are presented. A higher content of SOC was established in all mulched experimental plots compared with the unmulched plots. A significant influence of peat mulch was observed during the whole period reported. Sawdust mulch significantly increased the content of SOC (2008–2009) but its residual effect (2010–2011) was not significant. The influence of straw mulch on the content of SOC was significant only in 2009. The thicker (10 cm) mulch layer significantly (by 0.35–0.52 percentage points) incresed the content of SOC compared with the thinner (5 cm) layer. A very strong positive linear correlation (r = 0.994, P £ 0.01) between the amount of organic C carried into the soil with mulch and the content of organic C in the soil was established.


Astier, M., Maass, J. M., Etchevers-Barra, J. D., Pena, J. J. & Gonzalez, F. D. 2006. Short-term green manure and tillage management effects on maize yield and soil quality in an Andisol. Soil & Tillage Research, 88, 153–159.

Blanchart, E., Villenave, C., Viallatoux, A., Barthès, B., Girardin, C., Azontonde, A. & Fellera, C. 2006. Long-term effect of a legume cover crop (Mucuna pruriens var. utilis) on the communities of soil macrofauna and nematofauna, under maize cultivation, in southern Benin. European Journal of Soil Biology, 42, 136–144.

Blanco-Canqui, H. & Lal, R. 2007. Soil structure and organic carbon relationships following 10 years of wheat straw management in no-till. Soil & Tillage Research, 95, 240–254.

Bond, W. & Grundy, A. C. 2001. Non-chemical weed management in organic farming systems. Weed Research, 41, 383–405.

Bonkowski, M., Griffiths, B. S. & Ritz, K. 2000. Food preferences of earthworms for soil fungi. Pedobiologia, 44, 666–676.

Cadavid, L. F., El-Sharkawy, M. A., Acosta, A. & Sanchez, T. 1998. Long-term effects of mulch, fertilization and tillage on cassava grown in sandy soils in northern Colombia. Field Crops Research, 57, 45–56.

Carter, M. R. 2002. Soil quality for sustainable land management: organic matter and aggregation interactions that maintain soil functions. Agronomy Journal, 94, 38–47.

Gruber, S., Acharya, D. & Claupein, W. 2008. Wood chips used for weed control in Organic Farming. Journal of Plant Diseases and Protection, 21, 395–400.

Jenkinson, D. S., Harkness, D. D., Vance, E. D., Adams, D. E. & Harrison, A. F. 1992. Calculating net primary production and annual input of organic matter to soil from the amount and radio­carbon content of soil organic matter. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 24, 295–308.

Jordán, A., Zavala, L. M. & Gil, J. 2010. Effects of mulching on soil physical properties and runoff under semi-arid conditions in southern Spain. Catena, 81, 77–85.

Kukkonen, S., Palojärvi, A., Räkköläinen, M. & Vestberg, M. 2004. Peat amendment and production of different crop plants affect earthworm populations in field soil. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 36, 415–423.

Lagomarsino, A., Moscatelli, M. C., Di Tizio, A., Mancinelli, R., Grego, S. & Marinari, S. 2009. Soil biochemical indicators as a tool to assess the short-term impact of agricultural management on changes in organic C in a Mediterranean environment. Ecological Indicators, 9, 518–527.

Lal, R. & Kimble, J. M. 1997. Conservation tillage for carbon sequestration. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems, 49, 243–253.

Marinari, S., Lagomarsino, A., Moscatelli, M. C., Di Tizio, A. & Campiglia, E. 2010. Soil carbon and nitrogen mineralization kinetics in organic and conventional three-year cropping systems. Soil & Tillage Research, 109, 161–168.

Mulumba, L. N. & Lal, R. 2008. Mulching effects on selected soil physical properties. Soil & Tillage Research, 98, 106–111.

Paustian, K., Collins, H. P. & Paul, E. A. 1997. Management controls on soil carbon. In Soil Organic Matter in Temperate Agroecosystems: Long Term Experiments in North America (Paul, E. A., Paustian, K., Elliott, E. T. & Cole, C. V., eds), pp. 15–49. CRC Press, Boca Raton.

Reeves, D. W. 1997. The role of soil organic matter in maintaining soil quality in continuous cropping system. Soil & Tillage Research, 43, 131–167.

Relf, D. 2009. Mulching for a Healthy Landscape. Virginia Cooperative Extension, Publication 426-724.

Saroa, G. S. & Lal, R. 2003. Soil restorative effects of mulching on aggregation and carbon sequestration in Miamian soil in Central Ohio. Land Degradation & Development, 14, 481–493.

Schjønning, P., Elmholt, S., Munkholm, L. J. & Debosz, K. 2002. Soil quality aspects of humid sandy loams as influenced by organic and conventional long-term management. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 88(3), 195–214.

Sharma, S., Rangger, A., von Lützow, M. & Insam, H. 1998. Functional diversity of soil bacterial communities increases after maize litter amendment. European Journal of Soil Biology, 34, 53–60.

Sheperd, M. A., Harrison, R. & Webb, J. 2002. Managing soil organic matter – implications for soil structure on organic farms. Soil Use & Management, 18, 284–292.

SPSS Inc. 2000. Systat 10, Statistics I. SPSS Inc., Chicago, USA.

Stockdale, E. A., Shepherd, M. A., Fortune, S. & Cuttle, S. P. 2002. Soil fertility in organic farming systems – fundamentally different? Soil Use & Management, 18, 301–308.

Tu, C., Ristaino, J. B. & Hu, S. 2006. Soil microbial biomass and activity in organic tomato farming systems: effects of organic inputs and straw mulching. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 38, 247–255.

Yadav, R. L. 1995. Soil organic matter and NPK status as influenced by integrated use of green manure, crop residues, cane trash and urea N in sugarcane-based crop sequences. Bioresource Technology, 54(2), 93–98.

Back to Issue

Back issues