Responsible partner: »Institute of Agricultural Resources and Regional Planning of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (IARRP) 
Authors: Fu Haimei, Xu Minggang
iSQAPERiS editor: Jane Brandt


Contents table
1. Infographics and videos
2. Study site description
3. Participation of stakeholders in the iSQAPER research programme
4. Research tasks
5. Long-term impact of iSQAPER's research programme in the study site

1. Infographics and videos


A short video was made by the Gongzhuling study site team to describe the way in which a locally used management practice benefits soil quality.

  視頻 Video
video 10 screeenshot sq »秸稈還田的好處,CN

»Benefits of straw return, CN
Returning straw to the field, rather than burning it, improves soil structure and increases soil organic matter and nutrients.
(in Chinese with English subtitles)

 2. Study site description


The Gongzhuling site, established in 1990 by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, is located in a long-term black soil experimental station, Siping City within the Jilin province (124°48′33.9″ E, 43°30′23″N) (Figure 24). Jilin province is one of three provinces in North-East China’s Three Province region (i.e. Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning). The North-East Three Province is known for its substantial coverage of forests and a vast area of black soils (10 million hm2), which supports timber production and industry and high soil productivity. This region experiences a temperate sub-humid climate, with mean annual temperature of 4-5 °C, effective accumulated temperature of 2600-3000 °C and rainfall of 450-600 mm.

Location of Gongzhuling, China.

Main farming systems and typical agricultural management activities in the study area

Climatic and soil characteristics accompanied by high demand for productivity of crops in the last three decades have greatly favoured the extensive growth of maize in the area providing higher yield. Other local cropping systems include Maize-Soybean rotation. High amounts of fertilizers have been applied in the last two decades in order to maintain high soil fertility. Although farmers have realized the adverse effects of over fertilization on the environment, the amount of applied fertilizers have decreased gradually, the relatively low cost of fertilizers and extremely high demand for agricultural productivity, the typical agricultural management activities always adopt intensive chemical fertilizers and manure application. Intensification of agriculture resulted in accelerated rates of soil erosion and rapid loss of indigenous surface organic carbon rich soils in this historically known fertile region. The organic farming and the integrated land management practice have been established in some areas for the protection of soil quality and preservation of ecosystem functions.

SS14 fig02 SS14 fig02

Characteristic soils and soil quality monitoring practice

The soils of Gongzhuling display a relatively homogeneous degree of development. Mollisols are widely represented in the region, covering more than half of the total area. Soils have been formed based on the Quaternary loess sediment parent material. Mineral composition is primarily composed of smectite, mica, and vermiculite. Soil texture is characterized as clay loam with these soils containing high organic carbon content and available nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium).

Existing practices can be characterized as positive or negative in soil quality monitoring. The following practices are mainly applied in the area of Gongzhuling: (a) intensive cultivation of the land accompanied by ploughing and application of fertilizers and pesticides (negative), and (b) animal manure application (positive). Intensive cultivation is widely distributed in the area and has primarily negative impacts leading to problems of soil erosion, ground water pollution, deterioration of soil physical and chemical properties (decrease in soil organic matter content, soil aggregate stability deterioration).

Previous research and innovation actions on soil improvement and monitoring

The following research or actions on soil improvement and monitoring are or were undertaken in Gongzhuling:

  • Research on fertility and maize yield improvement and integrated technology (Heilongjiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences)
  • Research on soil fertility characteristics and integrative technology of fertility cultivation and improvement (Jilin Academy of Agricultural Sciences)
  • Research on long-term Black soil fertility and fertilizer efficiency field monitoring network (Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences)
  • Regulation pathway and mechanism of carbon and nitrogen in plough layer soils of dense-plantation and high productivity spring maize (China Agricultural University)
  • Research on soil animal community and characteristics in cultivated black soil under external disturbances of C and N (Chinese Academy of Forestry Sciences)

3. Participation of stakeholders in the iSQAPER research programme

The local stakeholders listed in Table 1 were involved throughout the duration of iSQAPER in a number of research tasks including: providing experimental sites for the soil quality assessment and agricultural management practice evaluation; testing and evaluating SQAPP; attending demonstration workshops; and providing venues for and hosting the field visits for the iSQAPER plenary meeting.

Table 1: Local stakeholders involved in the iSQAPER research programme

Stakeholder type Locations Institution  Number and gender M/F Role
Farmers, land managers Dongxing Village, Chaoyangpo Town, Gongzhuling City, Jilin Province. Farm 9M Landowner, land worker 
Advisors Num.1363, Ecological Street, Changchun City. Jilin Academy of agricultural sciences 3M/1F Technical Instruction and training
Policy-makers Num.1628, Tienan Street, Gongzhuling City, Jilin Province Jilin Gongzhuling Agricultural Technology Extension Station 3M/1F Formulate preferential policies for technology demonstration zones
Researchers Num.1363, Ecological Street, Changchun City Jilin Academy of agricultural sciences 4M/4F Researcher, land manager

4. Research tasks

Soil quality assessment and agricultural management practice evaluation

Based on WOCAT database (, iSQAPER selected 18 promising agricultural management practices (AMPs) with potential to improve soil quality (»Agricultural management practices in the iSQAPER study sites). Six examples of a number of these AMPs were identified in the Gongzhuling study site that conformed to the following criteria:

  1. the promising management practice has been implemented for at least 3 years;
  2. at least 2 different soil types are represented; and
  3. at least in 2 different first level Farming Systems (arable, permanent, grazing) are represented.

For each AMP plot, nearby control plots were also identified where the practice has not changed.

Table 2: AMPs identified in the Gongzhuling study site. Climatic region: Middle Temperate

Plot number Farming system  Farming system detail Soil type AMP general description AMP number*
14.1 Arable Permanently irrigated land - Maize Phaeozems Residue maintenance / Mulching 8
14.2 Arable Permanently irrigated land - Maize Phaeozems No-till 1
14.3 Arable Permanently irrigated land - Maize Phaeozems Manuring & composting 7
14.4 Arable Permanently irrigated land - Maize Chernozems Residue maintenance / Mulching; Irrigation management 8-14
14.5 Arable Permanently irrigated land - Maize Chernozems Irrigation management 14
14.6 Arable Permanently irrigated land - Maize Chernozems Manuring & composting 7

*Note: see »Assessing effect of management practices on soil quality - experimental framework for the full list and descriptions of the 18 promising agricultural management practices.

A first field campaign was conducted in 2016 to evaluate the soil quality in each of the paired AMP-control plots, using visual soil assessment methods (»Visual soil and plant quality assesment). The results from this and all the other study sites were combined to determine which AMPs can be shown to have a proven positive effect on soil quality, see »Assessing effect of management practices on soil quality - experimental results.

SS14 fig03 SS14 fig03 SS14 fig04 SS14 fig04 SS14 fig05 SS14 fig05

Those practices that are innovative for China were also described and added to the WOCAT database

The soil assessment campaign was repeated in 2018 on the two paired plots highlighted in green in Table 2 (14.1: Residue maintenance / Mulching and 14.4 Residue maintenance / Mulching with Irrigation management) with laboratory-based measurements added to the visual soil assessments. The aim was to investigate

  • how measurements of soil quality parameters obtained from the visual assessments compared to those obtained from laboratory measurements;
  • if different AMPs affected different soil quality parameters in different ways;
  • and what impact the AMPs had on the principal soil threats.

For details of the assessment analysis methods and the results from this and all study sites see »Impact of promising agricultural management practices.

The aim of both these AMPs is to increase soil organic matter content and were among those selected to demonstrate the positive impact management practice can have on soil quality (see »Demonstration events in the study sites).

Ching Gong 14.1
14.1 Soil properties
Gong 14.1 threat
14.1 Soil threats
China Gong 14.4
14.4 Soil properties
Gong 14.4 threat
14.4 Soil threats

AMP 14.1 consisted of maize residue return (mulching) plus mineral fertilizer (the control consisted of removal of maize residue plus mineral fertilizer). The VSA for soil structure quality indicators shows a lower structure under the AMP than the control but less subsoil compaction and degree of clod development (and probably a better score for the number of mottles). All other indicators have equal scores. Measured properties show little difference between the AMP and control, with only microbial carbon being substantially higher under the AMP.

AMP 14.4 consisted of maize residue return, plastic mulching, mineral fertilizer and drip irrigation (the control consisted of mineral fertilizer and drip irrigation). The VSA soil structure quality indicators show that soil under the AMP has better structure and degree of clod development (and probably a better score for the number of mottles), but a poorer soil stability. All other indicators have equal scores. Measured soil properties show a higher soil organic carbon under the AMP and slightly lower bulk density. The other measured properties show minimal differences.

SQAPP development, testing and evaluation

At the demonstration workshop on 7 September 2019, participants from both the Gongzhuling and »Qiyang study sites were asked a series of questions relating to their expectations of SQAPP and the relevance of the soil parameters included in SQAPP, the assessment of soil threats and the suitability of the app's recommendations to their local context. The feedback and comments were combined with those from the other study sites and used in the further development of SQAPP. For details of the responses from all study sites see »Stakeholder feedback and SQAPP development.

WP6.4 SS11 fig04
Field evaluation of SQAPP
WP6.4 SS11 fig05
Completing the evaluation questionnaire

Demonstration workshops

On 7 September 2019 a demonstration event was organised at Qiyang Experimental Station to present the major findings of iSQAPER to stakeholders from both the Gongzuling and »Qiyang study sites and to demonstrate: soil rotation and fertillization in paddy fields; combining soil fertilization with green manure and straw return; cultivation of green manure as management practices of proven benefit to soil quality. The event was attended by  43 participants.

The results from this demonstration event and those held in the other study sites are summarised in »Demonstration events in the study sites.

WP6.4 SS11 fig02
Event participants
WP6.4 SS11 fig03
Discussing the AMPs

A leaflet describing the AMPs was prepared to accompany the demonstrations.

English version
Chinese version

  »Crop rotation, fertilization and green manure

Co-development of scenarios of future farm and soil management practices

Members of the Gongzhuling study site team attended and contributed to the workshop in Madrid on developing scenarios of future farming. The results are presented in »Soil management scenarios

4. Long-term impact of iSQAPER's research programme in the study site

Taking account discussions with the stakeholders and feedback from the various research tasks and events in which they took part, it is anticipated that the iSQAPER research programme could have a lasting legacy in the Gongzhuling study site as indicated in Table 3.

Table 3: Activities in which iSQAPER's research programme could potentially have a lasting impact in the Gongzhuling study site

Activity Impact level: 0 - no impact, 1 - barely noticeable to 5 - important visible impact     
0 1 2 3 4 5
Research results influencing farming practice           x
Uptake of recommended AMPs         x  
Regular use of SQAPP           x
Development of new or enhancement of existing stakeholder networks         x  
The involvement of new stakeholder types in existing networks       x    
Go To Top