Please wait a minute...
Journal of Integrative Agriculture  2022, Vol. 21 Issue (1): 208-221    DOI: 10.1016/S2095-3119(20)63574-2
Special Issue: 农业生态环境-有机碳与农业废弃物还田合辑Agro-ecosystem & Environment—SOC
Agro-ecosystem & Environment Advanced Online Publication | Current Issue | Archive | Adv Search |
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
Download:  PDF in ScienceDirect  
Export:  BibTeX | EndNote (RIS)      


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: 16 November 2020
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.

Abbott L K, Hinz C. 2012. Synergistic impacts of clay and organic matter on structural and biological properties of a sandy soil. Geoderma, 183, 19–24.
Adnan M, Xu M, Syed A, Muhammad M, Sun N, Wang B, Cai Z, Qudsia S, Muhammad N, Khalid M, Avelino N. 2020. Soil aggregation and soil aggregate stability regulate organiccarbon and nitrogen storage in a red soil of southern China. Journal of Environmental Management, 270, 1–11.
Allison V, Condron L, Peltzer D, Richardson S, Turner B. 2007. Changes in enzyme activities and soil microbial community composition along carbon and nutrient gradients at the Franz 
Josef chronosequence, New Zealand. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 39, 1770–1781.
Baker L R, White P M, Pierzynski G M. 2011. Changes in microbial properties after manure, lime, and bentonite application to a heavy metal-contaminated mine waste. Applied Soil Ecology, 48, 1–10.
Böhme L, Böhme F. 2006. Soil microbiological and biochemical properties affected by plant growth and different long-term fertilisation. European Journal of Soil Biology, 42, 1–12. 
Bowles T M, Acosta-Martínez V, Calderón F, Jackson L E. 2014. Soil enzyme activities, micro-bial communities, and carbon and nitrogen availability in organic agroecosystems across an intensively-managed agricultural landscape. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 68, 252–262. 
Brookes P, Landman A, Pruden G, Jenkinson D. 1985. Chloroform fumigation and the release of soil nitrogen: A rapid direct extraction method to measure microbial biomass nitrogen in soil. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 17, 837–842. 
Brookes P, Powlson D, Jenkinson D. 1982. Measurement of microbial biomass phosphorus in soil. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 14, 319–329. 
Clemente R, Bernal M P. 2006. Fractionation of heavy metals and distribution of organic carbon in two contaminated soils amended with humic acids. Chemosphere, 64, 1264–1273. 
Cui Y, Fang L, Guo X, Wang X, Wang Y, Li P, Zhang Y, Zhang X. 2018. Responses of soilmicrobial communities to nutrient limitation in the desert grassland ecological transition zone. Science of the Total Environment, 642, 45–55. 
Filip Z. 1973. Clay minerals as a factor influencing the biochemical activity of soil microorganisms. Folia Microbiologica, 18, 56–74. 
Fisher K A, Yarwood S A, James B R. 2017. Soil urease activity and bacterial ureC gene copy numbers: Effect of pH. Geoderma, 285, 1–8.
Glover J, Reganold J, Andrews P. 2000. Systematic method for rating soil quality of conventional, organic, and integrated apple orchards in Washington State. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 80, 29–45.
Gramss G, Voigt, K D, Kirsche B. 1999. Oxidoreductase enzymes liberated by plant roots and their effects on soil humic material. Chemosphere, 38, 1481–1494. 
Guan S Y, Zhang D S, Zhang Z M. 1991. Methods of Soil Enzyme Activities Analysis. Agriculture Press, Beijing.
Hsiao C J, Sassenrath G F, Zeglin L H, Hettiarachchi G M, Rice C W. 2018. Vertical changes of soil microbial properties in claypan soils. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 121, 154–164. 
Hu R, Wang X P, Zhang, Y F, Shi W, Jin Y X, Chen N. 2016. Insight into the influence of sand-stabilizing shrubs on soil enzyme activity in a temperate desert. Catena, 137, 526–535.
Hu Y L, Niu Z X, Zeng D H, Wang C Y. 2015. Soil amendment improves tree growth and soil carbon and nitrogen pools in Mongolian pine plantations on post-mining land in Northeast China. Land Degradation and Development, 26, 807–812. 
Huang Y, Zhang J, Zhu L. 2013. Evaluation of the application potential of bentonites in phenanthrene bioremediation by characterizing the biofilm community. Bioresource Technology, 134, 17–23.
Hueso S, García C, Hernández T. 2012. Severe drought conditions modify the microbial community structure, size and activity in amended and unamended soils. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 50, 167–173.
Jia, G M, Cao J, Wang C Y, Wang G. 2005. Microbial biomass and nutrients in soil at the different stages of secondary forest succession in Ziwulin, Northwest China. Forest Ecology and Management, 217, 117–125.
Joergensen R, Brookes P. 1990. Ninhydrin-reactive nitrogen measurements of microbial biomass in 0.5-M K2SO4 soil extracts. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 22, 1023–1027. 
Kumari J A, Rao P, Padmasri A, Kumar B A. 2017. Effect of temperature on soil enzyme alkaline phosphatase. Bulletin of Environment, Pharmacology and Life Sciences, 6, 282–286.
Kuzyakov Y, Cheng W. 2004. Photosynthesis controls of CO2 efflux from maize rhizosphere. Plant and Soil, 263, 85–99. 
Li F S, Yu J M, Nong M L, Kang S Z, Zhang J H. 2010. Partial root-zone irrigation enhanced soil enzyme activities and water use of maize under different ratios of inorganic to organic nitrogen fertilizers. Agricultural Water Management, 97, 231–239.
Li S, Zhang S, Pu Y, Li T, Xu X, Jia Y, Deng O, Gong G. 2016. Dynamics of soil labile organic carbon fractions and C-cycle enzyme activities under straw mulch in Chengdu Plain. Soil and Tillage Research, 155, 289–297. 
Li Y C, Li Z W, Arafat Y, Lin, W W, Jiang Y H, Weng B Q, Lin W X. 2017. Characterizing rhizosphere microbial communities in long-term monoculture tea orchards by fatty acid profiles and substrate utilization. European Journal of Soil Biology, 81, 48–54.
Linn D M, Doran J W. 1984. Effect of water-filled pore space on carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide production in tilled and nontilled soils. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 48, 1267–1272. 
Liu E, Yan C, Mei X, He W, Bing S H, Ding L, Liu Q, Liu S, Fan T. 2010. Long-term effect of chemical fertilizer, straw, and manure on soil chemical and biological properties in Northwest China. Geoderma, 158, 173–180. 
Liu G M, Zhang X C, Wang X P, Shao H B, Yang J S, Wang X P. 2017. Soil enzymes as indicators of saline soil fertility under various soil amendments. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 237, 274–279.
Liu J, Xie J, Chu Y, Sun C, Chen C, Wang Q. 2008. Combined effect of cypermethrin and copper on catalase activity in soil. Journal of Soils and Sediments, 8, 327–332. 
Lu R. 2000. Analytical Methods of Soil and Agrochemistry. China Agricultural Science and Technology Press, Beijing. (in Chinese)
Mahieu N, Randall E, Powlson D. 1999. Statistical analysis of published carbon-13 CPMAS NMR spectra of soil organic matter. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 63, 307–319. 
Mielke L, Doran J, Richards K. 1986. Physical environment near the surface of plowed and no-tilled soils. Soil and Tillage Research, 7, 355–366. 
Mohawesh O, Durner W. 2019. Effect of bentonite, hydrogel and biochar amendments on soil hydraulic properties from saturation to oven dryness. Pedosphere, 29, 598–607.
Monreal C, McGill W, Nyborg M. 1986. Spatial heterogeneity of substrates: Effects on hydrolysis, immobilization and nitrification of urea-N. Canadian Journal of Soil Science, 66, 499–511. 
Monreal C, Zhang J. 2018. An ecological function conceptual model for bacterial communities with high relative abundance in an unplanted and canola (Brassica napus) planted Podzol. Rhizosphere, 5, 26–31.
Monreal C, Zhang J, Koziel S, Vidmar J, González M, Matus F, Baxi S, Wu S, DeRosa M, Etcheverria P. 2018. Bacterial community structure associated with the addition of nitrogen and the dynamics of soluble carbon in the rhizosphere of canola (Brassica napus) grown in a Podzol. Rhizosphere, 5, 16–25.
Nelson D, Sommers L. 1973. Determination of total nitrogen in plant material 1. Agronomy Journal, 65, 109–112.
Pascual J A, Hernandez T, Garcia C, Ayuso M. 1998. Enzymatic activities in an arid soil amended with urban organic wastes: Laboratory experiment. Bioresource Technology, 64, 131–138. 
Paz-Ferreiro J, Fu S, Méndez A, Gascó G. 2014. Interactive effects of biochar and the earthworm Pontoscolex corethrurus on plant productivity and soil enzyme activities. Journal of Soils and Sediments, 14, 483–494.
Piper C S. 1950. Soil and Plant Analysis. Adelaide University Hassel Press, Australia.
Puglisi E, Fragoulis G, Ricciuti P, Cappa F, Spaccini R, Piccolo A, Trevisan M, Crecchio C. 2009. Effects of a humic acid and its size-fractions on the bacterial community of soil rhizosphere under maize (Zea mays L.). Chemosphere, 77, 829–837. 
Puma S, Dominijanni A, Manassero M, Zaninetta L. 2015. The role of physical pretreatments on the hydraulic conductivity of natural sodium bentonites. Geotextiles and Geomembranes, 43, 263–271.
R Core Development Team. 2018. R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. 
Roberts B A, Fritschi F B, Horwath W R, Bardhan S. 2015. Nitrogen mineralization potential as influenced by microbial biomass, cotton residues and temperature. Journal of Plant Nutrition, 38, 311–324. 
Schloter M, Dilly O, Munch J. 2003. Indicators for evaluating soil quality. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 98, 255–262.
Schnitzer M, Monreal C M. 2011. Quo vadis soil organic matter research? A biological link to the chemistry of humification. Advances in Agronomy, 113, 143–217. 
Skopp J, Jawson M, Doran J. 1990. Steady-state aerobic microbial activity as a function of soil water content. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 54, 1619–1625. 
Szczerski C, Naguit C, Markham J, Goh T B, Renault S. 2013. Short- and long-term effects of modified humic substances on soil evolution and plant growth in gold mine tailings. Water, Air & Soil Pollution, 224, 1471.
Tabatabai M, Bremner J. 1969. Use of p-nitrophenyl phosphate for assay of soil phosphatase activity. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 1, 301–307.
Tamilselvi S M, Chinnadurai C, Ilamurugu K, Arulmozhiselvan K, Balachandar D. 2015. Effect of long-term nutrient managements on biological and biochemical properties of semi-arid tropical Alfisol during maize crop development stages. Ecological indicators, 48, 76–87.
Tripathi S, Chakraborty A, Chakrabarti K, Bandyopadhyay B K. 2007. Enzyme activities and microbial biomass in coastal soils of India. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 39, 2840–2848. 
Vance E D, Brookes P C, Jenkinson D S. 1987. An extraction method for measuring soil micr-obial biomass C. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 19, 703–707. 
Weber J, Karczewska A, Drozd J, Licznar M, Licznar S, Jamroz E, Kocowicz A. 2007. Agricultural and ecological aspects of a sandy soil as affected by the application of municipal solid waste composts. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 39, 1294–1302. 
Xiong Z T, Wang T, Liu K, Zhang Z Z, Gan J H, Huang Y, Li M J. 2008. Differential invertase activity and root growth between Cu-tolerant and non-tolerant populations in Kummerowia stipulacea under Cu stress and nutrient deficiency. Environmental and Experimental Botany, 62, 17–27. 
Xu S, Zhang L, Zhou L, Mi J, McLaughlin N B, Liu J. 2016. Effect of synthetic and natural water absorbing soil amendments on soil microbiological parameters under potato production in a semi-arid region. European Journal of Soil Biology, 75, 8–14. 
Yao S, Zhao C, Zhang T, Liu X. 2013. Response of the soil water content of mobile dunes to precipitation patterns in Inner Mongolia, northern China. Journal of Arid Environments, 97, 92–98. 
Zhang C, Liu G, Xue S, Song Z. 2011. Rhizosphere soil microbial activity under different vegetation types on the Loess Plateau, China. Geoderma, 161, 115–125.
Zhao H L, Yi X Y, Zhou R L, Zhao X Y, Zhang T H, Drake S. 2006. Wind erosion and sand accumulation effects on soil properties in Horqin Sandy Farmland, Inner Mongolia. Catena, 65, 71–79. 
Zhou L, Monreal C M, Xu S, McLaughlin N B, Zhang H, Hao G, Liu J. 2019. Effect of bentonite-humic acid application on the improvement of soil structure and maize yield in a sandy soil of a semi-arid region. Geoderma, 338, 269–280. 

[1] SUN Tao, TONG Wen-jie, CHANG Nai-jie, DENG Ai-xing, LIN Zhong-long, FENG Xing-bing, LI Jun-ying, SONG Zhen-wei. Estimation of soil organic carbon stock and its controlling factors in cropland of Yunnan Province, China[J]. >Journal of Integrative Agriculture, 2022, 21(5): 1475-1487.
No Suggested Reading articles found!