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Journal of Integrative Agriculture  2022, Vol. 21 Issue (1): 208-221    DOI: 10.1016/S2095-3119(20)63574-2
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Bentonite-humic acid improves soil organic carbon, microbial biomass, enzyme activities and grain quality in a sandy soil cropped to maize (Zea mays L.) in a semi-arid region
ZHOU Lei1, 2, 3, XU Sheng-tao4, Carlos M. MONREAL3, Neil B. MCLAUGHLIN3, ZHAO Bao-ping1, LIU Jing-hui1, HAO Guo-cheng
1 Cereal Industry Collaborative Innovation Center, Inner Mongolia Agricultural University, Hohhot 010019, P.R.China
2 College of Agronomy, Inner Mongolia University for The Nationalities, Tongliao 028000, P.R.China
3 Ottawa Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa, ON K1A 0C6, Canada
4 Agricultural Environment and Resources Institute, Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Kunming 650205, P.R.China
5 Inner Mongolia Trirock Co., Ltd., Naiman Banner, Tongliao 028300, P.R.China
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Abstract  A bentonite-humic acid (B-HA) mixture added to degraded soils may improve soil physical and hydraulic properties, due to effects such as improved soil structure and increased water and nutrient retention, but its effect on soil physicochemical and biological properties, and grain quality is largely unknown.  The effect of B-HA, added at 30 Mg ha−1, was studied at 1, 3, 5 and 7 years after its addition to a degraded sandy soil in a semi-arid region of China.  The addition of B-HA significantly increased water-filled pore space and soil organic carbon, especially at 3 to 5 years after its soil addition to the soil.  Amending the sandy soil with B-HA also increased the content of microbial biomass (MB)-carbon, -nitrogen and -phosphorus, and the activities of urease, invertase, catalase and alkaline phosphatase.  The significant effect of maize (Zea mays L.) growth stage on soil MB and enzyme activities accounted for 58 and 84% of their total variation, respectively.  In comparison, B-HA accounted for 8% of the total variability for each of the same two variables.  B-HA significantly enhanced soil properties and the uptake of N and P by maize in semi-arid areas.  The use of B-HA product would be an effective management strategy to reclaim degraded sandy soils and foster sustainable agriculture production in northeast China and regions of the world with similar soils and climate.

Keywords:  bentonite-humic acid       soil organic carbon       microbial biomass       enzyme activity       grain quality       sandy soil  
Received: 20 July 2020   Accepted: 02 January 2022
Fund: We acknowledge the financial support provided by the National Special Fund for Agro-scientific Research in the Public Interest of China (201303126) and Agricultural Science and Technology Achievements Transformation Demonstration of Production and Application Technology and Popularization of Sandy Soil Amendment, Inner Mongolia, China (sq2012eca400008).  We also thank the China Scholarship Council–Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Joint Scholarship Program.
About author:  ZHOU Lei, Mobile: +86-19997611090, E-mail:; Correspondence ZHAO Bao-ping, E-mail:; LIU Jing-hui, E-mail:

Cite this article: 

ZHOU Lei, XU Sheng-tao, Carlos M. MONREAL, Neil B. MCLAUGHLIN, ZHAO Bao-ping, LIU Jing-hui, HAO Guo-cheng. 2022. Bentonite-humic acid improves soil organic carbon, microbial biomass, enzyme activities and grain quality in a sandy soil cropped to maize (Zea mays L.) in a semi-arid region. Journal of Integrative Agriculture, 21(1): 208-221.

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