Changes in soil physical and chemical characteristics in intensively cultivated greenhouse vegetable fields in North China

Jiangang Li, Xin Wan, Xiaoxiao Liu, Yong Chen, Lindsey C. Slaughter, David C. Weindorf, Yuanhua Dong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The total area of greenhouse crop production is increasing in China. However, this adversely influences soil physical and chemical properties due to special environmental conditions and agricultural management in greenhouse production. In this study, we evaluated soil properties of greenhouse vegetable systems with different planting years, a long-term greenhouse strawberry system, and an open-field wheat-maize rotation system in a typical agricultural production area of North China. The annual fertilizer application rates of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) in the greenhouse vegetable system were 842.15, 809.14, and 931.55 kg ha−1, respectively, which were 3 times more than those in the wheat-maize rotation system and led to great changes of soil properties. Bulk density and soil pH gradually declined with increased cultivation time from new to 15 years in the greenhouse vegetable system. Bulk density declined from 1.58 g/cm3 in the new greenhouse fields to 1.25 g/cm3 in the 15-year greenhouse fields, and pH decreased from 5.72 to 4.55 with a rate of 0.08 unit per year. The contents of soil organic carbon (SOC), soil soluble salts, total NPK, and available NPK rose steadily until the 10th or 11th year, then decreased. By comparison with another two cropping systems, the greenhouse vegetable fields showed the lowest bulk density and pH, but the highest contents of SOC, soil soluble salts, total NPK, and available NPK due to heavy fertilizer inputs. The contents of soil N, P, and K in greenhouse vegetable fields were imbalanced, as indicated by C:N (11.58), C:P (16.06), and N:P (1.71) molar ratios in soils, which were significantly lower than the level in China and the rest of the world. In addition, the C:P and N:P ratios of greenhouse vegetable fields were also lower than those of wheat-maize rotation fields and greenhouse strawberry fields. Regression analysis indicated that the contents of SOC and soluble salts were positively correlated with pH, while available N and P contents showed negative linear relationships. These results demonstrate dramatic adverse changes of soil properties in intensive greenhouse vegetable fields in China. Our results also emphasize the need to regulate appropriate fertilizer application for intensive greenhouse vegetable management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104366
JournalSoil and Tillage Research
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Greenhouse vegetables
  • Multiple cropping systems
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Soil pH
  • Stoichiometry
  • Wheat-maize rotation


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